Rethinking skills for the future of work

| 3 September 2019

Lindsey Hayward, Head of Talent Management & Business Partnering at Konica Minolta, reveals why people skills need to adapt now for tomorrow’s workplace.

The workplace is changing at a lightning pace. Processes that have served organisations successfully for decades are rapidly being upended as modern technology, changing people preferences and unprecedented access to knowledge re-shape the workplace.

The signs are all there. Recent research reveals that job hopping is the ‘new normal’ for Millennials: 91% expect to stay in a job for less than three years. A separate study shows that an overwhelming majority of all workers (93%) left their employer the last time they changed roles. Only 7% took a new position in their company.

That puts organisations in a tricky position. Traditionally, roles were clearly defined and structured. You came to work, received promotion if you performed well and worked your way up the ladder. You stayed loyal to the company and the brand.

Not anymore. A people strategy that used to last three, five years or longer maybe lasts just six months now. Today, your people – and the underlying workplace strategy – have to be more agile, more adaptive to change and be able to pivot at speed.

So how can organisations ensure their people keep pace with this relentless and accelerating change? First, they need to focus on education and training. As more and more routine, everyday processes are automated, people will be freed from tedium to be more creative. Problem solving, creativity, critical thinking, coordinating with others, emotional intelligence and people management are predicted to be the most in demand skills in 2020, according to the World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs report.

Purely technical skills are likely to be done better and faster by robots, giving our uniquely human abilities room to flourish. This requires an educational shift. Instead of the standard academic learning of the past, students must focus on transferable skills that will enable them to succeed in the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Skills like these will determine future business competitiveness. To get there, organisations need to map out the future skills they believe they will need and then evolve their people to adapt to those skills. On demand, relevant and agile learning will be an essential component in that evolution. Enterprise learning experiences, combining peer-generated content, interactive media, and learning management, are essential to bringing people forward with you.

Organisations also need to examine their internal structures and determine how agile they are. Can the business make decisions quickly, or do decisions pass through a labyrinth of executives? How quickly can the business be mobilised behind a new innovation? What processes can we automate?

Answering that agility question demands significant introspection: a root-and branch examination of everything from the culture of the company, business structure and skills, to processes, controls and of course technology. Complexity, stifled communication, or manual, fragmented processes at any step will undermine agility and subsequent competitiveness. Organisations with adaptive people, culture and technology are most likely to innovate faster, make decisions more quickly and respond faster to market change. The bottom line? They are more competitive.

The third factor to consider is whether the people in your organisation have a ‘growth mindset’. They must believe that their learning and intelligence can grow with time and experience. When people believe they can get smarter, they realise that their effort has an effect on their success, so they put in extra time, leading to higher achievement. Ultimately, when your people are adaptive to change, your organisation is too.

Forward-thinking organisations are developing skills that can’t be automated—interpersonal communication, creativity, and abstract thinking. They are undergoing self-examination to identify how they can become more agile. And they are seeking out people with a ‘growth mindset’. These are the organisations that are set to succeed in tomorrow’s workplace.

Lindsey Hayward

Head of Talent Management & Business Partnering, Konica Minolta

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