Greg is CEO of CareerGig, host of the Agile World podcast, and author of The Agile Consumer.
To meet the demands that the future of work will bring, we need to develop an agile workforce. This means that professionals will need to adapt and change with the growing and shifting needs of businesses that are being faced with continual pressure to increase profits. This needs to happen while also shifting to automation, more data-driven approaches and competitive pressure to innovate.
This future workforce will need to adopt an agile philosophy: continuous improvement and optimization as needs arise over time. One of the best ways to ensure this agility is to embrace upskilling, or steadily learning new skills that can be applied in their work, and to fulfill newly created roles and jobs.
Let’s explore three ways that upskilling is important to this future agile workforce.
There will be jobs in five years that don’t exist today.
Our fast-paced world of work is only getting faster. The skills you might have learned a decade ago might be necessary still but think of all the concepts and ideas you have had to learn over your career simply to stay competitive.
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For instance, if we look back 20 years ago, there are a number of jobs that didn’t exist, such as the roles of Uber driver, mobile app developer, podcast producer, data scientist, cloud architect, driverless car engineer and telemedicine doctor.
Thus, upskilling becomes incredibly important within the workforce so that when new roles and job descriptions become available, there are those ready to meet the challenge.
Upskilling provides upward mobility.
Just as there are roles and job descriptions that didn’t exist a few years ago, there are skills that are needed in order to support those roles and the work they perform.
This means that learning new skills suddenly in high demand brings with them the ability to ask for a higher salary, title promotion and other benefits of lack of supply. We’ve seen this recently in the technology sector, with cybersecurity, data science and many types of software engineering roles going unfilled for months because of a lack of candidates.
There will surely be new roles like these that will be in this type of demand in the coming months and years ahead. Those who choose to upskill can be first in line as these new jobs become available.
Learning new skills creates job security.
We’ve often heard the following example: There is some legacy employee who is the only one in the company who understands the way “things used to be done.” That person is thus deemed to have bulletproof job security.
While knowledge of the old ways can provide some job security for a time, it never lasts for so long. In a world of increasing automation and replacement of older systems and processes with artificial intelligence, less expensive software or even less expensive labor, it is much better to think forward when considering how to build job security.
Smart companies understand this as well. When unemployment was at record lows, they invested in training and development of staff in order to retain them. While recent events may have slowed some of those training efforts as companies grapple with the financial repercussions of the global pandemic, it is nonetheless important for individuals to maintain their competitiveness. Whether an individual plans to stay in a current full-time role, find a new job or join the growing highly skilled freelance workforce, upskilling remains critical.
While none of us can predict the future of work with perfect accuracy, we can agree that learning new skills helps individuals remain competitive and outpace automation of their roles, and it provides job security better than almost any other approach.
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Author: Greg Kihlstrom, Forbes Councils Member