Future of Work

Closing the skills gap for the future of work

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Throughout economic history, talented humans have been a source of innovation and advancement their skills the impetus for economic growth. Today, however, multiple factors, including continued –and rapid –technological developments and business and operating model innovation, have contributed to market shifts that are redefining industries. Combined with various economic and market disruptions, as well as significant demographic shifts in many countries, these factors have created a perfect storm that is affecting the value of, need for, and availability of workforce skills. The result is a looming global talent shortage with the power to severely impact individuals and economies worldwide. However as discussed in the previous article, Artificial Intelligence presents an opportunity not a threat!

Preparing for the future is everyone’s job

How effective is your company’s workforce strategy today and how well are you prepared for the future of work?  How are you planning for an uncertain future? What changes are required in your People/HR practices today to enable them to be future proofed tomorrow? Are your reskilling investments building the right mix of management and digital skills? Are your technology investments being optimised to drive the right digital employee experience and level of productivity?

The messages for leaders is Act now – This isn’t about some ‘far future’ of work – change is already happening and accelerating.

The future isn’t a fixed destination – Plan for a dynamic rather than a static future.

Own the automation debate – A depth of understanding and keen insight into the changing technology landscape is a must.

Protect People not jobs – Organizations can’t protect jobs which technology makes redundant, but they do have a responsibility to their people. Protect people not jobs. Nurture agility, adaptability and re-skilling.

Build a clear narrative – A third of workers are anxious about the future and their job due to automation; an anxiety that kills confidence and the willingness to innovate. How your employees feel affects the business today—so start a mature conversation about the future

Everything points to a need to change the way you develop, take inventory of and apply skills. 3 steps to create future ready talent :

  1. Create a workforce strategy
  2. Develop a culture of lifelong learning
  3. Map job transition opportunities.

Create a Workforce Strategy.

Perform a deep inventory of your existing skills to create some heat maps

  1. Break down roles into skills both soft skills and hard skills
  2. Take inventory of those skills across the organization
  3. Heat maps to show clusters of
    • Expertise
    • Gaps
    • Regional discrepancies

Identify the critical skills that you need to support your strategic imperatives.

The traditional definition of a job is shifting. Today, employees apply their skills within fixed roles defined through organizational hierarchy. In the future of work, this will shift to a more dynamic model with talented individuals applying key skills in multiple project-based settings. Rather than a job being defined by scope and output, a job is now defined by a specific set of skills and knowledge.

A human-led and technology-enabled workforce will be the key to driving performance and accelerating digital change,as technology advances and begins to take over transactional tasks. Which skills are in demand in both digitally intensive jobs, and more broadly? Which skills retain their value over time?

To find out, the Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF) commissioned Burning Glass Technologies to examine skills in the job market by drawing from a set of more than 150 million unique U.S. job postings, dating back to 2007. The research identified 14 skills that have become foundational in the new economy, which converge in three interrelated groups: Human Skills, business skills, and digital skills. These 14 foundational skills play major roles in the economy and in the lives of job seekers and incumbent employees. They increase in value when used in combination. The job seekers and incumbent employees who are building a range of capacities across these groups of skills form a new cohort we call blended digital professionals. Their mixed abilities give them and their employer substantial advantages, and position them to thrive in current and future markets and workplaces.

Develop a culture of lifelong learning.

The skills inventory, highlights the skills gap which informs the development of relevant learning experiences.

AI is enabling organizations to upskill and reskill at scale. Yet only technology, will not do the magic. A culture of learning enables ownership and responsibility of self-development. The learning needs to be:

  • Deeply engaging, modern, personalized learning experiences with clear learner-based outcomes that not only emphasize individual’s skills development, but also encourage learning with peers and teammates as part of an employee’s daily experience.
  • Today, employees expect experiences at work contextualized to the moment: Anytime, anywhere access to learning—education embedded in the company’s workflows and served up when and where the employee needs it most.
  • Reward and recognize the employees—motivation, recognition, competition drives engagement. Increased engagement leads to increased content consumption, as demonstrated by IBM’s 57%, 125%, and 694% increases for certification, enrollment, and course completion, respectively.

Map job transition opportunities.

This is all about reviewing the jobs people are performing today and what the organization needs tomorrow to figure out a transition path.

Consider 2 primary factors:

  • Viable : calculating the similarity between the requirements of two jobs in order to compute an objective ‘similarity score’ between them. Similarity scores expresses the suitable pairing of a starting job and target job in terms of job families and expected years of education or work experience.
  • Desirable :  For a viable job transition opportunity to represent a desirable job transition option, we require a pairing of a starting job and target job. This includes two things: 1) stable long-term prospect and 2) similarity in remuneration.

This approach of mapping out job transition pathways also highlight the reskilling needs so those efforts can be tailored efficiently and effectively.

The process of taking a skills inventory, upskilling and/or reskilling and job transitions needs to be iterative to accommodate the changing needs of the workforce. Successfully navigating this new environment requires fundamentally reshaping how organizations manage skills, talent, and culture. While, reading and learning about creating agility in leadership teams and enterprises is helpful, it’s more important to mobilize and begin to apply these insights to create positive change and adapt. Which is why through research and analysis, IBM has discovered certain skills development tactics that have a strong impact on closing skills gaps which have been outlined in the new IBV study, The enterprise guide to closing the skills gap

Join the conversation with

IBM Training and Skills

The Author

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