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A whopping 61 percent of people believe that global megatrends – growing urban populations, emerging technologies, and globalisation among them – will greatly affect their jobs in the near future and will continue to do so over the coming decades. Naturally, people are worrying.

For people in the workforce, knowing how and when to upskill and refill is absolutely critical to finding career success in this day and age. We aren’t talking just learning how to type quicker, use Excel properly, and do shorthand – we’re talking mastering a mixture of interpersonal and cognitive skills as well as technical ones such as undergoing React JS training for building user interfaces.

People are also growing increasingly concerned about the fact that, following every recession, markets simply aren’t bouncing back and many jobs that previously existed no longer do. Why is this? Economists put it down to two things: employers are beginning to replace human labor with computers or machines, and employers have begun demanding applicants with better skills who can adapt to new technologies in order to help the company succeed.

As a result of this growing convergence between humans and computers in the workplace, motivated job-seekers are focusing their efforts on learning how to master and work with newer technologies. Those already in the workforce, however, are  devoting significant time to refining their skills – something known as upskilling or reskilling.

Upskilling describes the process of teaching your employees new skills so they can work in their same job, but with new capacities. Reskilling on the other hand is the process of teaching existing staff specialised new skill sets so that they can fill an entirely different vacant position within that same company.  For example, an office assistant or clerk whose job has become obsolete could learn new skills before taking up an entirely different in-demand job within the same organisation, such as a graphic designer or web developer. By reskilling,an organisation fills vacancies from their current workforce, thus saving itself unnecessary HR costs and efforts, protecting its workforce, and creating business development opportunities at the same time. It’s a win-win, really, for both employer and employee.

In the internet era in which we currently live, where every industry buzzword seems to relate to AI, the Internet of Things (IoT), or ‘big data’, upskilling and reskilling is particularly important. With technology comes new demands, and many of those demands are not being met by current employees or available talent. According to a report by the Economic Times of India, over 50,000 jobs are currently vacant because of the unavailability of data science and AI talent in the country. The solution is simple: reskilling or upskilling existing staff.

Here’s another depressing fact about the state of the workplace. In 2018, 35% of the U.S. population had at least four years of college education — more than ever before in recorded history. What’s awkward is that those very, very, very expensive degrees aren’t actually giving people the practical work skills they need. The moment they enter the workplace, they find they lack the technological skills to succeed in all their assigned tasks, or the problem-solving skills to resolve a major client-related dilemma. Thus, the need for upskilling – at no matter what stage of the game.

Collaboration, agility, resilience, negotiation and problem-solving are among them, but it can be as straightforward as developing the capacity to trust others, have patience and show empathy. If ambitious employees wish to succeed, they need to be able to think on their feet, master the skill of communication (which virtually every job in the world requires) and collaborate with supervisors and coworkers. Taking a course in the skill of negotiation, for example, could directly translate to a promotion: during salary discussions or when trying to convince your boss you are the best fit for the role, having strong and effective negotiation skills are extremely important.  The key to successful negotiation is maintaining a good relationship with the person you negotiate with – and that, I’m afraid to say, is a learned skill.

In 2020, these essential ‘people skills’ are being met with equally critical technical skills: that of data literacy and tech savviness on all things, from artificial intelligence to the Internet of Things, virtual and augmented reality, robotics, and blockchain. We are in the midst of the 4th industrial revolution, where technical skills will be required by employees doing just about every job, and to come to the table with zero technological prowess is to do yourself a massive disservice.

The options for acquiring these new skills are endless: employees can ask to be trained on the job (which is always best as it means it doesn’t cut into your personal time or personal expenses), or they can learn on their own, online or via mobile apps or via specialised courses in-person. Employees can also learn through more unconventional methods, like volunteering, working alongside a mentor, starting a blog, simply reading or becoming an avid follower of podcasts dedicated to, say, robotics.

So where to begin? Employers should first consider the skills they have now, and then the job they want 18 months from now, before deciding what it is exactly they should focus on skill-wise. As inspiration, take heed of the advice of one of the world’s greatest ice hockey players, Wayne Gretzy, famously said “Skate to where the puck is going” and not where it is right now. The same could certainly be said of career growth: figure out where you want to be, and then figure out how to get there.

The hard truth is that technology has created a world where, unless you are abreast of new technological developments and innovations, you will fall behind. The economy is now a digital one, enabled entirely by shockingly futuristic advances in technology, and as a result is rapidly transforming how goods and services are bought and sold. What this means is that many traditional jobs are either disappearing altogether, or evolving into something entirely new, and without upskilling or reskilling there is little chance of succeeding in the new-age workplace any longer…

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