Adapt to the digital age with skills to thrive – now and into the future


The latest industrial revolution embraces artificial intelligence, 5G, 3D-printing and the internet. It is transforming industries such as banking, advertising and healthcare – with the line between hard and soft skills blurring exponentially.

Leading companies today want to better understand how to find, hire and cultivate the right talent to overcome the looming skills crisis driven by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, according to Deloitte’s CEO Punit Renjen.

What are talent champions at leading companies looking for in employees

Tech-savvy talent champions who recognise the importance of adaptability and interpersonal skills are essential to the success of companies. This is because they hire and retain appropriate, digitally-competent employees who work remotely.

For human resource managers, simply reading a resume and sitting down for a ‘chat’ no longer does the job. They have revamped the way they identify, hire, upskill and retain talent. Their top hiring criteria include an appetite for life-long learning. They value this because they are looking for employees who can keep up with this rapidly changing, tech-enabled economy, while working productively at home.

In the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 88% of organisations have employees working remotely from home (or in satellite hubs) – a 20% increase from 2019.

Combining people and tech savvy

While tech-enabled digital interactions between companies and clients improve efficiency and reduce costs, they have a major downside. Customers feel that these interactions are impersonal, dry and they can be annoying when a pre-recorded telephonic voice or computer ‘bot’ speaks options to steer you towards resolving your specific problem or query. They lack the intelligent adaptability of a human customer-service person responding in a way that best serves your needs. Not to mention the potential empathy a person-to-person interaction gives.

Studies have shown that companies that adopt a human-bonding approach are more successful, both internally and externally. Combining this approach with tech-smart people in building a workforce, is the new imperative.

We need continuous reskilling and adaptability

One recent survey found that 94% of human resource leaders believe it is a priority to move from episodic training to continuous reskilling to support a nimble workforce and respond to the changing nature of work. Unfortunately, only 18% of these HR leaders say they will truly drive the significant reskilling of their workforce. This highlights the perception that you need considerable investment for reskilling and you must prioritise learning cultures.

Example of such adaptability

One example of adaptability is IBM, who creates a ‘seamless’ work experience by matching skills to work borders, partners and clients. They’ve built a system based on two key pillars:

1.    The company transitioned from having traditional teams to dividing work in tasks.

2.    They use an open-talent marketplace that improves the agility of the workforce by matching work with skills – with the goal of optimising time and project costs.

They used to have a traditional and structured way of building teams with full-time employees who had single projects. They now break work down in tasks and distribute the tasks to talent with the right skills. In other words, they moved from a one-to-one to a many-to-many relationship.

Moving away from CVs towards testing for creativity and valuable abilities

Instead of reading about a job applicant’s proficiencies or experience, cutting-edge HR managers today test for critical thinking, problem-solving abilities and creative ways to make systems and processes run more efficiently; rewarding those who learn quickly and put their knowledge into practice. An applicant’s toolbox needs to include soft-skills, such as emotional intelligence that makes them flexible, innovative and open to training.

According to Josh Millet (founder and CEO of the Los Angeles-based pre-employment company Criteria Corporation) there is overwhelming evidence that one of the most reliable indicators of job performance is general cognitive ability. Millet is a strong supporter of data-driven hiring practices, which he claims cuts down on bias and discrimination. He says traditional resumes and CVs are proven to support innate bias towards gender and race.

What skills will be needed and who is responsible for upskilling and reskilling?

Deloitte’s Renjen cites his company’s Success personified in the Fourth Industrial Revolution report which concludes that:

·        55% of managers on executive level believe there is a mismatch between current skill sets and those that will be necessary in the future.

·        46% of managers on executive level think they lack knowledge about which skills will be needed in the future.

·        44% worry that their employees’ lack of technological fluency is a challenge in preparing their workforce for the ways in which work is changing (even in the short term).

Renjen says there’s a tendency among business leaders to think the onus for developing skills falls on government, the education system and individuals (80% subscribed to this view in a Deloitte survey). The antidote to this is a subset of business executives who step up to the plate in preparing their workforces. These are Renjen’s ‘talent champions’ who have the key attributes of being highly tech-savvy with a strong appetite for investing in disruptive technology. They are also invested in how socially responsible approaches can drive revenues.

The Deloitte survey also found that a blend of social awareness and business goals is key to retaining younger workers.

Renjen adds, “Thinking about what skills your workforce will need to have, not just tomorrow but in the years and decades to come, can mean the difference between a company that thrives in the workplace of the future and one that sputters.”

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