Why we should upskill in the changing work environment

The way technology influences our everyday lives is beginning to extend into the workplace, and the skills once required to complete a job are constantly changing. While these new skills and tools allow us to work faster, smarter, and in a lot of cases, from anywhere in the world, how do employees in this new era adjust to the change?

When it comes to the prospect of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) being used in the workplace, there’s this perception that the ‘robots’ are about to take over. However, according to Kriti Sharma, VP of AI at Sage, this simply isn’t true. 

“We have a certain image of robots stomping over the world, and stealing all our jobs, and getting involved in our private lives, and developing deep human connections with us, but in reality, this technology is already everywhere in our lives,” Kriti explained in the Where the World’s Moving podcast series.

In the long run, the benefit of automation is the potential to learn new skills and engage in a workforce that values higher-level creative thinking. So there’s merit in the argument of ‘upskilling’ current employees in order to be more prepared for the rise in new technology used in the workplace. 

The importance of upskilling for the future of work is accepted by today’s global citizens, as shown by the findings of the Where the World’s Moving Global Report. Many respondents (59%) are already preparing to upskill for a changing work environment, and 70% believe they will be in the future.

Shared learning

Why should we be upskilling the workforce?

According to a separate report from the McKinsey Institute, 62% of executives believe they will need to re-hire or re-train their employees in the future as a result of new technology in the digital age. 

While the prospect of re-hiring may seem like the most effective option, it’s actually the re-training, or upskilling, of employees that can provide greater impact for a company. The incentive for employees to upskill is not only great for their own learning, but also for their contribution to the betterment of the company as a whole.

Working from home


When it comes to the many aspects of work, there’s certain skills that can really only be achieved effectively by a human. Sharma explained, “Intelligence isn’t just about teaching a machine to perform a task, or for it to become very efficient at solving a problem. It’s also about creativity, emotional intelligence, empathy, and problem solving decision making. These are all skills that machines are not very good at, but humans are.”

It’s about marrying this intelligent technology performing menial elements with that of the human touch in order to create a valued experience for the customer. Technology can also help us achieve a better work-life balance and higher job satisfaction as it enables remote work and distributed teams. Head of R&D and Work Futurist at Atlassian Dom Price supports this sentiment in the Where the World’s Moving report. “I think the two things [human needs and technology] coming together is when we get true value,” Price explains.

Many respondents of the Where the World’s Moving report (59%) are already preparing to upskill for a changing work environment, and 70% believe they will be in the future.

Working from a cafe on a laptop

How can upskilling the workforce really be done?

One example is integrating learning on how to adapt to increased automation into education and training programs for employees. Be that through mentoring, training in technical skills (so we can manage the technology completing the mundane tasks), or professional development programs. 

AT&T in the US are a prime example of this in action. The company invested $250 million in employee education and professional development programs in order to keep up with the rapid change. By focusing on this “AT&T has reduced its product-development life cycle by 40%, accelerated time to revenue by 32% and cut developing and rollout time by half.” 

Working together


While this is one example at scale, it can also come down to the employees themselves taking on skills outside the workplace that make them an asset within it. This is a great way to remain employable in an era where flexible work (and independent or remote work) is increasingly desired and accepted. 

For many, the life of working in an office is no longer the main objective when it comes to a career. Instead, many are opting for a life of working independently as it provides the flexibility that many global citizens crave.

With 68% of the Where the World’s Moving report respondents currently looking for opportunities to travel, it makes sense that companies would be looking to keep up with the demand for flexible work. And conversely, that remote workers are looking for opportunities to upskill to ensure that they’re able to find the work they need in this changing environment.

The changing work environment indicates that for many, the benefits of upskilling is paramount to ensuring that their skills and attitudes are a fit for their future careers. Similarly, for businesses, it’s about understanding the benefits of upskilling their employees, and building a company culture that values purpose and employee engagement.

The growth of a need to upskill, along with achieving work-life balance, the opportunity to travel, and the option of flexible or remote work are trends set to disrupt the workplace as we know it today.

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