Shared from the 5/7/2021 Financial Review eEdition

Reskill to thrive in an era of upheaval


Digital transformation often focuses too much on technology, but organisations need to recognise that people are at the centre of everything they do – meaning digital transformation and reskilling must go hand in hand.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated upheaval and widened the gap between those organisations that are resistant to change and those that are ready to embrace the opportunities it presents.

Digital transformation is the key to navigating these challenges, but it can create its own turmoil. It does not destroy jobs, but rather it disrupts them. To ensure they have the right talent to meet these challenges, organisations must balance digital transformation with reskilling people for new roles.

Even before the pandemic, the workforce was automating faster than expected, according to the World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs Report 2020. As a result, automation is expected to displace 85 million jobs in the next five years.

At the same time, the robot revolution will create 97 million new jobs, but the WEF warns that the communities most at risk from disruption will need support from businesses and governments.

By 2025, the top emerging professions will include data and artificial intelligence, content creation and cloud computing. As a result, the most required skills will include analytical thinking, creativity and flexibility – those skills that are far more difficult to delegate to a machine.

According to the WEF report, the most competitive businesses to emerge from this period will be those that choose to reskill and upskill current employees.

Putting all this into action requires ushering in a new era of trust and transparency. These might be overused words in HR and related disciplines, but they are essential for this new era of the workforce.

Trust needs to extend from the coalface right through to the shareholder. Establishing this trust will require rapid transparency in areas such as AI and other emerging technologies, which have caused great fear among workers.

Embracing this change involves rethinking the fundamental role of an organisation. Businesses to date have typically been designed around a ‘profit and loss’ mindset, but this is too simple a measurement and too often it only serves the shareholders in the short term.

Instead, a ‘balance sheet’ mindset is needed, where the wellbeing, diversity and inclusion of an organisation’s people are considered. Not just as initiatives, but woven into the organisation’s very fabric.

In the long term, this approach will serve all stakeholders better, including shareholders. It presents an unprecedented opportunity for organisations to take responsibility for their own destiny, one which will not likely come again for a long time, says Jarrod McGrath – founder and CEO of human capital management consultancy Smart WFM.

‘‘There’s such a war out there for talent at the moment, even though the cost of someone entering and exiting a business is significant,’’ McGrath says. ‘‘To survive, it’s more important than ever to value the people you already have, nurture their talents and align their passions to achieve business goals.

‘‘With the risk of a skills shortage, organisations need to take responsibility for talent and appreciate that it’s often easier to keep and reskill their existing people rather than go out to market to attract new people.’’

A former consulting manager with Kronos, now UKG, McGrath went on to found a human resources transformation business, which was acquired by Deloitte. McGrath’s book, The Digital Workforce, outlines the five steps to introducing a digital workforce management strategy.

McGrath has written a second edition of the book to be launched next month, just as businesses were starting to rethink how they should manage people, processes and technology in a post-pandemic world.

‘‘When I was interviewing all these business leaders in the middle of the pandemic, what shone through is that people are at the core of everything we do,’’ McGrath says. ‘‘If we don’t look after our people, we’re not going to have a business into the future.’’

When approaching digital transformation, senior leadership teams often sign off on new technologies without considering them from the perspective of the people at the coalface, where the transformation will actually take place.

Once these decisions flow down from those who make them to those who implement them, there can be a siloed approach that doesn’t encompass all that the organisation aims to achieve.

At the coalface, reskilling is an integral part of that transformation. If people are thinking about new technologies with an old mindset, then digital transformation efforts can never deliver their full benefits.

‘‘Of the five steps to introducing a digital workforce management strategy I’d say the first one, ‘align’, is clearly the most important,’’ McGrath says.

‘‘You’re never going to make the most of digital transformation if you haven’t made sure that the business benefits you’re looking to achieve are understood and aligned across the entire organisation.’’

See this article in the e-Edition Here