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What skills will your firm need in the future?

The face of work as we know it is changing hugely and rapidly. By 2030, more than a third of workers may need to switch jobs or upskill considerably, write Bryan Hancock, Kate Lazaroff-Puck, and Scott Rutherford for McKinsey Insights.

Forward-thinking organisations are addressing future technical skill shortages and getting training programmes started now.

Amazon, for example, announced a $70m budget to upgrade the skills of 100,000 staff members, including basic data-analyst education for warehouse workers.

Employers who choose to put themselves at the forefront of transformation by boosting the skills of their existing workforce, rather than aiming to tap into a shrinking pool of outside talent when needed, will be reaping the benefits in ten years’ time. Yet, only a third of organisation leaders worldwide so far report putting actual measures in place.

The authors warn that, at a time when research indicates existing skill gaps are set to intensify, businesses who fail to act soon may find themselves struggling with digital ambitions further down the line. And the bigger picture of technical disruption flags up worrying societal issues, like higher unemployment risk and widening pay gaps.

So how can you set up infrastructure that will set you up for success?

The authors have divided the process into three distinct phases that might look obvious but are actually largely unfamiliar to most companies. The authors call them “scouting”, “shaping” and “shifting”.


Scouting is about imagining your organisation’s digital, automated future and the full value of it, as well as establishing where your main skills omissions are and how well prepared you are to fix them.

It can be tempting to concentrate on how technology can save you money, but it pays to think in broader terms of how digital opportunities can create new income if you’re prepared to invest in training, offer higher salaries to suitably qualified new hires, or both.

“Honest reflection on the capacity and quality of your organisation’s learning-and-development unit is crucial, and so is the organisation’s broader health, notably its employee value proposition,” say the authors.

You don’t want to train people for another organisation’s benefit, so there’s good reason for also looking more deeply at other issues that are important to employees, like work-life balance and career building.


Shaping takes you to the next stage by working with employees to create the necessary upskilling programmes. It’s also time to build a framework to identify the talent waiting in the wings to carry the business forward.

Getting to know exactly how each and every team and worker currently operates is a good starting point for opening discussions on how things could best work in the future, what skills would be required for new roles or activities, and how those could play out.

Encouraging employees to become involved and invested in the process will help to lessen fears or resentments about change, as well as serve to identify pain points.

“Research at Stanford University has shown that ‘job crafting’ – involving individuals in the design of their own jobs – creates stronger skill matches and smoother transitions,” say Hancock, Lazaroff-Puck and Rutherford.

Match training to individuals by embracing exciting new learning methods, such as microlearning, simulations, gamification and virtual coaching.


Shifting involves scaling up your talent-shaping endeavours to help employees embrace and acclimatise to the work of the future.

Once you have instigated the restructuring of parts of the business and set up a test bed for accelerating talent, you can be bolder about transformation across the whole organisation.

Inevitably, some employees affected by the process will fall by the wayside and this needs to be handled with extreme sensitivity. They might feel unable or unwilling to take on the changes or the training required. More understanding companies are starting to help employees to move on.

“Companies increasingly understand the importance of thoughtful outplacement, both as a manifestation of good corporate citizenship and as a basic necessity in the increasingly difficult war for talent,” say Hancock, Lazaroff-Puck and Rutherford.


As digital technology marches on, more and more leaders are concerned about how to equip their business with the right talent for the future and fear it becoming a critical issue. Acting early, assessing what you have, what you need and putting transformative training programmes in place now will ensure you’re not on the back foot in 2030.

Source Article: Getting Practical About The Future Of Work
Author(s): Bryan Hancock, Kate Lazaroff-Puck and Scott Rutherford
Publisher: McKinsey Insights