In a world rapidly changing thanks to technology, the very fundamentals of skill demand, job requirement, career path, and organizational structure are being challenged. Gone are the days when people worked in the same organization with the same skill set for 40 years and retired with a hefty pension. Today, data shows that in the US, the average time a person spends in a single job is approximately 4.2 years. As a matter of fact, the average stint of an engineer in Silicon Valley is only 9 months.
In India, the workforce is getting younger, and the workplace is consequently becoming more diverse and multi-generational. This younger Millennial and Gen- Z workforce is expecting greater flexibility, high-quality work, better working standards, the companies are fast realizing that to remain relevant the onus of creating this environment lies with them if they want to grow and retain talent. As organizations are responding to this shift, the skills required to be relevant are also changing rapidly. They can only do this if the workforce, their biggest asset, has high learnability, speed, and agility. These capabilities are now becoming integral for organizations, as they cultivate a growth mindset within employees.
Gig economy and shrinking half-life of skills are rapidly transforming traditional career models
As organizations evolve, the last few years have seen work models transition towards flexible options such as freelancing and remote working, creating a more dynamic environment to scale up and down as required. Subsequently, gig economy – a job market which comprises of freelance workers – is also growing steadily. A phenomenon that earlier existed primarily within the unorganized sector (comprising cab drivers, delivery agents, electricians, plumbers and such,) is now gaining traction among executives, mid-management, and even senior management. From software engineers, developers, designers, writers to project managers and consultants, professionals across domains are building a flexible but strong career path, independent of the organization they work for.
On the other hand, the half-life of professional skills (defined as the skills becoming half as valuable from the day you acquired them) is shrinking drastically. In fact, the latest study found that it has become as less as 5 years. With further evolution in the technology domains such as artificial intelligence, advancing analytics, development of cognitive abilities within machines, this half-life is expected to shrink further. As a result, an individual will need to upskill and/or reskill at least 5 to 6 times in their lifetime. Estimates also say that one-third of the skills needed by the workforce, irrespective of the industry, will have changed by 2020.
Getting future-ready today
As companies evolve to make the most of the ever-changing environment, traditional career models will continue to be disrupted. We are heading towards a more customer-centric rather than product-centric environment - a workspace which now welcomes employees with varied experience and not restricted to a certain domain. Instead, the need of the hour is for employees with a growth mindset and those willing to adapt and change. An employee’s value proposition is not limited to his or her expertise but also includes the ability to scale alongside the organization and deal with ambiguity. Qualities such as a high degree of self-awareness and comfort with working in areas that are not yet well-defined are now sought-after.
Being future ready is the combined responsibility of the employers as well as the workforce. Individuals must proactively steer their own skill development and find ways to enhance their existing expertise. They must also keep abreast of the latest innovations in their industry and how the evolution of technology could impact their job. Ideally, work decisions should be based on how much they will learn and grow in a particular role or project and prioritize jobs where they acquire valuable new skills.
Companies, on the other hand, can actively support upskilling and re-skilling, and provide learning platforms that will help bridge the gap. They must rethink organizational policy to offer more flexibility and accommodate a workforce which comprises of full-time employees, freelancers, and possibly AI in the near future. Organizations must partner with educational and skilling institutions to build future capabilities. In a world where 1 out of 4 adults report a mismatch between the skills they have and the skills they require for their existing job, it is imperative that immediate steps be taken to address the widening skill gap and stay ahead of the curve.