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Understanding the cost of re-skilling

By Alasdair Munn for Box News

We are entering the fourth industrial revolution. Adaptive processes, automation, machine learning and AI are fundamentally changing the nature of work. Much of the recent conversation is around the dual crisis of future skills gaps and the need to re-skill employees.

Change has to happen

Companies that resist change will be superseded by new entrants into the market, or by those companies that do change.

Disruptions in the job market means some jobs will be lost, or cease to exist, while these changes will also create new posts – some of which we haven’t even thought of yet. As with any change, or venture into the unknown, there is trepidation and uncertainty. Nevertheless, we also know that the way we work and consume today is unsustainable.

We have a responsibility to our people

Our workforces are facing a mental health crisis. We have an opportunity and a responsibility to manage these changes carefully.

As the repetitive tasks developed over the last 30 years are automated, we have the chance to give humans the chance to focus on ‘being human’.

‘Soft skills’ are now being rebranded as ‘crucial skills’. The saving grace for humans and the future of work is precisely what makes us different from robots—our humanity.

It is these skills that will improve our mental health at work. Skills like creativity, complex problem solving, empathy, judgement and cognitive flexibility are what sets us apart from machines. Moreover, a lack of these skills in the workplace can lead to increased stress, depression and poor mental health.

A world where man and machine work in harmony – but at what cost?

As we move towards a workplace that is increasingly more man plus machine, there is a mounting need to re-skill, up-skill and fill skills gaps. 

An interesting theme emerging amongst business leaders and educators include the questions:

  • Who is to bear the costs of this re-skilling? 
  • What is sustainable for an organisation? 
  • Is it the government? Is it the individual? 

A recent report from The World Economic Forum states:

 ‘Towards a Reskilling Revolution” found that 95% of the 1.4 million US workers who are expected to be displaced in the next decade can be transitioned to new positions with similar skills and higher wages. 

 But, the total cost of re-skilling all these workers is $34 billion – an average of $24,000 per displaced worker.

As a direct cost, this looks pretty daunting. But, we all know that education, re-skilling and up-skilling can’t be seen only in the context of the cost of training. 

There are other questions we need to answer. What is the cost to the company for not re-skilling? Productivity, employee welfare, workplace accidents, customer satisfaction, and competitive advantage can all be affected.

What is the cost to society when looking at the increased need for welfare, crime, family disruption, citizen unrest?

Asking the hard questions for a brighter future

The fundamental question we need to ask today is: ‘what is the future we want to live in and how do we get there?’

It’s a tough question for companies when they’re often under significant pressure from shareholders to make short-term gains and returns. The average lifespan of a Fortune 500 company has dropped from 58 years to just 18 years. Business is getting harder, but it’s this focus on short-term thinking that is contributing towards this shrinking lifespan.

Taking responsibility through new ways of learning

Responsibility for this learning inevitably lies in a combined and collaborative approach involving all stakeholders from corporations, governments, educational institutions, and innovate new methods.

The future is about connected ecosystems, collaboration and shared thinking.

It’s an exciting time to be asking these questions. Here at Box Media, we’ve been tackling these questions over the last two years.

We’re taking this opportunity to hack learning. We want to reimagine not only what we need to learn to remain relevant in a future workforce, but also how learning itself needs to change.

Workplace learning is seldom fit for purpose today, and it’s certainly not fit for purpose for tomorrow.

Finally, we have a convergence of need, technology, human understanding, data and content production. We are excited and determined to play our role in shaping a responsible and sustainable future.

We are excited and determined to play our role in shaping a responsible and sustainable future.