With the rise of automation, we’re on the verge of experiencing the largest job transition since the shift from agriculture to manufacturing jobs during the Industrial Revolution. Up to one-third of the 2030 workforce in the United States and Germany, and nearly half in Japan will need to learn new skills to find work in new occupations, according to the McKinsey report Jobs Lost, Jobs Gained: Workforce Transitions in a Time of Automation.

Businesses will be on the frontlines

“Businesses will be on the frontlines of the workplace as it changes,” according to the same McKinsey report. 62% of executives believe they will need to retrain or replace more than a quarter of their workforce between now and 2023 due to automation and digitization. 70% of executives at large companies (more than $500 million in annual revenues) see technological disruption over the next 5 years affecting more than a quarter of their workforce. Moreover, companies recognize this will affect their bottom line. 38% of CEOs globally say they’re extremely concerned about the availability of key skills as a threat to business growth, according to PwC’s CEO survey.

Organizations will need to reevaluate their talent strategies and workforce needs. Hiring new talent for brand-new skills won’t be easy and organizations will have to step up retraining their own internal workforce for new roles rather than trying to find skills that don’t exist yet in the labor pool. Forward-looking companies that can strategically anticipate skill needs and train or redeploy existing employees will likely have a strategic advantage over slower-moving organizations that try to find non-existent talent externally.

We’re already seeing this trend happening. ManpowerGroup’s 2017 Talent Shortage Survey found that 40% of global employers reported difficulties in sourcing skilled talent. At the same time, the number of global companies addressing skill gaps by retraining people internally has doubled since 2015, from just one in five to more than half.

Rethinking L&D to prepare for the future of work

So how can organizations stay on top of what skills will be needed and which employees can easily be redeployed to these new roles? The majority of companies feel they are only “somewhat prepared” to address skill gaps and much more needs to be done, according to McKinsey. About one-third of executives feel they need to rethink their HR and learning & development (L&D) infrastructure to respond to this major shift in skills.

As you rethink how you deliver continuous learning to prepare your employees for the future of work, here are 3 steps your L&D team might want to consider.

1. Staying on top of ever-evolving skills

Instead of only surveying employees or talking to internal business leads on their learning needs, L&D will need to drive the conversation on skills gaps and related training. L&D and HR will play an important role in understanding external skill trends and anticipating what the business might need in the next 5 years. There’s a wealth of data on trending skills that L&D can tap into to stay on top of ever-evolving skills. For example, at Udemy, we can spot trending skills that 20+ million people are learning worldwide on our platform. See 9 Hot Tech Skills for 2018. Job sites like Indeed also post top trending jobs.

2. Redeploying employees to new roles

Technology will create new types of jobs, just as it takes away others. With new skills increasingly hard to find, thriving companies will be the ones that strategically redeploy and retrain employees for brand-new jobs. In some cases, it might be moving workers who are losing out to automation to new roles internally. In other cases, it may mean continuously growing your employees so they can acquire new skills and address your talent shortages.

The World Economic Forum report on the reskilling revolution recently released a comprehensive study on the jobs that might disappear and mapped out “transition pathways” for people to move into similar jobs with related skills. For example, office and administrative jobs and production jobs will experience the highest rate of disruption due to automation by 2026, accounting for a combined 1.15 million jobs. However, office and administrative jobs lost like Data-Entry Keyers, File Clerks, and Administrative Assistants could be easily transitioned to new, growing jobs with similar skill-sets like Customer Service Representatives or Information Clerks with some training. Bookkeepers whose roles are automated could also be transitioned to Data Analytics roles which are in huge demand. To identify new roles to deploy employees, L&D teams may need to add a “Skills Mapping Manager” role to their team.

3. Retraining employees quickly for new roles

Once L&D has identified new skill-sets required for the business to move forward and potential employees to redeploy to these new roles, the final step will be quickly upskilling your employees. This is the easy part for L&D. But even so, L&D teams will need to approach training in novel ways. With a massive skill shift underway, there will be no time to waste with long course creation cycles or static classroom learning that lasts several hours. Instead, L&D teams will need to increasingly rely on agile learning tactics such as leveraging external vendors that provide learning content updated in real-time and applying Agile Development techniques to cut course creation cycles. Artificial intelligence and machine learning can also help L&D teams personalize learning, so employees are served up relevant courses and learning paths appropriate to their journey. Finally, just-in-time learning or letting employees learn on the job with bite-sized videos will enable them to learn what they want, when they need it. This can reinforce formal learning and help employees transition into new roles.

The massive skill shift we’re about to witness will likely present many challenges to both organizations and employees. But what’s clear is companies that excel at constantly reskilling their workforce will have a competitive advantage over those that don’t.

Page Last Updated: April 2020

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