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Steve Wainwright


Managing Director, EMEA

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Skills gap: how to futureproof your workforce through learning


We don’t know exactly what new jobs will be created in the future, but we do know what skills will be sought after. Offering employees today the opportunity to learn and develop in these skills is paramount to futureproofing your business.

Digital transformation is a global megatrend; it comprises a variety of technological forces that are affecting, changing and challenging every sector. Organisations that ensure their workforces are agile, adaptable and engaged with transformation will be able to compete more effectively in the ever-changing digital economy.  

The challenge will be harnessing sophisticated data analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and blockchain – to name but a few transformative technologies – with the goal of enhancing customer relationships, internal processes, business models and value propositions.  

The impact on jobs

Many of these transformative digital trends will replace some of today’s jobs. AI is already demonstrating it can be significantly more effective than humans when applied to complex analysis tasks, for example identifying fraudulent credit card transactions.

Blockchain – while still in its infancy – is also poised to have a huge impact, and will soon automate many of the more mundane human job roles involving ledgers and rights tracking.   

Many fear that these new technologies will lead to mass unemployment. Yet in reality, they will automate monotonous and mundane processes, providing people with the opportunities to transition into roles that are more skilled.

Whilst job losses might seem like the most likely impact of digital transformation, in reality automating the monotonous, mundane tasks means people can move on to roles that are more skilled, value-bringing and, ultimately, rewarding.

Furthermore, research indicates that many new jobs will be created. For example, a recent Dell research predicted that 85% of jobs in 2030 don’t even exist yet. Gartner has said that 2020 will be a pivotal year in AI-related employment dynamics. The analyst firm predicts that, by this time, AI will create more jobs than it eliminates. This is the impact digitalisation will have on the workplace.

Approaching transformation

To support digital transformation, organisations need new skillsets and capabilities – those in high demand, but short supply.

Recent joint research from Fosway Group, Skillsoft and SumTotal found that just 11% of organisations have all the digital skills required to succeed; and more than half have none or only some of the necessary skills.

A recent report looking at the skills shortage in the UK found that two thirds of UK businesses expect to struggle to find the candidates they need in 2018. Many say the most prominent challenge they are facing is a lack of sufficient experience in candidates.

Businesses know the skills of tomorrow, but helping the employees of today achieve proficiency in them will be crucial to long-term success.

The report also found that, as the demand for skilled professionals continues to increase, the majority of UK businesses are concerned about the long-term sustainability of the candidate pool.

Hiring new candidates with the skills required to be successful in digital transformation is not an effective strategy. Instead, businesses need to upskill their current employees to prepare for these changes.

Every job lost to automation is an opportunity to create new kinds of human value, but only if employees have the skills to manage, assist, and even collaborate with new technology to create new value or superior performance.

New skills for new roles

Understandably, it can be difficult for employees to know which skills they should be learning. We can’t blame employees if they feel fearful or unsure of technological changes, if they see them as job takers, rather than an opportunity to improve their skillsets or as new career paths. After all, how do you prepare for a job that may not even exist yet?

CEOs and business leaders often quote Canadian ice hockey player, Wayne Gretzky, as saying: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been”. It may be a cliché now, but the sentiment is more important than ever. While we may not know exactly what the job roles of the future will look like, we do know the skillsets they are likely to require.  

According to World Economic Forum forecasts, data analysts will be one of the most in-demand professionals over the next few years.

IBM expects the annual demand for data scientists, data developers and data engineers will lead to 700,000 new roles by 2020.

According to Upwork, the largest global freelancer website, Blockchain development is now the hottest skill in the freelance job market, growing more than 6,000% since this time last year.

We know that robots are capable of performing a variety of tasks with greater efficiency and accuracy than ever before, but programming, controlling and maintaining these robots will remain a skilled human role.

As robotics and AI converge, we can expect hundreds of new roles emerging in areas like ethical programming, chatbot design and interactive AI experience management.  

Digital learning for digital transformation

Businesses know the skills of tomorrow, but helping the employees of today achieve proficiency in them will be crucial to long-term success. Helping employees gain skills that will make them productive in the workplace will also offer their organisation a competitive advantage.

It will prepare employees for the roles of tomorrow while driving transformation within the organisation.

To do this, training needs to be specific, engaging and offer ‘just in time’ opportunities to learn while working. Learning and development tools need to offer curated content, which is delivered in the same intuitive, personalised manner employees enjoy on social media and entertainment platforms like Netflix.

At its heart, digital transformation is not about technology. It’s about people.

It’s not about forcing training onto employees; it’s about giving them the freedom and opportunity to learn what they want, when they want and how they want.

Intelligent eLearning solutions can provide employees with engaging, multi-modal content and tailored learning paths. This allows them to choose training that interests them, as well as suggested content based on their skills or previously completed training course.

Employees can decide when they learn, where they learn, and how they learn (choosing from eBooks, quizzes, or videos).

Culture over technology

Success means more than a great learning platform. Workplace learning and personal development needs to be built into an organisation’s culture. Employees need to know they have the support and encouragement to develop their skillsets.  

At its heart, digital transformation is not about technology. It’s about people. Successful businesses won’t be thinking of ways to streamline processes and slim down departments, they will be focusing on employee development and moving people on to more rewarding roles.   

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Steve Wainwright

Managing Director, EMEA

Read more from Steve Wainwright

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