For workers in the digital economy, staying still is falling behind


The introduction of computers, the internet, wireless networks, social media and smartphones and other mobile devices into the enterprise world dramatically changed how organizations conducted business.

They also forced tech-averse enterprise workers to face a stark choice: Develop new skills (the ability to find information quickly, fluency across multiple communications channels and the discipline to work remotely, among others) or risk becoming irrelevant.

Thanks to numerous emerging technologies – artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, robotics, voice assistants, neural networks, automation and more – today’s enterprise workers confront that same pressing dilemma: What must I learn and be able to do to have value in the workplace of tomorrow?

Turns out that a lot of people have been giving this some thought, including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who cites three specific areas of knowledge he believes will be the most in-demand in our economy: science, engineering and economics. (STEMfest!)

“I do think basic knowledge of the sciences, math skills, economics – a lot of careers in the future will be very demanding on those things,” Gates says. “Not necessarily that you’ll be writing code, but you need to understand: What can the engineers do? What can they not do? How are they likely to revolutionize the field that you’re in?”

Google CEO Sundar Pichai also says workers of the future need not immerse themselves in coding (well, at least those who aren’t programmers). What they need instead is a career-long commitment to agile learning, because nothing is ever going to stay the same.

“In the past, people were educated, and learned job skills, and that was enough for a lifetime,” Pichai writes. “Now, with technology changing rapidly and new job areas emerging and transforming constantly, that’s no longer the case. We need to focus on making lightweight, continuous education widely available.”

These types of courses already are available online, but Pichai makes a good point that enterprises are well advised to take the initiative, especially concerning basic digital skills such as accessing cloud-based productivity applications, project management and “other jobs no one can imagine today, but that will be obvious — and ubiquitous — in five years’ time.”

Google has developed a lightweight, agile learning program called “Grow With Google” to help job seekers, developers and educators prepare for the economy of the future.

Information and tech skills will continue to be valuable in the work world, but so too will “soft skills,” the types of things that humans can do that machines can’t (yet), such as managing a difficult customer or shepherding a major project with conflicting stakeholders.

Along those lines, CareerFAQs has listed 10 skills you’ll need by 2020, including critical thinking, creativity, emotional intelligence, judgment and decision-making, cognitive flexibility and the ability to negotiate.

Whether you go all-in on constantly learning new technology skills, or whether you focus on sharpening those valuable and timeless human traits, the bottom line is that enterprise employees must constantly evolve and grow to retain their value in the workplace. To stay still is to fall behind.


  1. […] People in the workforce constantly are being advised — at least three times just by me alone here, here, and here — to level up in anticipation of the dramatic changes already underway in the […]

  2. […] It’s absolutely critical to any enterprise employees who want to increase their value in a rapidly evolving workplace to anticipate what opportunities will be available in the future and how their skill sets will fit into the larger picture — and then to make the proper adjustments. Otherwise they’re in danger of sliding into irrelevancy. […]

  3. […] Enterprise employees are under a lot of pressure to anticipate what they need to do to flourish in the workplace of the future, especially since many jobs, specific job functions, and even entire industries are expected to disappear as automation and artificial intelligence become more prevalent. (See “For Workers In the Digital Economy, Staying Still is Falling Behind.”) […]

  4. […] I dipendenti aziendali sono sottoposti a molte pressioni per anticipare ciò che devono fare per prosperare nei posti di lavoro del futuro, soprattutto dal momento che molte funzioni lavorative specifiche e persino interi settori sono destinati a scomparire man mano che l’automazione e l’intelligenza artificiale prevalgono. (Vedi “Per i lavoratori nell’economia digitale, stare fermi vuol dire rimanere indietro“). […]

  5. […] Les employés font face à une forte pression pour anticiper ce qu’ils doivent faire tout en s’épanouissant sur leur lieu de travail, d’autant plus que de nombreux emplois, fonctions spécifiques et même des secteurs entiers devraient disparaître avec l’automatisation et l’intelligence artificielle. (lire “For Workers In the Digital Economy, Staying Still is Falling Behind.”) […]

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