Digital Technology
Nov 06, 2018

Latest findings suggest the time to reskill is now – but how?

Thanks to new talent demands that accompany digital transformation, companies and individuals are being compelled to consider expanding their skill sets so they can take advantage of the opportunities on offer.

But while many businesses have big plans to adopt digital technologies, few have fully prepared their employees for the new skills they will need. Consider the findings of a report from Genpact and Fortune Knowledge Group with senior executives. It finds that, on one hand, 82% of respondents plan to implement AI-related technologies by 2020. But, on the other, only 38% currently provide employees with reskilling options.

Likewise, a study published in CDOTrends this summer suggests workers are disturbingly unprepared when it comes to making a personal investment to reskill. It cites a survey of 500 Australians that found only 16% were ready for “the changes the digital economy would bring to the employment landscape." And in yet another multi-country survey by Genpact and research firm YouGov, a third of workers polled worry they won't have the money or time to retrain so they can work effectively with AI.

Fortunately, another piece published in Forbes indicates that the retraining challenge doesn't have to be as daunting as it may seem. It offers timely advice on the “seven job skills of the future (that AIs and robots can't do better than humans)."The article suggests we're lucky that there are lots of jobs that “require more than a simple input-A-to-output-B calculation," i.e., the kind of learning machines do. Many jobs require very human qualities like communication, empathy, creativity, strategic thinking, questioning, and dreaming. While we may refer to these qualities as soft skills, they will be increasingly viewed as hard currency in a job market in which AI and technology can do more.

This isn't to say that there aren't challenges to developing soft skills. An article on scaling these skills in the MIT Sloan Management Review, for instance, outlines three powerful cultural barriers to success:

  • Schools are too much like factories
  • The home is saturated with technology
  • Stressful work reduces empathy

The author highlights a few possible solutions for organizational and individual consideration. In the case of our schools, the same technology that threatens to hold back soft-skill development at home could also promote it in a virtual classroom environment. This could be done by using mass open online courses to develop softer skills.

As for how to combat the corroding effects of living in a hyper-wired home, the article says, “the evolutionary benefits that humans have developed in empathy and collaboration need to be reinforced in subtle individual learning." So there needs to be less chatting with Amazon's Alexa and more face-to-face conversations with your neighbor. When it comes to tackling stress in the workplace, the author cautions that the antidotes – such as more flexible working conditions, collaborative cultures, and the institution of fair processes – are not being adopted as quickly as they should.

As organizations embed technology across their enterprises, employees who are ready to expand their skill sets become empowered to work more effectively, adding greater value and realizing more fulfilling roles. And as people adopt new skills, they grow more adaptable, allowing roles to become less function focused and more fluid, which benefits organizations as well as individuals.

Ultimately, Forbes offers the simplest yet most complete advice on how to approach the need to reskill in a fast-changing digital world: “Learn about the advancements being made and understand what AI can do. And second, focus on building the skills in areas robots can't do well." In short, make learning about the things that make us distinctly human a lifetime habit.

About the author

Piyush Mehta

Piyush Mehta

Chief Human Resources Officer

Piyush Mehta leads Genpact’s global Human Resources (HR) function and in this capacity has played an integral role in the organization's journey to becoming an Employer of Choice.

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