How can tech help tackle the global skills emergency?

Jacky Carter, Group Digital Engagement Director

  • According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), automation and COVID-19 are causing the labour market to experience “double disruption”, which is exacerbating the growing global skills emergency.
  • As we navigate this new world, it’s humans - not machines - that are still the most valuable asset to any organisation, and leaders must do everything they can to secure the future of the world’s workforce.
  • Multiple tech solutions can help workers reskill, encourage a growth mindset and build a culture of lifelong learning within organisations.
  • As such, IT leaders are exploring personalisation, automation, virtual reality (VR) and mobile learning to ensure their organisations and the people that work in them are truly able to thrive in the new era of work.

One-third of the world’s workforce will need to reskill by 2030

Long before COVID-19 hit, the global skills emergency had been gathering pace. Back in January of 2020, WEF predicted more than one billion people - that’s one-third of the world’s workforce – would need to reskill by 2030. Worryingly, their more recent Future of Jobs Report 2020, published in October 2020, revealed many skills gaps will continue to widen due to the pandemic, with 40 per cent of employees requiring some form of reskilling.
As automation threatens to “do half of all work tasks by 2025,” a new breed of specialised jobs and skills will be increasingly in-demand. Many of these expert roles will be in technology. AI and machine learning, cloud computing, cybersecurity, blockchain, augmented reality (AR), VR and full stack development, for example, are all predicted to boom in the years ahead.
Aside from technical skills, leaders will also need to focus on building soft skills into their workforces, such as creativity, resilience, and critical thinking. These innately human skills are key to the successful completion of tasks that can’t be done by automation or advancing artificial intelligence (AI). As well as these skills, the need to manage cultural and behavioural change effectively, and at scale, has also become a critical capability as we evolve our workforces to cope with the new world of work.

Three ways tech can help build a growth mindset culture

To effectively address these growing technical and non-technical skills gaps in the long-term, leaders must support and enable their people to develop a growth mindset. This mindset empowers employees to incorporate learning into their day-to-day work and start to see all obstacles as a chance to learn and improve.
But, in reality, this is easier said than done. Recent studies reveal that while many employees are willing to learn to boost their future employability, few feel they are given the time or opportunity to do so. In fact, most knowledge workers are only able to carve out five minutes of formal learning every day. This lack of consistent learning comes at a cost to organisations, as increased innovation, enhanced productivity and accelerated digital transformation are often lost, whilst skills gaps continue to widen.
So how can tech help overcome this hurdle? Here are a few of my thoughts:

1. Use the right tech tools to facilitate ‘learning by osmosis’

The idiom ‘every day’s a school day’ holds true within the world of work – where workers don’t just learn in a formal, classroom environment (online or otherwise). They also learn during their day-to-day interactions in the office – they ‘learn by osmosis’; they learn subconsciously through everyday experiences. In fact, according to the 70-20-10 model of learning:
  • 70 per cent of workers learn from experience gained on the job
  • 20 per cent learn from work relationships, including coaching and mentoring
  • And as little as 10 per cent learn from formal courses
The WEF’s Future of Jobs 2020 report also states that 94 per cent of business leaders now expect employees to learn on the job, as opposed to formal training. In other words, it’s not enough to provide a few online courses – leaders must encourage social learning or learning by osmosis – which presents even more challenges in an increasingly remote world of work. But this is where technology can help.
Internet-of-Things enabled tools are an established solution, where connected devices continue to reshape both professional environments and educational settings. Tools like Google Classroom, Facebook Workplace, FocusMate and PukkaTeam are essentially providing virtual coworking spaces to facilitate effective collaboration and brainstorming sessions, for example. They are a great way to mimic day-to-day learning experiences.
VR, or ‘v-learning’ is another tool which is growing in popularity in this space. It can create virtual learning environments that allow delivery of training and development programmes in a more immersive way, helping people learn from their interactions with their classmates. A PwC study on the use of VR in soft skills training found that learners trained in VR were 275 per cent more confident to act on what they learned after training, which was a 40 per cent improvement over similar classroom training and a 35 per cent improvement over e-learning methods.

2. Provide accessible online training

The way we educate our children has been transformed by the pandemic. Globally, at the height of the crisis, 1.2 billion children were out of the classroom, and were taught remotely via e-learning technologies. Learnings from this time, powered by technology, provide the unique opportunity for workplace learning to undergo an equally transformative process.
In order to tackle some of the challenges that come with building a growth mindset, namely the need for employees to self-motivate and really own their own learning, we need to rethink the way we enable them to learn. Above all else, learning in the new era of work needs to be accessible. Mobile learning and micro-learning technologies are useful tools here as they bring the classroom into our everyday lives, wherever we are, helping people to learn on-the-go and find time to access educational resources.
Micro-learning delivers short bursts of content for people to study at their convenience. This is a particularly useful method to help employees with little time (or short attention spans) access educational resources in a quick and easy manner. There are many different micro-learning formats - videos, infographics, simulations and podcasts are all digestible formats, for example.
There are also plenty of EdTech solutions out there. Riff from Esme Learning, for example, is a cloud-based video and text chat platform, whereby a personal digital coach guides individuals through assessments in real time. How FM is another option, targeting blue-collar workers and the deskless workforce with multi-lingual online training and educational resources.
At Hays, we have also launched a free online training portal designed to help employers and teams grow the skills they need to function effectively and flourish in the face of the pandemic. I expect many similar online resources to be available in the coming months, whereby your internal IT teams and external EdTech providers will enable your remote learning initiatives.
You don’t just need to limit yourself to third-party EdTech providers either. Some businesses are partnering with academic institutions to build relationships and publicise career opportunities with students. IBM, for example, partners with a public high school in New York to provide IT training for students, and Rackspace recently opened an Open Cloud Academy, which offers training courses and official IT certification.

3. Use automation to personalise your online tools

Not only is making learning accessible crucial to building a growth mindset culture, so is making it personalised. AI and automation can help accelerate personalised educational initiatives, which are tailored to the needs and interests of the individual employee. Many of these programs use gamification to match the pace of learning to the individual, or pitch colleagues against each other to strike up a little healthy competition and boost engagement.
Machine learning algorithms can predict learning outcomes for the individual, allowing you to provide specific educational content based on a person’s specific goals and past performance. This approach enhances the user experience, providing people with the right resources at the right time, helping to boost engagement and results. Quizlet, for example, is an online studying tool that lets users create digital quizzes and flashcards to aid learning. It leverages its machine learning to discover how students can learn more effectively by prioritising terms that people are most likely to forget.
AI can also provide a more responsive learning environment, whereby marks and feedback are given in near real-time. Cognii provides an AI-powered virtual learning assistant, which uses machine learning to individualise learning and expedite the feedback process.
Virtual assistants are another option to help you direct learners and help them access the right resources. EdTech company Edmentum, for example, built a virtual assistant to help teachers master its new education platforms, quickly. The company also uses automation to customise its online curriculums to meet the different educational requirements for each US state that it operates in.

Going forward, we will both learn about and from technology

CIOs and IT teams are in an increasingly business-critical position. Technology is now responsible for providing organisations and their employees with the accessible and personalised educational tools they need to help protect them against ‘double disruption’, develop the right skills and ultimately build a growth mindset that sustains throughout the new era of work and beyond.
In addition, in many markets around the world, the demand for people with not just the right combination of skills, but also the right appetite for learning is climbing dramatically. So we’d absolutely recommend creating a culture of learning, enabling access to relevant content and incentivising your teams to use it. Not doing so will make you less attractive as an employer to in-demand individuals who value what we believe are truly future-proofing qualities: the desire to learn and adaptability.
Read more insights into technology and its impact on the world of work here.


Jacky Carter
Customer Experience Director, APAC, Hays

With more than 30 years of experience in the staffing industry, Jacky’s expertise spans many aspects of Hays’ business including operations, marketing, RPO and technology. Her unique and invaluable remit is to make sense of emerging trends and technology in the HR and broader world, identifying, evaluating and implementing the tools that enable Hays to power the future world of work.