The 2020s will be a decade of upskilling. Employers should take notice

10 Jan 2024
Woman standing in lab

• The 2020s are becoming the decade of development for employees and employers in terms of skills and career progression.

• Employers believe that 44% of workers’ skills will be disrupted in the next five years and that six in 10 staff members will require training before 2027, according to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2023.

• Here are five key factors to help nurture employees to ensure they are future-ready in an age of rapid change.

Dictionaries might be an unusual place to look for workplace trends, but the buzzwords they highlight each year can tell you a lot. In 2022, “quiet quitting” came to define a generation seeking to reimpose a work-life balance. And in 2023, Collins’ Word of the Year was Artificial Intelligence (AI), capturing the hype around generative AI alongside the hopes and fears the technology represents — not least for workers.

Emerging technologies like generative AI are just one of several factors disrupting the world of work today that should be front of mind for Chief Human Capital Officers this year. These include an aging workforce, remote working and the urgent need to close skills gaps.

Central to all of these is upskilling and how we navigate continuous development. For employees and employers alike, upskilling will be the only way for them to stay ahead of the competition in a rapidly changing world.


The decade of upskilling
Existing skills are becoming less relevant. In a world where many tasks can become automated by machines, what’s needed are core human skills.

Cognitive and self-efficacy skills topped the World Economic Forum’s list of the top 10 skills of 2023, with analytical and creative thinking leading the way. This is followed by resilience, flexibility and agility, motivation and self-awareness, curiosity and lifelong learning.

Technology upskilling will be key. Technology skills are also in the top 10 — but employers are having difficulties hiring workers with the right ones.

The rapid pace of AI and digital technology development is a big factor in this, but the green transition is another reason, with growth in these jobs outpacing the overall hiring rate.

growth in annual hiring rates

The green transition is one key factor creating demand for new skills. Image: World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report 2023

These trends contribute to employer expectations that 44% of workers’ skills will be disrupted in the next five years and that six in 10 staff members will require training before 2027, according to the Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2023.

Fortunately, employees share the need and appetite for upskilling and reskilling, particularly the younger generations with the most work time ahead of them. Around three-quarters of Millennials and Gen Z workers say they would quit a job that did not offer the chance to learn new skills

Companies across the globe are listening and responding in what is set to be a decade of development for businesses and employees alike.


People will power the future
People are the key to unlocking innovation and supercharging business growth. This is particularly true of services and retail sectors, where customers are at the centre of company purpose. Businesses can hope to serve customers only by creating good jobs and investing in upskilling employees.

LinkedIn’s annual Top Companies report ranks the best in the US to grow your career. The top 10 in 2023 were dominated by banks, health and tech companies, including Apple and Google’s parent company Alphabet, but Amazon came top.

Meanwhile, Costco, Progressive Insurance and the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts are just a few examples of companies using the Good Jobs System developed by economist Zeynap Ton, who see their employees as drivers of growth and profitability  and give them solid wages and benefits.

Skills on rise

Companies need to nurture a culture of reskilling and upskilling. Image: World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report 2023


Five strategies for a future-ready workforce
UAE-based Majid Al Futtaim is having a “refounding” moment, putting people firmly at the centre of the business transformation. Here are five ways others can follow suit:

1. Leverage systematic leadership to propel ambition
When ways of doing things change, systems need to change too. Organizations encourage efficiencies and reward ambition by empowering anyone in an organization to suggest system-wide changes.

2. Establish communities of purpose and engage stakeholders to drive positive change.
One example of how Majid Al Futtaim is doing this is working with its staff and customers to create a circular economy where waste becomes a thing of the past. Education and collaboration are vital to making this happen — an approach applicable across all organizations.

3. Use research to anticipate trends, measure progress, and find actionable paths.
Insights teams like that of Majid Al Futtaim unlock data about the past to find ways forward for the future. Majid Al Futtaim benchmarks itself against others in the Middle East and North Africa region and global environmental, social and corporate governance standards.

4. Promote public-private partnerships to create policies and strategies through a multistakeholder approach.
Public-private collaboration creates social values and efficiency gains by sharing expertise, empowering people and unlocking new sources of capital.

5. Launch initiatives that are scalable, purpose-driven and deliver tangible impact.
Adopt a digital platform approach that makes it easier to scale and share capabilities. At Majid Al Futtaim, this approach led to the development of the Centres of Excellence and Digital Labs, which gave rise to concepts that are creating meaningful experiences for its customers.

Employers predict a structural labour market churn of 23% of jobs in the next five years. For example, more than half of employees aged 18-34 say career development and advancement potential are the main reasons that keep them in their jobs.

Organizations will only thrive and earn the right to impact the future if they unleash the full potential of their most valuable asset: people.

To achieve this, business transformation and growth require skilled people with access to training and career advancement. All businesses must be obsessed with ensuring that they are creating future-ready talent who welcome change and are continually reinventing themselves.

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