The modern workplace is in a state of constant change as work practices evolve and organisations respond to market conditions, customer expectations, and competitive realities. However, the pace of change over the past number of years has significantly increased. The need to continuously develop a future-ready, skills-based workforce has never been more important.
It is no longer enough to make sure you have the skills and resources you need today. To remain relevant to customers and competitive in the market, there needs to be a constant focus on the future.
Successfully focusing on the future requires a clear analysis of the factors influencing your industry, as well as robust strategies across all parts of the organisation. A crucial component of this is skills.
Drivers of Change
To get a proper grasp of what an organisation needs to do to transition to a future-ready, skills-based workforce, it is first important to understand the main drivers of change in the modern workplace.
Automation and Digitalisation
The increase in automation alongside ongoing digital transformation in companies across all industries is changing job roles. There is now less emphasis on repetitive and time-consuming tasks and workflows, where the aim was to have resources in place to do this type of work.
With technology solutions taking on these tasks and replacing these workflows, the focus of companies is switching to things like digital competence, flexibility, critical thinking, adaptability, analytical reasoning, and problem-solving.
There is also more of a focus in companies on total experience, including customer experience, user experience, and, crucially, employee experience. In other words, organisations are placing ever-greater emphasis on the wellbeing of employees, including in areas like job satisfaction, worker autonomy, and feeling a sense of purpose and value.
Talent Recruitment and Retention
The talent shortages that exist in a range of industry sectors and geographical regions, including in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, are also driving change. In many industries, the long-term solution to many talent challenges is to find alternative options through revised working practices, optimised workflows, and the introduction of new technologies.
For example, a food manufacturing facility struggling to find highly skilled operators to work on its production line could invest in advanced equipment that eliminates the need for highly skilled operators and reduces the overall number of operators required on the line.
Investing in skills is another crucial strategy for overcoming talent shortages, where you upskill your existing workforce in areas that are crucial to operations.
The Need for Agility
While we don’t know exactly what organisations will look like in the future, what we do know is they won’t look like they do now. The same applies to customer expectations or regulatory environments – the one thing that is certain is that both are subject to change.
Therefore, agility is essential for organisations in all industries and sectors. Enhancing, augmenting, and refining the skills of your workforce is an essential part of becoming an agile organisation.
The Emergence of the Skills-Based Organisation
One aspect of the modern workforce is the emergence of the skills-based organisation.
Companies have traditionally been structured by jobs. Jobs define who does what and how, as well as defining the hierarchical structure of the organisation. Jobs also define how companies operate in terms of strategic planning, people management, recruitment, and performance management
However, research by Deloitte found that 63 percent of executives say teams of people complete work in teams, with people on those teams working on tasks outside their core job description. In addition, 36 percent say work is being done by people outside the organisation, i.e., by people who have no job at all.
The above stats demonstrate the modern workforce has changed and is continuing to change. Modern organisations need to be innovative and agile, and they need to have a growth mindset.
As a result, many companies are beginning to change emphasis from jobs to skills.
What does this mean? Focusing on skills means people aren’t defined by the jobs they do. Instead, employees are viewed as individuals with skills that can be utilised by the organisation where those skills will have the greatest impact. It also often means work is more aligned with the interests of the employee.
In terms of the organisation, there is less of an emphasis on departments with people that do similar jobs. Instead, the focus is on tasks, projects, and deliverables, with a breaking down of departmental silos.
Evolving Into a Skills-Based Organisation
Becoming focused on skills rather than jobs is an evolutionary process, with many organisations already on the path without applying a label to it.
Continuous learning is an essential component of a skills-based approach, where learners solidify and enhance existing skills as well as learning new, adjacent skills.
Becoming more focused on skills also requires a change of approach in terms of learning and development strategy. The traditional approach is typically to offer learning opportunities to employees based on their jobs. With a skills-based focus, this is replaced with learning opportunities based on skills.
What Do We Mean by Skills?
It is also helpful in this discussion to properly define what we mean by skills. When skills are talked about, the reference is often to hard skills, otherwise known as technical skills. Examples of technical skills include programming, accounting, project management, graphic design, and marketing.
Hard skills are important, but there are also other skills that are essential in the future-ready workplace. This includes soft skills such as communication, resilience, and conflict resolution.
There are also potential skills that come into the mix. Potential skills can be skills that are connected to an employee’s existing skillset, or skills that are in the early stages of development. In both situations, there is the potential to develop the skill further.
The Role of E-Learning
While e-learning isn’t the only solution to developing a future-ready, skills-based workforce, it will play an important role. We’ll explore e-learning’s role and other essential elements of building a future-ready, skills-based workforce in the next blog in this series.