Source | LinkedIn : By Dr Sailaja
Is the developed world on the verge of a skills crisis? The challenge is obvious: the quickening pace of technological change has shrunk the shelf life of skills acquired by today’s university graduates to just a few years. In a 2013 Deloitte survey of executives at large companies, 39% said they were either “barely able” or “unable” to meet their needs for talent. And we’re all now fairly used to seeing news headlines about large companies replacing thousands of employees with more digitally skilled workers.
Companies have two options to meet talent shortages—they can look to an external labor market, or they can focus on developing their internal labor market. Which is proving more popular at the moment?
We’re in the middle of a “skills shift.” A mere 20% of today’s workforce has the skills needed for 60% of the jobs that will be coming online within the next five to ten years. So companies understand a major shift is needed.
The cycle time for new technology has compressed and will continue to do so. In relative short order, today’s sought-after new skills in robotics, software, virtual reality and the like will evolve or obsolesce, so it’s smart to invest in building a culture of continual reinvention, rather than relying on wholesale talent swap outs.
This problem feels like it’s bigger than any one company. What should the policy makers be doing to address this?
The educational system plays an important role here. Leading academic institutions are looking at this problem, and some — including Harvard Business School — are expanding programs that take place along the continuum of a career, rather than just in preparation for one. The notion that education ends at the undergraduate level, the master’s level, or even the Ph.D. level is a pretty dated concept.
What’s the attitudinal shift that needs to happen for individual employees and managers to ensure their relevance?
We all need to be cognizant that the systemic, industrial-age corporate ladder approach to career development has given way to a digital-age corporate “lattice” with multidirectional career paths—and all the responsibilities that go along with it. There’s only one CEO of each of our careers—ourselves. And, as CEO, each one of us is responsible for playing an active role in ensuring the relevance of our skills and the continued cultivation of our careers. One way to do so is to periodically “mark to market” skills and capabilities, growing those skills that are market relevant. Go through online job posting sites from time to time to keep a pulse on which skills the market is looking for, and which ones are emerging. Another way to cultivate your career is to think in terms of “career option value”—making yourself marketable for many emerging career possibilities by continually adding to your own portfolio of transferrable skills, networks, and experiences.
Is it dangerous to try to anticipate what the market will be doing in 3 to 5 years, and therefore what skills you should be developing now?
The specific time horizon is less important than the point of keeping your eyes on the horizon as well as on the road. For example, if you’re an engineer, it’s not a tough bet to say that, within a few years, having robotics or augmented reality experience would be appealing. It creates option value. The key is that in the lattice world, continual professional reinvention needs to be something we embrace as a core competency. The capabilities, experiences and relationships that got you the job you have today are transferrable in the future. Instead of climbing the ladder as you might have in the past, you’ll be well-served to also consider lateral or diagonal moves. For instance, a data center operator might make a skills pivot that could lead to a role as a data scientist.