Equipping your workforce for the technological revolution

Written by
Chris Jones
City & Guilds Group

12 Jul 2018

12 Jul 2018 • by Chris Jones

Employers must rethink skill-mix, training and the meaning of inclusion in order to thrive, says City & Guilds Group’s Chris Jones.

Whether it’s supporting current employees to develop digital skills or thinking about the workplace of the future, it’s important for businesses to work with customers, communities and employees, to enable them to engage in and benefit from the digital agenda.

Barclays is a great example of an organisation reskilling staff and customers through its ‘digital eagles’ initiative. And HS2 is building a rail network infrastructure, while having to think about the workforce required to support a customer base that’s probably still in primary school.

Employers need to consider inclusion in its broadest sense to ensure digital does not exclude any sections of society. For example, how can we support older people to use technology in the workplace? How can technology help disabled people – who are routinely excluded – to access opportunity?

Digitisation offers an opportunity to become even more inclusive. This involves engaging with the education system and ensuring it’s responding to future demands. We need to scrutinise the skills the workforce needs – developing and training people, but also helping them understand the changes that may occur and where they might fit in. Thinking seriously about our responsibilities around ethical use of data is another priority.

Automation will displace jobs, but even more jobs will be created. There’s a danger of associating  automation with job losses; the reality is that many more jobs are likely to be created. The challenge for leaders is to bridge the gaps with retraining  programmes that allow us to move employees to where jobs exist. That’s the hard part that doesn’t get the focus it deserves.

Jobs will become highly skilled, so if we can get the agenda right to support retraining and reskilling, there will be more opportunity for people to move up the value chain; their contribution becomes greater, their earnings grow and they become far more relevant to the workplace and workforce.

‘Retrain to redeploy’ will become key. Right now, employers are considering questions such as: “How can I retrain and redeploy people in my business? How many people need reskilling? Who may be redeployed into an adjacent sector or industry?” Business and industry is beginning to recognise the importance of this – you can’t assume it’s someone else’s responsibility to retrain someone you have let go. I anticipate that we are going to see businesses thinking more collaboratively and positively about ‘retrain to redeploy’.

Workplace environments must reflect the need for constant retraining, and job mobility and rotation will become the norm. Organisations must think differently about the leadership capabilities they need and the culture change required to drive the right learning environments.

We will need to rethink how we perceive training. UK employers provide less training than those in any other country in the EU. Often, workers are reluctant to take the training journey, so employers need to create a strong story around it:“Your job will change, we want to grow and develop you so you can change with your job, we will invest to make that happen positively for you.” However, there is a change in mindset and culture that we need to deliver here, in terms of ‘UK plc’.

We must remain focused on individuals. Change is hard for everyone… businesses and individuals alike. We are talking about unprecedented change, so we need to support individuals much more strongly than in the past.

Ultimately, I want to see technology becoming an enabler of a society that is much more engaged and can exploit its force for the greater good – one in which automation allows greater material career progression, social mobility, and cohesiveness around business and the communities we serve. 

To map future skills needs, employers are currently: 

  • considering how the workforce will change in 5-10 years' time. It’s difficult to look beyond that, but employers can  begin to indicate where jobs are most likely to change. Organisations are looking at skill mix: will there be a move away from hard skills towards soft skills and, if so, what transition pathway will enable workers to move from A to B? 
  • emphasising soft skills such as innovation, empathy and leadership capability, alongside critical technical skills. That’s a significant shift in training
    regimes and priorities
  • recognising non-traditional education and training such as apprenticeships and working out how to validate it and make it relevant to their workplace
  • redesigning 'one-size-fits-all HR' which is no longer fit for purpose; organisations are becoming more flexible around what jobs look like, how people are rewarded, career paths and the supporting development models.

To watch the digital inclusion panel from Future Talent 2018, click here. To read our round-up of the session, click here

City & Guilds Group