Over 18 months after the WHO first declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, organisations worldwide are still navigating uncertainties of the Covid-19 crisis. Amid the numerous uncertainties, however, there is one certainty: The new normal will be nothing like the old normal.
While this statement could apply to several aspects of our post-pandemic lives, in this blog, we will focus on the workplace, specifically skills.
So what are the changes and uncertainties the pandemic has brought to the workplace?
Besides accelerating trends such as automation and digital transformation, the Coronavirus crisis has led to a significant change in the skills needed at work, leading to predictions that skills gaps will remain high in the run up to 2025.
There are two main changes with regard to skills. First, the skills expected to be in high demand are skills that automation cannot replace such as soft skills – critical thinking, complex problem-solving, resilience, flexibility, creativity, originality, emotional intelligence and social skills. Second, it is no longer good enough or even feasible for individuals to learn a few skills and flog them for the rest of their work lives. Everyone in the global workforce needs to continuously upskill to stay relevant in the evolving post-Covid workplace.
In this scenario, what are the implications for individuals and organisations?
For individuals, let’s use a software analogy. Just as software is constantly upgraded – a patch here a version there – individuals will also need to regularly upgrade their existing skills to stay relevant.
Similarly, organisations will do well to encourage a culture of continuous learning. There are two very good reasons for that. One, it will help them build a flexible workforce ready to pivot to meet any new challenges, enabling them to be successful. Two, it has always been more costly to hire new people – according to research, hiring new employees can be twice as expensive than upskilling or retraining existing ones – and one can safely say this will not change post-Covid. Given that skills gaps are a very real threat over the next five years at least, organisations that commit to learning and development will be ahead of the curve.
Several organisations have already embraced the challenge. Fifty-eight per cent of respondents of a McKinsey survey published in 2021 say that closing skill gaps in their companies’ workforces has become a higher priority since the pandemic began while 69% of respondents say that their organizations do more skill building now than they did before the COVID-19 crisis.
What can you do?
Here are three simple steps organisations can take to build a future-proof workforce:
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