How to stay relevant in the future economy

new-skills-training-in-office

The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) 2018 Future of Jobs report is an exhaustive piece of research on how technology will impact the global economy and workforce over the next few years.

As I wrote recently, the WEF report predicts the net effect of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, robots, algorithms, and automation on employment will be positive, with 133 million new jobs expected to be created by 2022, versus 75 million jobs that may be phased out.

While the topline number sounds good (though I suspect it’s optimistic), the truth is that millions of lives are going to be disrupted as entire lines of work are turned over to non-humans. And the workers who will best cope with this massive disruption will be those who are adaptable and able to quickly learn new skills.

“By 2022 the skills required to perform most jobs will have shifted significantly,” the WEF writes. “Global average ‘skills stability’— the proportion of core skills required to perform a job that will remain the same — is expected to be about 58%. That means workers will see an average shift of 42% in required workplace skills in the period leading up to 2022.”

In other words, over the next four years the average worker will be unqualified for his or her current job — unless they put in the effort to acquire nearly half of the skills necessary to successfully do that job by 2022.

For older workers or those who aren’t used to continual professional development, that’s a scary proposition. But it’s reality.

“We will all need to become lifelong learners,” the WEF report says. “On average, employees will need 101 days of retraining and upskilling in the period up to 2022.”

This isn’t all about the fate of employees, either: Enterprises that are unable to find or train people in the skills needed to do required  jobs will suffer competitively. Or as WEF puts it, “Emerging skills gaps — both among individual workers and among companies’ senior leadership — may significantly obstruct organization’s transformation management.”

Unfortunately, WEF says, “Many employers’ retraining and upskilling efforts remain focused on a narrow set of current highly-skilled, highly-valued employees.”

And that’s a big mistake because digital transformation demands that enterprises optimize all of their assets.

“There is a virtuous cycle between new technologies and upskilling,” WEF says. “New technology adoption drives business growth, new job creation and augmentation of existing jobs, provided it can fully leverage the talents of a motivated and agile workforce who are equipped with futureproof skills to take advantage of new opportunities through continuous retraining and upskilling.” (my italics)

Change is always challenging because it brings uncertainty and risk. But it also presents opportunities. It’s going to take a lot of effort on the part of both enterprises and individuals to successfully adapt to digital transformation. For organizations and people, there are two clear potential responses to change: 1) anticipate and prepare, or 2) ignore it, and slowly become irrelevant.

I highly recommend the first option, as does the WEF.

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