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Training the contingent workforce

27 July 2019

External factors – including demographic upheaval, globalisation, digital technology, and changing social values and worker expectations, are disrupting business models and radically changing the workplace. These are requiring both workers and businesses to adapt and change the way they work, and for governments to rethink approaches to socioeconomic policies.

The gig economy, robotics, and cognitive technologies are impacting education, skills, and career development. Understanding these impacts are crucial to ensuring countries can manage the risks and opportunities for inclusive economic growth and avoid fuelling greater inequality within economies.

Government, business, and society need to work together to support a dynamic workforce that is able to constantly reskill and upskill. This means developing a skills infrastructure that broadens the base of skills and abilities. It means revisiting education and career models, and approaches to life-long learning and work, regardless of geography, and innovating public-private partnerships. In many markets, academic-type learning will also need to be married with opportunities to apply new knowledge and skills.

Policies that underpin the basic fundamentals of the workforce, such as regulation of the gig economy, need revising in a way that provides for inclusive growth and facilitates innovation and long-term unemployment solutions. As the gig economy strengthens, this means consideration of both the economic/business and societal elements. These include, but are not limited to, education, taxation, pensions, social protections, mobility, labour supply management, income, data flows, privacy, security, health care, consumer protection, and labour laws.

Inequality will remain a stubborn phenomenon even as technology advances society and helps grow economies. This suggests other long-term policy outcome considerations such as income guarantees, wealth distribution, and re-enabling social engagement (beyond tradition employment).

Demographic upheavals have made the workforce both younger and older, as well as more diverse. 77 million Millennials now make up more than half the workforce. They expect a mobile work environment, are fuelling the new “freelance economy,” and will spend no longer than 16 months with any employer on average. This “loyalty challenge” is driven by a variety of factors. Millennials feel underutilized and believe they are not being developed as leaders. They bring high expectations for a rewarding, purposeful work experience, constant learning and development opportunities, and dynamic career progression.

Four main drivers of workforce disruption:

  1. Demographic upheaval
  2. Ever-present and changing digital technology
  3. Accelerated rate of change and business-model innovation
  4. The rise of a new social contract

Acceleration – agility

Government, business, and society need to work together to support a dynamic workforce that is able to constantly reskill and upskill. This means revisiting education, career models, and approaches to life-long learning and work, regardless of geography, and innovating public-private partnerships.

The gig economy, robotics and cognitive technologies are the new workforce

Robotics and cognitive technologies are creating a world where many employees will work and collaborate with robots and learning machines. And yes, some will be replaced.

Deloitte’s Millennial Survey18 suggests the expectations of Millennials who make up the majority of the workforce are major contributors to this generational shift. According to the survey, Millennials have little loyalty to their current employers and many are planning near-term exits. This “loyalty challenge” is driven by a variety of factors. Millennials feel underutilized and believe they’re not being developed as leaders.

As the types of skills needed in the labour market change rapidly, individual workers will have to engage in life-long learning if they are to achieve fulfilling and rewarding careers. For companies, reskilling and upskilling strategies will be critical if they are to find the talent they need and to contribute to socially responsible approaches to the future of work. For policy-makers, reskilling and retraining the existing workforce are essential levers to fuel future economic growth, enhance societal resilience in the face of technological change and pave the way for future-ready education systems for the next generation of workers.

technology grows exponentially, culture grows logarithmically and therefore takes time to evolve. Issues discussed include education and the need for young people to spend less time in education and to continue learning through their entire lives; schooling to be “more about ethics, culture, community, quality of life and appreciation of “being human” than about trigonometry,” and that society will have to be more honest and transparent. “We are already witnessing the rise of the sharing economy, which will become the cornerstone of a society where equal access is granted to all resources

Future businesses will need more skills, including: digital know-how, management capability, creativity, entrepreneurship and complex problem solving

Future businesses will need more skills, including: digital know-how, management capability, creativity, entrepreneurship and complex problem solving.  These complex skills will blend the very best of social skills (influencing, persuasion, emotional intelligence, and teaching others) with processing skills (active listening and critical thinking) as well as cognitive skills (creativity and mathematical reasoning). Indeed the WEF predicts that these will become “core” skills with some (like social skills) generating higher demand than technical skills.

Learning and development has been made easier by the gig economy. The ubiquity of always-connected mobile devices makes learning potentially available everywhere and accessible to everyone at any time. Workers can now take a course on nearly any subject online, search for an expert video or podcast to learn a quickly needed skill. Top 3 missing soft skills are:

  1. Problem solving, critical thinking, innovation and creativity
  2. Ability to deal with complexity and ambiguity
  3. Communication

Employees at all levels are demanding access to dynamic learning opportunities that fit their individual needs and schedules.28 Millennials and other young employees have grown up in this self-directed learning environment. They expect it as part of their working lives and careers—and they will move elsewhere if employers fail to provide it.

Lifelong learning and serial careers, while not yet the norm, are taking off. Many organizations are struggling to adapt to these challenges, although high performing companies are seizing the opportunity to promote a new culture of learning, upending traditional models and transforming how employees learn. These organizations are adopting new mind-sets, fundamentally rethinking what “learning” and “development” mean in the context of their business. They place the employee at the center of a new architecture and new vision that treats learning as a continuous process, not an episodic event, and as a company-wide responsibility, not one confined to human resource departments.

Learning and development organizations are supporting the new reality by adopting new and expanded learning architectures.33 They see their role as not simply to push out content they have developed, but to enable employees to access content from a wide range of internal and external sources to create individual learning programs. To facilitate the effort to help employees “learn how to learn,” learning and development (L&D) teams are building internal knowledge sharing programs, developing easy-to-use portals and video sharing systems, and promoting collaborative experiences at work that help people constantly learn and share knowledge.

Platforms offer learning opportunities at little or no cost and even allow employees / workers to interact online with experts in the field—learning exactly what they need, when they need it.

  • Skills development is an economic imperative

Shift from being content driven to problem solving and leverage more flexible (on-line, blended) learning concepts to connect people with knowledge more quickly and at an earlier age.

  • On-time upskilling and portability and recognition of skills learned on the job

Providing a diverse array of knowledge sharing and on-the-job learning experiences that foster personal growth. They should be building internal knowledge-sharing programs, developing easy-to-use portals and video-sharing systems, and promoting collaborative experiences at work that help people constantly learn and share knowledge.

Ben Borin
Ben Borin

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