30th Nov 2020
3 Min Read

World Changers – Explore the trend. Mind the skills gap

People & Change

When we released our inaugural World Changers report at the beginning of 2020, the world was on the brink of a major shift we could never have predicted. But many of the trends we forecasted have only accelerated in the face of this year’s challenges.

For our explore the trend series, I asked senior consultant Matt Cassell about changing skills demands, how employers are looking beyond traditional roles and what the future of employment might look like after the challenges of 2020.

Matt, why did you choose this topic?

I was fascinated by the innovation happening around skills mapping. The world of work is evolving so rapidly that many major organisations were essentially hiring for roles that don’t exist yet. Because of that, recruiters can’t ask for decades of specific experience, so it has to be about skill sets. AI and machine learning are ramping up to help make better use of the data inside organisations, understand the potential of existing talent and to spot gaps.

Thinking about resource in this way is very freeing. It allows businesses to open up more opportunities internally without the barrier of job titles which can, on the surface, be quite limiting. With more chances for employees to move around and explore the potential of their skills, retention and satisfaction improves. It’s a win-win.

What impact has 2020 had on skills gaps?

This year has highlighted that a skills gap exists, particularly when it comes to digital literacy. We’ve all adapted to some degree this year and there’s been a lot of learning on the fly. Clients are increasingly asking us for tools such as an employee apps matrix to help make sense of the options out there. It’s a huge challenge to keep up with the current pace.

After this year, I think it’ll be harder for people to say, ‘I’m just not that technical’. There are more expectations of employees to hit the ground running with collaboration software, such as Teams, Slack and Zoom to name a few.

Organisations that embraced remote working at the beginning of the year may widen the net when it comes to recruitment. And, with fewer opportunities to go around, the jobs market will undoubtedly become more competitive. Candidates will really need to market their skills

What should leaders be thinking about in the months ahead?

The start of 2020 saw a frantic need to adapt. There wasn’t much time for proper learning or best practice. Next year, there has to be some space for reflection and to audit the new skills, tools and demands that have emerged. Budgets are likely to be slimmed down, so it’s vitally important to have clear understanding of what resources are available before making decisions.

It’s also crucial to try and avoid the traps that cause skills gaps in the first place. Revisiting new and established tools, refreshing knowledge, introducing learning modules and encouraging skills sharing can help close those gaps and help your people tackle new challenges in 2021.

While there has been a huge focus on digital literacy this year, there are other skills that we can’t afford to ignore. Empathy, active listening and teamwork are crucial to successful remote working and mustn’t get side-lined in the scramble to understand new technologies.

This year has shown us that, while there are gaps in our understanding of bigger issues, from diversity to mental health, there is also a strong desire to learn. Leaders who embrace this hunger for improvement – and help facilitate learning at all levels – will see a richer, happier and more fulfilled workforce.

Discover this and nine other World Changers topics in our 2020 World Changers report.

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