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The digital economy is expected to create new jobs while other jobs will change or even disappear. Citizens are also required to have digital skills to avail themselves of services and interact with service providers. Being skilled has allowed for individuals and companies alike to remain resilient regardless of changes to the world of work or the economic environment. Digitisation and the COVID-19 pandemic have further increased the need for certain skills in many aspects of people’s daily lives and for business continuity. These skills do not only include digital skills, but also socio-emotional skills such as resilience, creative thinking and problem solving. Upskilling initiatives should therefore not only focus technical literacy, but look at what human skills are required in today’s digital age.
Even before COVID-19, such skills demands were increasing at an accelerated rate due to the fast-changing demand of the labour market. However COVID-19 has become a driver by catalysing digitalisation and automation at a more rapid pace and by radically transforming the type of skills that are needed. Automation, in tandem with the pandemic, has created a ‘double-disruption’ scenario for workers. In addition to the current disruption from the pandemic-induced lockdowns and economic contraction, technological adoption by companies will continue to transform tasks, jobs and the required skills.
Locally, while remote working and distance learning have become a reality for people, the limitations of our current digital preparedness were felt throughout. Currently, around 90% of jobs require some level of digital ability, while only 56% of Maltese citizens have basic digital skills.
Why Upskilling has become a mission critical initiative
“There is an upskilling dividend benefitting companies as they face an uncertain economy. Retaining the right talented people and enhancing their skills can help them survive today’s challenges and drives competitive advantage in the future.”
Bhushan Sethi, Joint Global Leader of PwC’s People & Organisation practice
One of the main benefits of an upskilling initiative is it’s potential economic effect. According to ‘Upskilling for Shared Prosperity’, a study conducted by PwC and the World Economic Forum, upskilling programmes have the potential to create over 5 million net new jobs by 2030, reaping great economic benefits on a global level.
Upskilling an organisation’s current workforce can be a key way to drive it’s data, digital, and technology agenda while also helping employees secure their own personal future and relevance. PwC’s 23rd Annual CEO Survey found that 93% of CEOS who introduce upskilling programmes see increased workforce productivity and resilience.
The ‘Upskilling for Shared Prosperity’ study also highlights that upskilling initiatives could empower employees with the tools to remain economically active even if their current positions disappear, in due course. This ripples into societal benefits by reducing inequality and creating greater social stability. In order to promote equality, upskilling initiatives should actively strive to provide equal opportunities for all employees.
In light of the pandemic, the International Labour Organisation notes an “urgent need for quality training to support a robust economic recovery” lest we leave behind a “COVID-19 generation” of employees with lower income and lower quality jobs over their lifetime.
PwC’s Five Building Blocks of Upskilling
PwC has identified the following five building blocks of upskilling that organisations should consider when implementing upskilling initiatives in the current world of work.
1. Identify skills gaps and mismatches
Assess the current environment and challenges of your organisation as every organisation is unique. Identify the size and nature of your organisation’s skills gaps and mismatches, where to start and what to prioritise. To achieve this, leadership should:
- Define the future workforce and understand the possibilities made available by emerging technology
- Assess current workforce capabilities
- Understand the organisational culture and if this is aligned with skills requirements
- Identify skills gaps, mismatches and skill adjacencies such as any soft skills the employees already possess that will enhance their performance
- Validate the case for change against the strategic requirements of the organisation
2. Build a future-proof skills strategy
Build strategic plans to deal with the skills gaps which have the most impact on delivering business value by:
- Devising an upskilling strategy aligned with the organisational strategy
- Making inclusion a priority
- Improving effectiveness of existing learning resources & technology
- Testing strategic alternatives and scaling best-performing programmes
Analytic workforce planning tools can help estimate the impact of new technologies on the organisation, the savings that automation will generate, the types of new skills that will be needed, and the number of months or years that it will take for these changes to happen.
3. Lay the cultural foundation
The cultural impacts of upskilling might be less tangible, but they exist and must be considered nonetheless. A learning culture occurs when both the employees and the management view learning as a natural part of their work life. Such a culture encourages learning, sharing of knowledge, applying new skills and improving performance through training on a daily basis. In this regard, culture should be used as the basis of an organisation’s upskilling efforts.
- Create a cultural shift through modeling the right behaviours
- Elevate learning as an organisational value and give it visibility
- Drive knowledge sharing by including related behaviors in performance expectations
- Recognise and reward people for learning new skills
4. Develop and implement upskilling
Create and deploy programmes which harness the organisation’s culture and use research-based principles to deliver the right learning experience and rapid results. In order to close the skills gap and/or mismatch identified in the previous stages, organisations need the internally trained people to become as competent as external talent. Speed is also key for keeping up with the increasingly rapid pace of change – especially technological change. To achieve this, organisations should:
- Create buy-in and align rewards and incentives
- Harness free time for learning
- Design for an engaging learning experience
- Build digital understanding
- Focus on targeted personal transformation learning journeys
- Deliver effective training
5. Evaluate return on investment
Measure the return on investment from upskilling programmes in order to ensure the upskilling is fit for purpose and it delivers on what the organisation wants and needs. To achieve this step, organisations should:
- Measure Return on Learning investment
- Track Employee Engagement
- Benchmark their L&D function