Covid-19 has accelerated digital transformation, changed working habits and threatened livelihoods. In fact, it has accelerated trends that were incipient and slow to take off before the pandemic. Now, more than ever, with scarce resources and threatened business models, companies should be building capabilities and a dynamic workforce. Lifelong education is an integral part of keeping people active and skilled. 

The business case for re-and upskilling

There is a great business case to be made for re-skilling and upskilling people, or as one expert called it “retraining and redeploying” rather than firing. Beyond the humanist arguments that must be taken into account, as a rule of thumb it costs one-third of an annual salary to make a person redundant and manage the subsequent change process within the organisation. To recruit with headhunters can cost another 20% of an annual salary or more, depending on the position and the company. That is just cash out. 

If the adage “Time Is Money” is worth anything then it is a no-brainer to try and retrain staff. Retraining and redeploying costs much less; no payouts, no runway needed to high performance. Employees that are retrained remain in the company and already have organisational knowledge, fit into the culture and can hit performance at speed. Particularly as online, mobile, short and long courses are widely available and not necessarily costly.

Changing job functions

As technology is deployed, job functions tend to change. Whereas pre-Covid companies were implementing technology at a sedate pace, now this has accelerated dramatically as companies try to keep their business sustainable. This is having effects on each worker, as automation can deal with routine functions, whereas humans can respond to the more complex issues. 

In the job arena, one example of much faster processes in with artificial intelligence (AI), which can scan millions of job descriptions in a short time and is therefore able to change job taxonomies quickly. Before this, job experts took ten years to review and change job taxonomies. More and more companies are using AI to analyse and chart their employees’ progress through different job areas; not enough are using the know-how that AI could offer to transfer and upskill people.

A moral and ethical conundrum

While the discourse is that humans have to be at the centre, the pace of change is such that humans risk begin laid by the wayside. The only way for this not to happen is to ensure that every single person in the working world, employed or not, can have access to lifelong learning that is appropriate, accessible and adds value to a professional profile. Organisations must become more flexible in the way they move people across jobs to retain existing knowledge and create new applicable skills that serve both the individual and the organisation. It is only by a joint effort by all players that jobs will be retained and business supported.  

Boost Programme |co-financing digital training

The Boost Programme for SMEs aims to support the acquisition of digital skills by Swiss workers. The programme covers up to 50%, or a maximum of CHF 1,000 of the costs of digital training and lifelong learning per applicant. Apply today. This Programme is made possible by digitalswitzerland, the Gebert Rüf Foundation and the Hirschmann Foundation.

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Author Danièle Castle, digitalswitzerland

Senior Director Education & Talent

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