Skills Resilience in a Changing World

  • 14 October 2020
  • Business
  • Robert Hall

With so much changing in our modern world, a key question is how do we help people survive and thrive - the essence of resilience - in the coming decades and what skills will they need in order to train, secure and retain a job as well as understand the new working environment around them.

One thing is for sure: the new world will be quite different from the current one. Covid-19 has certainly accelerated some trends that were apparent even before the pandemic. The move towards digital sales in retail, the shift away from presenteeism in offices, the need for diverse supply chains in logistics, were all happening but now have become intense in only a few months. But in the skills arena, more profound changes are underway.

For those who become unemployed because of the pandemic then resilience will be essential, even for the self-employed. The change in professional skills will also be significant for any new worker starting now, but expecting to work for the next 50 years. The nature of the transition will mean dealing with new technologies, environmental and resource pressures, communication and mobility advances, etc.  Anyone wishing to navigate the new landscape will require flexibility and adaptability.

In the context of educating the next generation and retraining the current generation to the new world of work, we will need to contemplate a shift away from assembling and cramming information –already an information overload – and look at teaching critical functions such as critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. Non-technical competencies such as emotional intelligence, project management and leadership are likely to become increasingly important skill sets.

These skills will become ever more important as automation, Artificial Intelligence and other technological drivers become more dominant, replacing routine and administrative functions. Teaching and embedding the most appropriate skills relevant for the modern world will require fresh approaches in both schools and the workplace. 

The concept of portfolio careers is already recognised but it is likely to grow in both scale and speed. Career choices will need to be fluid and professional development more varied. The traditional paths into professions will require revision. There will, for instance, be a greater need for structured but progressive learning and qualifications (e.g. Continuing Professional Development, CPD). People can expect to have to retrain and refocus several times throughout their working life. 

Standards and regulation may also need to adapt. There may be growing expectations on companies from employees to meet new standards and performance in environmental, social and governance arenas. Employees may expect greater ethical obligations and levels of sustainable development from employers. Climate change and activism can be expected to become mainstream and require new working norms. 

There may be new built and natural environments as well resilient low-carbon infrastructures to maximise productivity and wellness. As complex, vulnerable systems increase pressures on staff then we can expect mental health to become an important feature for workers and employers. There will be a need to prepare and apply mental-health programmes as part of the duty-of-care responsibility and this may be for the long term.

Last but not least, the aging of the UK workforce will require reskilling and work to suit talents at all life stages. For leaders who have risen through the firm then dealing with new staff who have unfamiliar skills may no longer allow them to feel that they are the smartest person in the room. This will make the selection of talent and competence development key issues.

We can be sure that the new world of work will be a lot different to one that existed before the pandemic. What is clear is that actions that were originally planned over several years or trends that were slowly emerging have now taken on a new lease of life and are likely to be completed or cemented sooner than previously envisaged. The path of change has suddenly accelerated.

If you enjoyed this blog post and would like to learn more about skills resilience, register for our joint event with Resilience First​ on Wednesday 21st October, "Skills Resilience in a Changing World".

Robert Hall is Executive Director of Resilience First Ltd. This is an independent, not-for-profit organisation promoting business community resilience in urban areas. Previously, he was Director of the Security & Resilience Network at London First (2013-18) and Director of Resilience at G4S Risk Management Consulting (2012-13). Robert has also held senior positions in risk and security departments in Barclays, BAT and Marsh. He was been Head of Analysis at a national intelligence agency (1997-2000), and Managing Editor of security titles at an international publishing company (1992-2000). In 2000 he founded and managed an international forum on global security and law enforcement for senior executives in government, business and academia.