In the words of Bob Dylan, the times, they are a-changin’. Careers are not what they used to be. You don’t just learn what you need to know at university, apply that knowledge at a company for 40 years and walk away with a crystal clock. As nice as it is to receive a shiny keepsake after years of service, careers are becoming more rewarding in different ways.
Every industry is constantly changing and roles within each sector are evolving too. On-going training has always been around, but with the advances specifically in technology, the essential need for constant up-skilling is a new priority.
From an employee point of view, the goal posts have moved. People don’t want to work for one company their whole life, because instead of it being a reflection of their commitment and loyalty, it suggests they don’t have the courage to try something new.
People are now building portfolio careers where they incorporate lots of different jobs into their work. People are embracing side hustles — they may be a writer, graphic designer, photographer and consultant all at the same time. Perhaps the appeal of proving you can wear many different hats is the reason behind people moving around more.
In 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average amount of time employees spent with an employer was 4.2 years. This chopping and changing is not just a cultural trend — it’s a reflection of the workplace. It’s hard for anyone to predict what the new role is going to be in the upcoming months. And that unknown is keeping both employees and organisations on their toes.
In 2020, things were moving fast. But following the COVID-19 outbreak, things have been catapulted into a new era. Jobs are changing overnight. People are being asked to do things in ways they’ve never heard of before. Teachers are being asked to teach via video call. Medical staff are being asked to shift their focus onto more pressing issues. Retail industries are being asked to function completely online.
It’s fair to say that everyone is somewhat out of their comfort zones. Yes, there will be mistakes. Yes, there will be hiccups. Yes, toddlers will wander into BBC news interviews and provide a wonderful moment of light relief during a global pandemic. But that does not mean that people are failing at work. They just need the opportunity to learn how to adapt to their new environment. Not only so they can survive. But so they can thrive.
That’s why up-skilling is more important than ever. This unprecedented lockdown has given us an instant glimpse into life in the future. And preparing for change is the most proactive and innovative move any business can make during this time.
Organisations should actively keep an eye on the future. They should try to foresee the specific skills and behaviours that they might need as the company advances and consider investing in a reskilling program.
I know many will question how you can create a reskilling program if you can’t accurately predict how the jobs will change in the future.
The answer is to focus on more generic skills that are transferable across multiple jobs. If you focus on developing learning skills, collaboration skills, problem-solving and critical thinking employees can apply these in a number of different situations. It’s all about equipping people with the mindset and attitude, to learn new things — quicker.
By encouraging people to be open to new processes and new techniques, you’re much more likely to survive when unexpected things do happen. Take for example, those individuals and businesses who did react to COVID-19 with positivity and strength. The engineer companies who started producing masks, Joe Wicks who started hosting live PE lessons — and even Captain Tom, the 99 year-old veteran who raised almost £30 million for the NHS from his own back garden!
By being reactive, flexible and embracing that good old can-do attitude, you’re a lot more prepared for when things do change. Make sure you’re always set up for success by investing time and energy into on-going education and up-skilling, because modern careers and the health of your business depends on it.