There’s no denying that technology is fuelling a revolution in the way we work – both in terms of what we do, and how we do it.

The World Economic Forum predicts that 75 million jobs are due to be displaced through automation and technological integration in the years ahead – but these same technologies will more than make up the gap, creating an estimated 133 million new jobs. However unlocking those potential new jobs means being ready with the requisite skills and attitude. The pace of change is so rapid that we have to act now if we want to keep up – or even stay still. 

That’s why the World Economic Forum, recognising the size of the challenge ahead, launched the Reskilling Revolution Platform a few weeks ago at Davos – with the admirable aim of reskilling one billion people over the next ten years.

We at Capita are playing our part too: we recently hosted a roundtable on the topic, gathering experts from our business but also across the worlds of business and academia to discuss how individual organisations can fuel their own reskilling revolution.

Here’s some of the highlights from the discussion:

Invest in skills like we invest in infrastructure

People are our most precious resource – but it takes time, effort, and investment to train and re-skill them. That investment, however, offers returns significantly greater than the initial costs, and the benefits travel far beyond the level of individual workers. 

According to the World Economic Forum, if businesses worked together, they could collectively re-skill 45% of those workers who are currently at risk of skill obsolescence. If governments were to step in, that number rockets to 77% – with governments themselves benefitting from the resulting positive externalities. That could be, for example, a return on investment in the form of increased tax returns, not to mention lower social costs – including reduced unemployment compensation. 

Investigate what you need, and why

When investigating skilling (and re-skilling), don’t just consider new entrants to the workforce. Effective re-skilling means taking a broader look at your organisation in the round to assess the skills that each and every group need to hone. This is all the more important given that, according to the ONS, there’ll be an additional 8.6 million people over 65 in work in 50 years’ time. 

Assessing those skills, however, goes beyond qualifications and random testing. One of the very best ways to assess priority skills for the workforce is quite simple: just ask them. Richard Clayton, Head of Group Learning at Lloyd’s Banking Group, offered a prime example. Lloyd’s is making a multimillion pound investment into learning and development guided primarily by input from individual employee interviews. A remarkable 10% of the whole organisation was surveyed for their views on what, how, and where they learn, and the response was unanimous – “We want to learn the way we live.”

Focus on soft skills

In the words of Max McLellen, Head of Learning Operations at BT: “Soft skills are the new hard skills. Machines will do the ordinary, humans the extraordinary.”

With such a rapid pace of change in the workplace, it’s nigh-on impossible to predict exactly what the key skills – or technology – of the future will be. That makes it all the more important that employees of all levels ‘learn to learn’ – that is, gain soft skills, behaviours, and capabilities which guarantee adaptability and a readiness to change, rather than fixed knowledge which may expire in a matter of years, if not months.

Technology is a means, not an end

Understanding your learning objectives is vital to accomplishing what you actually want to achieve. Technology is, of course, a great enabler and facilitator of learning – and will play an even more important role in this regard in the future. But technology must enhance, not replace face-to-face learning. After all, 70% of learning is achieved by doing, and, no matter how good the AR or VR experience, there’s no substitute for human-to-human interaction.

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