In the era of automation and AI, reskilling became a necessity and Europe is encouraging it
The implementation of AI in various organisational sectors has the potential to automate tasks currently performed by humans, which can enhance productivity and efficiency. However, these changes also have significant implications for both organisations and workers, as they can lead to concerns about job displacement. Adapting to this transformation requires organisations to implement measures and strategies for upskilling or reskilling workers. Challenges include guiding employees through the change process, dealing with training costs, and ensuring fairness and inclusion across diverse demographics.
1. Reskilling as a Strategic Imperative: reskilling is no longer just a response to layoffs or a social responsibility initiative. Companies are increasingly recognizing reskilling as a strategic imperative to adapt to changes in the labour market, ageing workforces, and the need for company-specific skills. Reskilling enables companies to develop competitive advantages by quickly filling skills gaps and building talent that may not be readily available in the job market.
AI transforms professional skills and workplaces with a need of transversal skills (soft skills). Introducing AI into organisations involves several simultaneous organisational strategies.
2. Responsibility of Every Leader and Manager: Traditionally, reskilling efforts were often relegated to HR departments, but it’s important to involve senior leaders, including CEOs and COOs, in championing reskilling initiatives. These leaders should communicate the connection between reskilling and the company's strategy, making it a shared responsibility across the organisation. First, it's essential to identify the transversal skills that workers need to address the current skills gap. Organisations can also assist workers in recognizing the skills required for AI adoption, improving their existing skills, and developing new ones.
3. Reskilling as a Change-Management Initiative: Reskilling programs require a broader organisational context to succeed. Companies must consider factors like understanding supply and demand for skills, recruiting and evaluating participants, shaping the mindset of middle managers, building skills in the flow of work, matching and integrating reskilled employees into new roles.
4. Employee Engagement in Reskilling: Encouraging employees to participate in reskilling programs can be a challenge. However, research shows that many workers are willing to reskill when they understand the benefits and are treated respectfully. Companies can design programs with employees' needs in mind, treat employees as partners, and provide adequate time and support for the reskilling process.
5. Reskilling Takes a Village: Reskilling is not solely the responsibility of individual companies. It can benefit from collaboration with various stakeholders, including governments, industry partners, non-profit organisations, local colleges, and training providers. Collaborative efforts can help expand access to diverse talent and address reskilling challenges more effectively.
By emphasising the need for rigour in measuring and evaluating the effectiveness of reskilling programs and sharing successful practices to scale up reskilling initiatives. Continuous learning from reskilling investments to adapt to the rapidly changing technological landscape is crucial.
The European Union is making efforts to retrain its workforce in response to technological and industrial innovations. The rapid advancement of technology and changing industry needs have created a demand for continuous learning and upskilling among workers to remain competitive in the job market. To address this challenge, the European Commission launched the "European Year of Skills," emphasising the importance of lifelong learning and the need for workers to adapt their skills continually.
One major focus area is digital competence, with the EU setting a goal of having 20 million ICT professionals by 2030, up from the current 9 million. To achieve this, the EU is relying on a coalition of companies, universities, and educational institutions to provide training and reskilling opportunities. The Pact for Skills, involving approximately 1,500 members across the EU, is one initiative aimed at bridging the skills gap.
However, one significant obstacle to reskilling is people's willingness to participate in such programs, often due to a negative mindset or resistance to change. Employers play a crucial role in motivating their workers to engage in ongoing learning, and the EU has proposed the creation of individual learning accounts to provide adults with a training budget.
To instil motivation for lifelong learning, organisations like Debateville in Brussels offer after-school workshops to teenagers, focusing on attitude and curiosity rather than just skills. Creating a diverse and engaging learning environment outside of formal education can encourage a lifelong learning mindset.
Belgian universities have also introduced micro-credential courses, which are shorter, specialised programs that allow individuals to explore new fields without a significant time commitment. This approach makes reskilling more accessible and manageable for workers already in their careers.
Lastly, efforts are being made to standardise skills recognition through initiatives like the Netherlands' "skills passport." Standardised skill descriptions can help workers showcase their abilities to potential employers.
The European Union is actively promoting lifelong learning and reskilling to prepare its workforce for the challenges posed by technological advancements and changing industries. Employers, educational institutions, and innovative programs are all part of the strategy to equip workers with the skills needed to thrive in the evolving job market.