As technology, artificial intelligence, robotics become much more prevalent and digital transformation removes a lot of low level or entry level roles, how will individuals acquire the knowledge and skills to take on more senior or experienced roles?
Sir Charlie Mayfield, Chairman, John Lewis Partnership observed at the CMI-sponsored Future of Work: Digital 2017 conference electronic spreadsheets did away with the need for traditional clerks who completed paper spreadsheets manually, reduced the cost of accounting and as a consequence the market for accountancy skills and services increased.
So how do we help our workforce understand the changing nature of work and grow their skills through this period of digital transformation?
Jo Strain from CMI Southern, urges organisations to “talk about these issues with their workforce, including what roles the organisation will need more of and which ones they will need less of. These conversations need to be handled with openness, transparency and care. Frightening people is not helpful for anyone.”
Telling people at the last moment that their job is being automated is the worst option. It does not give individuals time to adapt and may cost the organisation redundancy, goodwill and negative publicity which could have been avoided or at the very least mitigated by positive engagement.
Empowering individuals to understand the changes that are likely to take place, the timeframe in which they are likely to take place and how to access opportunities to retrain in a supported environment requires a programme of change and high levels of emotional intelligence in supervisors and managers.
We need to get much better at creating opportunities for people to re-train and giving people the confidence and proper support to try new roles and learn new skills. Sir Charlie Mayfield cited many examples where John Lewis Partnership is actively engaged in these conversations and programmes with its workforce e.g. offering opportunities for job shadowing and to try a new job roles, to learn new skills, coupled with individual support and encouragement, using apprenticeships to retrain existing employees, and training managers and leaders in the latest high performance work practices.
Organisations need to face the fear of lost productivity in current roles which are not required in the future and manage sensitively through these periods of change. Giving the people who will be affected by the changes the opportunity to participate in adapting and owning the new future will create a more resilient, loyal workforce for the future.
What is your organisation doing to support individuals through the digital transformation? Share your case studies with CMI Southern group working on digital transformation.
Blog by Jo Strain
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