Failure to reskill limits business sustainability and success

We have two real options for reducing unemployment in South Africa. We can bring unemployed youth into the market by helping them gain high-demand skills or stem the flow of jobs from corporations as certain work becomes redundant by digitisation – the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

Failure to reskill limits business sustainability and success

By far, the easiest place to start is the latter. Existing employees must be retrained and upskilled to use the evolving technology and tools they need for their future work. These employees better understand the company, its culture, way of working, products and customers. All of which makes a solid foundation on which to build new skills.

Reskilling a current workforce is far cheaper than employing a new one. The cost of hiring someone from outside is expensive. Not only are there recruitment fees to pay, but the new employee will take time to be effectively productive and can potentially make costly mistakes as they learn the business.

Nobody can deny that the world of work is rapidly evolving. Whole jobs and a range of tasks are being phased out, outsourced to gig workers globally, and new technology-savvy organisations are entering the market to disrupt incumbents.

Many employees (and employers too) have neglected to improve their skills and now face job obsolescence. Traditionally companies led the way in ensuring workers had the right skill. Some employees grabbed the opportunities offered to them, and others did not. The reality today is that employees need to take accountability for future-proofing themselves, but if businesses don’t continue to upskill and reskill their people, their future is also not that certain.

A recent McKinsey survey found that more than 50% of employees surveyed wanted to upskill, but many didn’t know where to begin. Some skills required to do a job are relatively minor, like learning a new feature on Excel or knowing how to performance manage a team. With the advent of online learning platforms and YouTube, these skills can be gained using self-paced online learning.

Some workers will need to reskill completely, depending on how significant the change in their job or industry is.

Every role will benefit from technology, so employers need to make sure that all employees are competent in the relevant technologies affecting their functions. Reskilling will ensure that a worker’s salary stays aligned to the industry and that they get noticed for increases and promotions. It will also provide better positioning for future opportunities instead of becoming redundant.

Recent LinkedIn data shows that skill sets required for jobs have changed 25% since 2015. This number will double by 2027. While the skills necessary to do a job quickly change, not all skills are entirely new. Microsoft Power BI is a high-demand skill but is not a world apart from a data analyst’s skills. A slight tweak in skills development will empower an analyst to work this software competently.

It’s imperative to focus on the so-called 21st-century skills when reskilling. So many of the problems we will tackle will not be problems we have solved in the past and will require novel solutions. At our Mindworx Academy, we’re building enabling skills like curiosity, resilience, communications skills and networking. And in our recruitment business, we’re seeing more growth in the demand for digital skills than we see job losses – but this requires candidates to have the right skills. Opportunities in green energy, the Metaverse, blockchain, and the massive demand for data skills as connected sensors permeate every imaginable industry (internet of things) all spell hope for a bright future.

Taking the initiative to upskill and reskill should show employers that a staff member is prepared to invest in their career, stay relevant, and increase their worth to the business. My advice to workers is to reinvest some of their leisure time in building new skills.  Many of us now find ourselves in a hybrid work environment, leading to higher staff productivity. Reduced commute times on “work from home days” should be used to build new skills by doing short courses. Changing some recreation time into re-creation time will be a great differentiator for any career.

And my advice to employers? Getting your teams onto a treadmill of lifelong learning will enhance their career and help evolve your business. Failure to reskill your teams will limit your future sustainability and success.

Act now before you, and your teams are left behind.

Published in HR Future