The World Economic Forum report, ‘The Future of Jobs,’ reveals that by 2020, more than a third of the core skill sets considered desirable today for most occupations will, in fact, comprise skills which are still not treated as crucial to the job at present. Author Mark Niemann-Ross puts it bluntly when he says that in four years, we must relearn 30% of our job! While we digest these statistics, consider this quote from the Harvard Business Review’s Mind the (Skills) Gap: “The lessons learned in school can become outdated long before student loans are paid off.”
Let’s consider a situation that’s closer home. If we look at the current technology landscape, digital is a key disruptor. Over the next five years, large companies will invest significantly in digital transformation. Given the fact that top engineering talent can be 3 to 10 times more productive than average engineers, and can accelerate digital transformation by 20 to 30%, acquiring top talent can yield huge savings on investment. This also means that in the next five years, demand for top engineering talent to deliver on new capabilities will significantly outstrip supply. McKinsey predicts that five years from now, demand for agile skills could be four times the supply. On similar lines, demand for Big Data talent could be 50% to 60% more than the projected supply.
What must organizations do to thrive in this world driven by tech innovations and how can they leverage digital transformation — from Industry 4.0 and robots to AI, Machine Learning, data science, virtual reality, and new digital business models? According to BCG, people form the most critical element of an organization’s success, especially as organizations shift toward digital business. Across industries, organizations need talented employees who know how to use new technologies (such as digital), are acquainted with emerging digital business models, and who can easily adapt to new and evolving approaches and methods (such as automation). The first step for these organizations is to define the ‘top talent’ they need and then strategize how best to acquire this talent. The organization may decide to recruit new talent, develop or upskill existing talent, and retain the talent base that they have already built.
An organization’s success largely depends on the extent to which it reskills its workforce. It needs to provide a supportive environment which facilitates upskilling of the employees. However, the primary responsibility for reskilling lies with the employees who as ‘drivers of their own careers’ are required to take the lead.
For an employee, what does it take to learn new skills to stay relevant today? It is a winning mind-set to address the threat of becoming obsolete head-on and an omnipresent human quest to stay relevant. They need to recognize the challenge in entirety, focus on learning, unlearning and relearning so that they remain up-to-date by continuously upgrading their skills. Here are some tips on how to learn new skills to stay relevant:
- Hone existing skills: Get more adept at what you already know. Yes, there’s nothing better than doing a great job and doing it well always. Every person/employee has core strengths, which he/she should use to the maximum, lest complacency sets in and adversely affect performance.
- Build on your skill sets: Staying in the same spot will not help accomplish anything. Instead, expanding skill sets and competencies at a domain level, and at an industry-level, will help push boundaries. Get beyond what you are already doing well. Learn and acquire new/adjacent skills. Grab every opportunity to equip yourself with relevant certifications that add value to your career profile. Companies offer many opportunities for employees to train and upskill themselves. To stay ahead of the curve, employees can also privately invest in relevant online courses and obtain certifications in emerging technologies that will add value to their careers. It’s always good to have a blend of certifications which employees acquire through their employers and their own initiative.
- Future-proof by adapting to new technologies: Learning to use a new technology (or anything new, for that matter) can be intimidating. The best way is to make a start and begin using new technologies. With practice, one gets more adept at using a new technology and adapts to it better – for work and beyond. Be open to learning new things, in new ways. We tend to stick with what we know which inadvertently blocks out new learning experiences. It’s a unique experience when we keep our minds open to learning even if it means learning something from a younger colleague.
The world of next gen enterprise belongs to those who seek to venture away from their comfort zones, throw themselves into learning new things and technologies that create value to all stakeholders involved – customers, employers and, of course, the self.