Why the pandemic triggers new skills development
by: Ivonne Vargas
Before the Coronavirus pandemic, there was already talk of developing other skills in employees. The scenario was different: the driver of change was automation and the fact that organizations like the World Economic Forum warned of millions of job losses over the next five years as a result of global economy transformations due to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4.0).
The trigger for this need for reskilling and upskilling is different now. The World Economic Forum itself has warned that, due to Covid-19 and the existing recession across countries, by 2025 the division of tasks will be split 50% between humans and robots. From my point of view, the biggest enemy will not be a robot but that it isn’t possible for someone to know how to add value to work as well as keep or evolve in the job they have.
New tools for fighting the battle
We are on the threshold of a new struggle, framed by whoever has the skills to help their company out of economic predicaments and to keep growing, against whoever doesn’t know how to fit in with market demands.
Darwinian philosophy comes to mind: it is not the strongest who survives, nor the biggest, but whoever has the best capacity to adapt. That’s right where we are, in job survival.
The path I imagine as the most viable way forward in the uncertainty of work is to relearn. It’s time to go back to strength analyses, feedback in the office, conducting skills assessment to detect what we need to bring in, and that includes skills we didn’t think were essential in our lives.
What will be the most attractive skills?
In this battle over fewer job options, the divide will be between whoever has the right skills and who doesn’t. According to ManpowerGroup’s report, What Workers Want, those with the skills most in demand by employers and the market will be better able to negotiate salary decisions, work remotely, avoid commuting, and stay safely at home.
In contrast, those with skills that either are less in demand or don’t add value won’t have the same possibilities for negotiation. This premise is not entirely new; bodies like the International Labour Organization have repeatedly warned about the risks of not improving skills gained throughout the career.
I wonder what kind of professional development we can have, say if we don’t focus on skills like listening and communicating assertively, knowing how to prioritize, taking initiative, being resilient, and above all, being inquisitive. In my view, this is the part that is misconstrued as soft skills, but in fact by combining these skills with some technological literacy/ knowledge, we get a more attractive profile for recruiting /hire.
I think we can summarize this as follows: if you are highly qualified in certain technical skills and have calibre socio-emotional skills, there is a greater chance of striving for higher income and better career development. Not the other way around. Besides, it is common to observe that as professionals, we don’t understand this connection: we look for the best jobs with little or no development of certain skills.
Whoever knows how to link technology with the human side, to communicate, to interpret, to know when to self-manage, in my view they are the ones who will win the battle in a market that has always been regulated by the law of supply and demand.
Many job seekers I talk to question why selling is something they should know if their university education is in the humanities, say. Well, the point is that cross skills like communication and negotiation are ones you can take from one industry to another, from one job to another.
What is happening in the health pandemic is that its effect will continue to spill over into the realm of human loss, of economic and employment impact. It is unstoppable and a warning I believe we must consider: when the market for opportunities shrinks, what can “save” you is understanding how to differentiate yourself from others and that’s why developing new skills is key.