The skills needed to thrive in the modern workplace are vastly different from those our parents and grandparents would have practiced, and they’re continually evolving.
Automation, technological innovation and shifts to different ways of working have all changed what our jobs look and feel like, as well as the workforce cultures that are needed to support them. These trends have the potential to dramatically improve society and the lives of workers by making work less dangerous and more rewarding, improving work-life balance, inspiring new modes of career development, and opening up the workplace to previously excluded populations.
However, to reap these rewards, it is crucial that we keep inclusivity and human prosperity at the centre of our conversations about the evolving world of work.
Training for the Future for All
The pandemic has accelerated changes in workplaces, including the skills individuals need to successfully perform and excel in their careers. According to the World Economic Forum, 40% of companies expect their workers to require reskilling programmes of up to six months, while 94% expect workers to pick up new skills on the job.
This means radically rethinking the design of roles, teams and functional structures and exploring ways to build in more flexibility and fluidity to retain employees. It calls for a strategic approach to investing in targeted training and reskilling interventions for specific functional areas and roles that will be directly impacted by both technical and cultural changes.
But to meet these challenges, we need to think beyond training within specific companies and take a systemic approach, planning for a workforce-wide skill mix that is equal to the challenges of the future. As Peter Voser, the Chairman of our Europe Delivers partnership and of ABB, put it, “we need to look for a different business model for the future. Someone who is being upskilled may not actually work for the same company going forward. They may work for someone else in your ecosystem. The goal needs to be skilling for the broader good – for the whole of society.”
In addition to moving towards an inclusive understanding of skills and training needs, the shift to new ways of working makes some roles (existing and new) accessible to a much broader group of individuals. This is a huge opportunity for organisations to think about how they structure teams and the capabilities they need. Most important of all, this is an opportunity to radically improve diversity from a wide range of currently underrepresented groups in the workforce, including people without a university degree, people who are neurodivergent and people with disabilities.
Working Together to Embrace Change
To effectively embrace these workforce opportunities, all system actors must work effectively together. This means businesses working with governments, NGOs and trade unions not just to align and collaborate on inclusive workforce planning now, but also helping prepare the workplace and employees for the future.
We not only need to reach people who are already in the workforce, but also help people cultivate skills for the future from an early age and actively support them to continue to develop those skills for a lifetime. Businesses must also collaborate with governments to identify the skills that we will need in the future and transform education systems to effectively equip the workforce of tomorrow with the right capabilities and ensure they are as inclusive as possible and embrace diversity of all kinds.
"We need to start teaching kids digital skills, collaboration skills, innovation skills. Then we will create different kinds of people and different kinds of leaders," says Europe Delivers partner and Tata Sons Chairman N Chandrasekaran, adding, “One of the other skills that we need to teach people is lifelong learning.”
Upskilling and reskilling current employees is expensive and often happens too late in the workforce development cycle, when skills shortages are already impacting businesses and when innovation has already led to job changes and role redundancy. We need trade unions to work with employers to ensure individuals most likely to be impacted by innovations such as automation get priority access to reskilling opportunities. By moving to a more collaborative and constructive approach to work and employment, we can handle the impact of change on workforces.
As we work to address planet-wide problems, the most important thing is to take care of the people at the heart of our businesses. There are positive signs that this goal is not only achievable but could be profitable for the companies involved. Analysis shows that up to 25% of the workforce could be profitably reskilled by individual companies, and that figure grows to 45% when companies work together. Imagine what we could do if the whole of society united behind this effort.
By working together, we can create inclusive, future-proof economies where everyone can thrive.
Contact us to discuss how we can help your organisation and leaders deliver a brighter future with planet-positive, inclusive, and long-term growth.