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Agility key for workforce of the future

31 Mar 2021
Ewan Anderson

Would it surprise you to know between 2016 and 2019, nearly three-quarters of jobs had more than 40% of the skills required change?  

If you throw into the mix a global pandemic and Brexit, your team's demands are changing, and it takes a dynamic HR team to stay on top of it. 

So how do you future-proof your talent? If things change so quickly that 40% of job requirements change in just three years, then what are the skills your team will need in the next five years 

According to a recent Gartner report, AI is going to have a significant impact on peoples jobs. There is considerable fear among many that their job will become obsolete in the not too distant future. 

For some, the nature of their job will undoubtedly change, as many have in recent years. Gartner's study outlines AI's potential impact based on three key areas, perception, judgement, and social and creative factors. 

If your organisation's roles rely on perception-related tasks or judgment-related tasks, AI can and will support a lot of the mundane activity that takes up a large proportion of the time. 

If there is a higher degree of social and creative tasks involved in your organisation, this is where AI struggles. 

For instance, a Marketing Manager's role will be impacted considerably less by AI than an Accountant or perhaps a Lawyer.

But AI is just part of the changing skills revolution that's moving at a far more rapid pace. 

So how do you adapt your HR function to make sure the roles you are recruiting for will be what you need in three years. 

Skills audit

Your business objectives will set out what your business needs in terms of skills in the coming years. 

However, as we mentioned, the requirements for a host of jobs have changed considerably over the last five years, so accurately predicting the right skills won't be easy. 

The likelihood is, the fast-paced change will involve increased digital capabilities, so assessing each role in the context of a far more significant digital influence will give you an idea of the skills gap.  

Review your Core Competencies

While the skills required to succeed in an IR4.0 world will almost certainly be dominated by digital capabilities, some fascinating insight revealed in a study produced by AON suggest that the employees will need the following 11 competencies to be successful:

  1. Ability to learn
  2. Agility 
  3. Curiosity 
  4. Drive to succeed
  5. Ability to handle data
  6. Identifying strategic solutions
  7. Business acumen
  8. Virtual collaboration
  9. Digital communication
  10. Mental endurance 
  11. A coaching mindset

While many of these competencies are almost expected in a modern workforce, they were not commonplace over the last few decades, so companies must refresh their core competencies to ensure future suitability. The report goes into these in detail and provides a good understanding of the value in terms of the business. However, I wanted to focus on what I think is the critical competency for an individual and an organisation. Agility. 


Based on most of the commentary around the topic of future-proofing your talent, it seems a common theme is agility. 

From the core competencies and role profiles to the HR teams' actions in response to an ever-changing workforce need, as a business leader, you need to ensure agility is commonplace throughout your organisation.  

Of course, being agile requires a constant feedback loop of data and information that can help guide decision making and adapt quickly to changing trends. 

So maximising the use of Talent Data will be crucial for organisations looking to future-proof their talent. Establishing a legacy of data on skills and performance will provide a more accurate picture of any gaps, help predict where there are issues, and support succession planning. 

The AON report also suggests the need to be more agile with role profiles. This is not an easy task, but if job requirements change by 40% in three years, how much can we rely on role profiles that rigidly stick to a set approach. 

There is an argument suggesting that if you don't provide clear enough guidance in a role profile for people, it can lead to a loss of productivity, impacting happiness at work and ultimately a lost employee. 

However, one of the suggestions from the AON report is to review the job families. Providing an outline of what success looks like across similar roles and makes it easier for people to move between roles as the business flexes to meet customer demand.  

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Develop a learning culture

To complement the agile approach created across your organisation, it is crucial to combine this with a learning culture.

If you are creating a scenario where role profiles are more fluid and adaptable to changing needs in the market, you need to be sure one of the core competencies you recruit for going forward is that of a growth mindset. 

It is incumbent on the company leaders to foster this with investment in training and support for learning. Combining internal training with the encouragement to take ownership for personal learning is crucial. 

This learning culture can help to combat any issues and fears people have about the effect technology might have on their job. It can support their understanding of how technology can become an enabler to heightened success rather than a substitute that will see them on the scrap heap.  

An Agile Future

So while jobs are changing incredibly quickly and organisations require skills that might not exist yet, there is a way forward.  

Becoming a more agile company, ensuring your processes and procedures can adapt as required is crucial. But developing and encouraging a learning culture where people can grow in their job as it evolves is doubly important to help them remain happy and productive.  


Ewan Anderson
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