Adam Miller keynote: Why upskilling is key to creating a future-ready workforce
At this year’s Cornerstone Convergence event, our CEO Adam Miller’s keynote speech addressed the need for companies to upskill their workforce to keep up with the latest innovations in technology. He discussed how the world is innovating at a fast pace. New technologies are constantly arising, with the likes of automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning going from terms that were only used in sci-fi films and literature to technologies that are now used daily in a multitude of industries. They are quickly becoming a reality and they are also having a challenging effect on our workforce.
All job functions and sectors have been impacted by technology in one way or another, and a major change we see with these new technologies is that new jobs emerge all the time, while others are becoming automated. Software engineers, social media marketers and SEO specialists, for example, are examples of common roles available in today’s job market that didn’t exist or were rare 10 years ago. And it will continue to be the same for the future. In his keynote speech, Adam highlighted the fact that one in three global future jobs don’t even exist today, and companies will struggle to adapt and survive in the future if they’re not preparing now and educating their workforce.
The skills divide
With these new technologies playing an increasing part in our daily lives and allowing us to automate previously admin-heavy tasks, the workforce is – as a result – experiencing a skills divide. Adam explained that skilled jobs – such as those where people use AI and other tech to build and develop products – are facing a talent shortage, and there are not enough people to fulfil the roles necessary. On the other hand, he said, unskilled jobs are declining because of technological innovations and automation that make them obsolete, yet we have lots and lots of people who are able to do unskilled labour.
Adam made the point that the gig economy will eventually suffer from technology, particularly for those people who work for companies like Uber and Deliveroo where their workforce requires little or no professional skills. The problems with these types of jobs are: what happens when there is a breakthrough in technology such as self-driving cars? What will happen to those workers? Eventually, automation and technology will eliminate gig economy workers too.
On the other hand, this skills divide means that skilled workers are receiving solicitations every single day from companies that are desperate to future-proof their business and poach workers. So, Adam pointed out that the big challenge for companies now is not just to find skilled workers, it’s a case of them being able to retain them too. The skills divide predicament we all face now means that it’s not possible to recruit your way out of the skills divide. Companies instead need to be reskilling their existing workforce throughout their time in a role – which both parties will appreciate.
Skills are the new digital currency
Learning is no longer a one-time activity. Previously, training employees would only occur during the onboarding stage because companies want to get them out to field straight away. Now, however, employee expectations have changed. Adam pointed out that current stats indicate 42 percent of millennials are likely to leave a company if they’re not learning enough. This means that not only does training need to go further than the early stages of their time in a job role, it needs to be ongoing and involve deeper specialisation in order to satisfy this new generation of workers.
Take the five for 20 challenge
A key food-for-thought initiative that Adam Miller proposed during his key note was the five for 20 challenge. This is particularly insightful for companies that feel like they are constrained by time and budget. If companies invest five percent of employees’ time in training, they can reduce employee attrition by around 20 percent. So, while it may seem like a big investment to upskill staff, this challenge can show a huge business impact, and it’s only one day per month that companies need to dedicate to training.
As well as investing in ongoing training, companies also need to ensure that the training they offer allows for flexible career paths. No longer are employees faced with a career ladder. We know now, said Adam, that Millennials will now have five or six careers – not jobs – in their working lifetime, so rather than a linear path, people are now faced with a career wall, which has the ability to move employees laterally as well as upwards. We’re already seeing this kind of activity with graduate schemes, where new graduates spend a fixed period of time moving around different departments, before settling into their preferred role. But that’s often where the mobility ends. If companies want to keep employees engaged, they must allow mobility to be continuous all through their career.
A future-ready workforce
Innovation is continuous, no matter the surrounding, so it’s important for companies to keep up with the latest innovations that are disrupting society. However, if we don’t start getting our employees up to scratch with the current technological developments by driving learning within the workplace, who knows whether humans will be able to have the skills for the workforce of the future or not.
To see more of the highlights from this year’s Cornerstone Convergence, take a look at the videos on our YouTube channel.
About Susan Hilliar
"Some of the best stories come from the most unlikely sources – always be curious, always ask questions” Susan Hilliar is Head of Public Relations at Cornerstone OnDemand, as a corporate communications professional she works with Cornerstone’s clients across Europe.