Today’s business leaders face the challenge of creating the future workplace.
—Chess Media Group
No matter how great its product or service is, a company can succeed only if it has good people. It may have solid funding and an innovative business plan, but without top-notch employees to produce, promote, and support its products, a company won’t get very far. Companies need to be nimble enough to adapt to fast-changing job markets, but those kinds of adjustments can’t be made overnight. That’s why it’s important for organizations to be proactive about rather than reactive when implementing hiring and retention practices—and that means taking a long view ahead and focusing on upskilling your workforce.
As I mentioned a couple of months ago, now that the workforce of 2020 is on our doorstep, it’s time to start preparing for the arrival of the workforce of 2030. That includes not only new additions to that talent pool (such as the members of today’s up-and-coming Generation Z) but also today’s current workers who will still be active in 2030. They’ll need to be ready for how automation, data analytics, new communication and collaboration tools, and changing employee expectations will reshape the workplace.
The rate of change in our society keeps increasing. (Just look at how far cell phones have come in the last decade! Did you even imagine when you were growing up that one day you’d walk around with a powerful computer in your pocket?) If you stop too long to look around, you’ll fall behind—and with things moving so quickly, once you fall behind it can be very difficult to catch up.
Think these shifts won’t affect you? Think again.
Pearson recently published an extensive report about what the job market will look like in 2030. It predicts that “only one in ten workers are in occupations that are likely to grow” and “seven in ten workers are in jobs . . . where there is greater uncertainty about the future.” Clearly, companies that want to be ready for 2030 can’t keep following the status quo but will need to make some changes – including upkilling your workforce.
What skills and knowledge will U.S. workers need in 2030? Even as the use of automation and other technological interventions becomes more prevalent and reduces (and possibly eliminates) the need for certain skills, other skills will increase in importance. McKinsey research offers some suggestions: “All workers will need to adapt as machines take over routine and some physical tasks and as demand grows for work involving socioemotional, creative, technological, and higher cognitive skills.” Pearson’s research similarly points to a strong need in the future for “interpersonal skills . . . [which] include teaching, social perceptiveness, service orientation, and persuasion” and “higher-order cognitive skills such as complex problem solving, originality, fluency of ideas, and active learning.”
Get Your Ducks in a Row
Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.
—Alexander Graham Bell
How should you prepare for 2030? First, don’t panic! Yes, companies may have to make many significant adjustments to how they manage recruitment, hiring, retention, and everything else associated with maintaining a workforce. But they have ten years to accomplish this. That’s plenty of time to figure out and implement their plans!
Your next course of action is to get the CEO on board, because no organization-wide endeavor can succeed without support from the top. Therefore, do your research. Get the numbers and data you need to make a case to your CEO. You need to convince him or her that now is the time to start preparing your workforce for 2030. (Good starting points are my earlier blog post on this topic, as well as the McKinsey and Pearson research mentioned above.)
“Do your research” also includes coming up with a course of action. If your CEO says, “Okay, I see what you mean about how we need to prepare our workforce for 2030—so what do we do?” you need to have a proposal ready to go. “I’ll get back to you about that later” undermines the case you’ve so carefully put together (and also might make your CEO feel like you’ve wasted his or her time). When you have your CEO’s ear, maximize your time you have with your audience!
And if your CEO just isn’t convinced—or if you don’t get a chance to make your case directly to him or her—then enlist help. Go after the CEO’s direct reports and make your case to them. Their closer relationships with the CEO increase the likelihood that he or she will listen to what they say. So do your best to get them on your side when it comes to upskilling your workfroce!
Build the Workforce You Need through Upskilling and Reskilling
To ensure continuing prosperity in the global economy, nothing is more important than the development and application of knowledge and skills.
It’s impossible to know exactly what the business world will look like in 2030. But after spending many years on the staffs of several major corporations and as an independent trainer, coach, and consultant who regularly (and successfully) advises organizations on best HR and management practices, I think I have a pretty good bead on the most effective strategies for maximizing someone’s potential in the workplace.
The key is to focus on employee development: upskilling your workforce and reskilling your workforce to meet the evolving requirements of the business sector. Yes, many of the new workers entering the job market over the next decade (hello, Generation Z!) will already have some of the skills you need when they knock on your door, in part because they will have been educated during the emerging market. But relying too heavily on them would be folly. Don’t forget the workers you have now! Most of them will still be in the workforce in 2030, so it’s critical to focus on upskilling your workforce and invest in their development. (And remember, one of the big reasons why people leave their current jobs is lack of growth opportunities: “94% of employees say that they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development.” Improving development opportunities also helps with retention, which is vital for the health of the organization!)
There are many different ways to promote employee upskilling and reskilling. Some work better in certain contexts (depending on company size, industry, etc.) than others. Take a look at this list of possibilities and think about what might work well in your own organization:
- Job shadowing: A great way to learn a new skill is to observe someone who exhibits it.
- Temporary assignments in other areas: Want employees to develop new skills or improve the ones they have? Working in other areas give them opportunities to practice those skills.
- Coaching and mentoring: People who are new to the organization, the industry, or to the business world in general can learn a great deal from those who have more experience in those settings.
- Challenges: Assign employees tasks that are just—but only just—outside their regular wheelhouses to give them opportunities to learn new skills within the context of doing their jobs. Or ask them to spearhead projects in area in which their skills need improvement.
You’ll have the most success with upskilling and reskilling initiatives if your employees embrace those programs themselves. For starters, you’re more likely to get employee buy-in if you make participation in those programs both accessible and easy. (For example, let employees pursue these opportunities at the office and on the company clock. And start small—say, with 30-minute increments—rather than jump right into all-day workshops.) Also, help your employees understand that upskilling your workforce and reskilling benefits not just the company but each of them personally. And definitely give them plenty of space to fail: when you ask people to put themselves out there to learn something new, you don’t want them to be so afraid of the consequences for messing up that they’re reluctant to give it a fair try.
The Future Is Just around the Corner
A year from now you may wish you had started today.
The year 2030 probably feels like the distant future. It’s hard to put a finger on something that seems so abstract. But the cold hard reality is that the next decade will be here before you know it. If you’ve spent any time in the business world, you already know that it usually takes time (often a lot of time) get things moving on an organizational level. If your goal is to be the spark for a movement to prepare your workforce for 2030, that’s great—but get started on it now, so you have plenty of time to put together a plan for upskilling your workforce that meets the needs of your organization.
P.S. Here I’ve mentioned just a few of the many upskilling and reskilling options that are out there. If there are any that you’ve found particularly effective—or others that should be on this list—please comment below!