Confronting the new skills economy

The tech landscape is changing rapidly, and a new generation of workers is bringing a fresh set of demands. As digital tools bring even more changes, how can organizations survive and thrive?

ARTICLE | 4m read
February 18, 2020

Bhushan Sethi, joint global leader of People & Organization at PwC, describes the scale of this transformation: “A staggering 91 percent of business leaders in our Global CEO Survey say they need to strengthen their organization’s soft skills alongside their digital ones.” This has left organizations grappling with a series of trends that are shifting skill sets in a different—and yet exciting—direction. So, what do these trends really mean for talent transformation, and how can leaders manage and prepare for the fallout?

To examine talent transformation, it makes sense to consider three distinct types of employee. Those who create and implement technology, those who experience the technology, and those who lead the organization.

Transforming skills of technologists

On the one hand, there are technologists, whose world is expanding at full tilt with the evolution of intelligent technologies. As automation and AI begin to take over many menial and day-to-day tasks, these teams have the opportunity and means to focus instead on problem-solving and business requirements. They will therefore need to ramp up their creative skills and nurture their ability to think outside the box to address user experience needs. They’ll also be tasked with developing an adaptive mind-set in order to consider different perspectives from business units such as HR, finance, marketing and customer service.

CIOs and other IT leaders who find themselves driving strategic change will also need to perfect their collaboration skills; they must be adept at listening, communicating, influencing and relationship-building. Those who can also add an innovative, commercial and entrepreneurial approach will emerge at the top of their field.

Evolving training for employees experiencing new workplace tech

The trend of digitization in the workplace is prompting a surging demand for a degree of technical skill across the board, regardless of role, background or training. That wave of change is unlikely to recede; 80 percent of jobs are set to require digital ability by the start of this decade and leaders agree that digitizing their business is key to staying ahead in the years to come. With this in mind, most if not all workers will need an aptitude for digital products and a willingness to adapt to the pace of technological advances.

Further up the digital dexterity scale, employees in nontechnical roles could very well become quasi-technologists, as software enables digital-savvy thinkers to swiftly build products “without writing a single line of code.” As Gartner describes in its report on the concept of citizen development, “Application development outside of IT control continues to expand as digital transformation accelerates.”

So, when the lines between the skill sets of technical and nontechnical roles become blurred, organizations must consider how to limit the fallout and focus on remaining productive.

Shifting leadership focus to support the digital workforce—key takeaways leaders can consider:

1. Retrain and upskill your existing workforce

As new tech emerges, it’s important to bring your workforce along on the journey. Making reskilling opportunities clear and accessible isa strategy that’s seen as a major solution by 82 percent of executives globally. In fact, it’s predicted that with the growth of intelligent technologies, CIOs will automate 10 percent of their tasks and look to upskill everyone. Nurturing in-house talent is particularly important so that no one in the organization feels left behind. Disengaged staff can often lead to a drop-in productivity, so retraining can also result in healthier profits. Upskilling also brings organizational rewards, such as retaining engaged and highly skilled staff. It can be addressed in a range of ways, from technology-based learning to skills sharing and outsourced training.

2. Maximize advances in technology to empower employees

Introducing a frictionless employee experience is the best way to do this, because it allows employees to organize their work in a unified, simple and secure environment. Technology and the proliferation of different workplace tools have made work more frustrating than it needs to be, but a platform that lets people collaborate across any app, device or cloud at any time can be truly transformational. It will break down silos and see employees more willingly adapt to a changing world.

Taking this double-layered strategic approach will not only take the employee experience to the next level, but it will also pave the way for a skilled and productive workforce for the next decade. Ultimately, the combination of intelligent workspaces with a newly invigorated workforce will not only help organizations survive; it will provide the bridge to the future and drive competitive advantage.