Evolving technology and the impacts of COVID-19 have resulted in workplaces that are changing faster than ever. To keep pace with the rapid advances in the workplace and avoid skills shortages, almost half of employees will need to be reskilled with critical skills by 2025
As the workplace becomes increasingly more tech-driven, human contributions and soft skills are going to be increasingly sought after. And the best way to ensure these skills are retained within a company will be to reskill, says Jackie Kennedy, Founder of the LeadMe Academy.
LeadMe is a cutting-edge, first of its kind learning and development partner that provides time-conscious, hard-hitting and practical lessons, with soft-skill and leadership development training as the programme’s core focus, for organisations and start-ups that are seeking to create a competitive advantage and empower the next generation of leaders at every level of the organisation.
According to the World Economic Forum, soft skills – such as critical thinking, problem-solving – will grow in demand amongst employers over the next 5 years.
Employees are more likely to use social and emotional skills in the future, with computing functions taken over by AI systems. This is why future-focused training programmes, such as those offered by LeadMe, should teach skills such as self-awareness, self-confidence, communications, resilience, stress management and decision-making, among others.
“To prevent a skills gap among staff, especially in sought after soft skills, companies will need to invest in robust reskilling programmes but with the rapidly changing pace of the workplace, the window to prevent skills shortages is closing fast,” said Kennedy.
A new workforce
Millions of jobs across the world stand to be replaced by automation and advances in artificial intelligence. In fact, more than a third of all employees are concerned they may lose their job to a machine.
This process has been sped up exponentially with the onset of the global pandemic, as more companies are turning to online, remote working and automated processes. The number of workers who will need to find a different occupation by 2030 has increased by 12% since the start of the pandemic, according to estimates by McKinsey. As a result of Covid-19, workplaces that feature areas of high physical proximity may be faster to adopt automation and AI to prevent disruption to business operations.
As a side effect of the pandemic, workplaces have seen mass resignations – with more than 60% of South Africans terminating their employment between April and October 2021. These losses of key employees could be avoided through reskilling and focusing on the development of soft skills. Investing in employees’ soft skills is not only a way to empower employees, it also ensures they feel connected and are invested in their personal and professional development over the long term. It’s a way to cultivate the next generation of leaders – forming productive, high impact, agile and highly effective leaders at every level of the organization.
But while automation and AI adoption stand to remove some roles in the workplace, it will also make other positions pivotal – and these are positions in the current workforce that can be reskilled.
“Reskilling is essential in our changing workplaces. Not only does it ensure that companies have the skills they need to operate effectively and efficiently, but it also retains your experienced and loyal employees. While AI and automation may replace many jobs, there will always be careers that rely on human intelligence and soft skills such as leadership, effective communication and teamwork – and your employees can be trained to fill these,” says Kennedy.
Shaping new workplaces
“In addition, workplaces of the future are going to require strong leadership skills. These skills are becoming one of the top strengths demanded by corporations. The demand is understandable – having these skills at all levels of the company will ensure businesses remain agile, increase the bottom line and result in a resilient workforce,” adds Kennedy.
Almost 90% of executives and managers say their organisations either face skill gaps already or expect gaps to develop within the next five years. To prevent a skills gap, employers will have to invest in reskilling their workforce.
Yet companies looking to reskill face several barriers. Not only can reskilling be costly and time-consuming but there is also a lack of uptake among employees, with less than half taking up employer-supported reskilling and upskilling opportunities.
This is partly because many employees find employers do not understand how to equip them with these missing skills. Two-thirds of employees say their organisations are good at selecting who to reskill and what skills they need, but less than half feel their employers have strong capabilities in curriculum design.
Another significant barrier faced by employees wishing to reskill, is balancing their training with their workload. More than half of employees said they struggled to balance the needs of their training programmes with the needs of their business operations, online training platforms are therefore the future of training.
The barriers to reskilling can be easily addressed, explains Kennedy.
“Programmes that focus on prioritising critical skills and building multiple skills in a single course have the added benefit of addressing skills gaps and making learning time more effective. In addition, programmes need to be structured to fit into a workplace setting – this calls for personal coaching spread over a number of months, with courses that are designed with practical implementation and experiential learning. Short term interventions seldom work when it comes to behavioural change – instead, companies need to invest in a combination of time, application, reflection and work integration to see long-term behavioural change in employees,” she says.
Employers can also make use of partnerships that offer a digital solution to reskilling as many as 1000 people, which proves to be a cost-effective option.
“Most of our workforce is going to need to reskill in the next few years, and companies will need to place this culture of learning at the core of their business or risk being left behind. Practical courses that are designed around the demands of the workplace will not only upskill your staff but will have long term benefit for any company looking to compete in our fast-paced world,” concludes Kennedy.