With the rapid pace of technological change, the increasing complexity of the global economy, and calamities like the pandemic, there is now a need for organizations and workers alike to adapt to the unending changes in the workplace. Organizations will have to constantly revisit job roles, drop some of them, or even create new ones. In turn, workers will have to keep up by ensuring that they have the new skills needed by these evolving and emerging jobs. And because the cheese will keep on moving, it will be a lifelong endeavor for most of them.
I remember when I was just starting and looking to land my first job. The first thing I was asked for was my transcript of record and the interview basically revolved around my grades. And just like most of my seniors in the company, promotions would mean learning new skills only when I already have a new position and only for skills that I need to do my new job well. Technology innovations were not as pervasive as it is today so there was no need to anticipate changes in job roles so there is not much motivation to explore new job skills outside of what the existing role needs.
Fast forward to today and we see that most organizations are looking for individuals who have the skills to adapt and keep up with the changes. In order to stay competitive in the evolving job market, individuals need to anticipate industry and technology trends, and continuously acquire new skills and knowledge throughout their careers.
We are beginning to see changes in the workplace today. One example is the accelerated shift towards remote work and digitalization. With the rise of automation and artificial intelligence, we are starting to see software and machines taking over many jobs once performed by humans. Individuals then will have to adapt to new ways of working and acquire new skills that complement the capabilities of machines and AI. Or even anticipate the emergence of new job roles and develop the necessary skills for them to take on the new jobs. The times when most workers would just depend on their companies to get them trained for new jobs are long gone. Employers today value employees who are self-learners, proactive in their learning and development, and would more likely promote and provide opportunities for advancement to these individuals. Lifelong learning then is key today.
We are also beginning to see a change in the attitude of recruiters. They are warming up to a skills-over-degrees mindset. Many employers today value skills and potential more heavily than degrees or pedigrees when hiring. Even global brands are relying on soft skills and willingness to learn as predictors of success.
A worker today essentially needs a strong set of digital skills in order to navigate the digital landscape. This would include proficiency in using various software and online tools. Online digital skills courses, mostly free, are available today.
It is also important that workers embrace flexibility because remote work and flexible schedules are becoming to be common. It is essential for them to be open to different ways of working. In these emerging work environments, workers need to build their support network. This would include family, friends, and colleagues who can provide emotional support and advice. Working remotely can be isolating and it is important to have a dependable support network in place.
Many have taken the path of lifelong learning to explore new career paths and opportunities that may not be available to them previously. By anticipating the impact of emerging technology trends, they can also better prepare for new job roles that may arise. Finally, learning new things can be challenging and stimulating, which helps to keep our minds active and engaged.
Learning can be done by workers themselves and, fortunately for everyone in these digital times, many online learning platforms have popped up offering self-paced workshops, both credentialed and non-credentialed. Credentialed workshops simply mean that at the end of the course, the learner must take an assessment examination and, if passed, will be provided with certifications attesting that the learner has at least attained the minimum level of proficiency required for that skill or competence.
The need for individuals to adapt and acquire new skills throughout their lives has made it essential for them to engage in ongoing learning and development. Lifelong learning enables individuals to stay competitive in the job market, adapt to new ways of working, advance in their careers, stay engaged and motivated, and contribute to society. Therefore, it is crucial for individuals to make lifelong learning a priority in their lives.
A skilled workforce is a key driver of the country’s economic growth and competitiveness. It is therefore everyone’s business to help our workers develop that lifelong learning mindset to ensure that they continue to meet the changing needs of a digital economy.
(The author is the lead convenor of the Alliance for Technology Innovators for the Nation (ATIN), vice president of the Analytics Association of the Philippines, and vice president, UP System Information Technology Foundation.)