If you visit the OECD website on the future of work, you can take an online survey that will reveal the likelihood of your job changing due to automation. It will also helpfully give you examples of similar jobs with a better outlook than yours.

Given the OECD predict that 1.1 billion jobs are at risk of being ‘radically transformed’ by technology in the next decade, the chances are completing that survey will reveal some troubling home truths for a lot of people.

In this environment, continuous learning has never been more important. We believe reskilling for the future will be one of the defining talent trends for 2020 and beyond. Indeed, the World Economic Forum (WEF) believes that no less than a reskilling revolution is required.

We believe reskilling for the future will be one of the defining talent trends for 2020 and beyond. Click To Tweet

In the face of an unknown future, it can be hard to know where to start. One thing’s for sure: it’s not going to be about who can obtain the most degrees. Instead, we need to think about establishing the conditions for continuous learning and embedding a mindset that will enable individuals and organisations to reskill not just once, but over and over again.

There will be jobs, but not as we know them

For all the talk of the impact of automation, one of the WEF’s most startling predictions is that there will be an overall net positive between job growth and decline. It’s the shape of those jobs that’s changing. The WEF expects nearly half of core skills will change in the coming years, with new jobs requiring skills that aren’t currently common in the workplace. Additionally, if current trends continue, the outdated content of education will further exacerbate the skills mismatch in the future.

Korn Ferry’s own research has quantified this global talent deficit at 85.2 million workers by 2030, leading to unrealised annual revenue of $8.5 trillion – that’s the combined GDP of Germany and Japan.

The solution is human

In this environment, it’s easy to see why business leaders are looking to technology to drive future growth – 67 percent of CEOs believe technology will be their chief value generator. And there’s no doubt it will create value, but this view discounts the value of human capital. It’s a big, very expensive blindspot: our economic analysis found human capital to be almost 2.5 times more valuable to the global economy than physical assets, including technology.

Automation will no doubt take over the routine and repetitive aspects of work, while algorithms will manufacture analysis at a rate humans can’t hope to keep up with. But there will still be a need for highly skilled individuals to fully exploit the benefits that automation brings. Human skills like creative thinking, strategic problem solving and learning agility will be the competitive advantage.

We need highly skilled individuals to fully exploit the benefits that automation brings. Click To Tweet

It’s this gap between the skills we have and the ones we need to leverage technology’s full potential that’s driving the talent deficit.

Don’t fall into the skills gap trap

Winning organisations will be the ones that create value in the future of work by leveraging the power of both people and technology. It means addressing the misalignment now and working to create a culture that embraces a reskilling mindset.

Here are three things that businesses can do to address the digital skills gap.

  • Remove barriers to a learning mindset

Working to remove barriers offers both easy wins and big cultural challenges for organisations looking to create a culture dedicated to reskilling for the future. The recent coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has shown just how far some organisations have to go, with some organisations finding their employees aren’t equipped to work from home. They’re missing basic tools like laptops that are essential to modern ways of working.

Ensuring employees have access to the hardware they need for flexible working is essential to opening up new ways to collaborate and learn within the workplace. This is a relatively easy fix – laptops can be bought, VPNs can be set up.

The bigger challenge is ensuring that the culture supports these changes. Organisations must have the right leaders in place, with the competencies to lead a more dispirit team. They need to be role-modelling new ways of working and displaying their own commitment to reskilling, as well as empowering and challenging their teams to do the same.

  • Understand future demand

To take control of their future talent needs, organisations need to build an understanding of their future workforce needs. What are the critical roles and skills they will need to meet both short and long-term business objectives?

Although tech-related roles dominate the job market in terms of fastest growing demand, stocking your employee ranks with coders and machine learning expertise takes too simplistic a view. Many roles, like customer success specialists, are more about relationships. While strategy and growth roles require a much broader understanding of markets and trends.

It’s not just digital skills that need to be fostered. Study after study shows that while technology will alter many roles directly, it’s also set to have indirect effects. As demand for mathematics, computing and data analysis grows, so too will the need for human attributes like creativity, critical thinking, persuasion and negotiation.

  • Embrace diversity

The leaders needed to drive this change won’t come from the usual places and some of the skills needed for future success may already be growing in hidden corners of your organisation. Existing leaders need to be humble enough to unleash this talent. It’s crucial that talented people are not blocked because they do not fit traditional training or personality criteria.

As a group, tomorrow’s leaders will look and act differently to current directors and C-suite executives. They will have attended a variety of schools and come from a range of different places, and many will have risen to the top through non-traditional paths. Diversity and inclusion will become more imperative than ever and organisations need to work even harder to stamp out conscious and unconscious biases that might be holding these people back.

To read more about the trends that will define 2020 and beyond, read Korn Ferry Talent Trends 2020.

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About the contributor

Alvin Low-Thue is the head of Korn Ferry Advisory in Hong Kong and a Senior Client Partner of the firm. Alvin is an expert in strategy and policy development and clarification, operating model and organisation design, organisational and leadership development, transformation program design and management, and cultural change and change management.

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