Preparing 1 Billion People for Tomorrow’s Economy

Why we need digital soft skills now in business and to prepare our business for the future. 

In this 45 minute video by the world economic forum (WEF), here, they talk about the need to prepare people for the future because of the technology changes that are taking place now.

The people on the panel are

Zanny Minton Beddoes - Editor in chief at The Economist

Jonas Prising - Chairman & CEO of ManpowerGroup

Belen Garijo - Chair of the Executive Board and CEO of Merck

C. Vijayakumar - CEO & Managing Director, HCLTech

Ahmad bin Abdullah Humaid Belhoul Al Falasi - Minister of Education in the United Arab Emirates

The world initiative for reskilling the people of the world for tomorrow's economy

Let me lift something from Wikipedia as historical context.

"During the early 1980s, the BBC started what became known as the BBC Computer Literacy Project."

In the research the BBC undertook they found that the workplace and society was at a tipping point. This new technology was coming along and nobody, Governments, commerce, the schools understood it. In fact in Germany, the nickname for the computer was "job taker". Which looking back is ironic considering of the number of jobs that IT has created. 

The BBC, then set about, with the backing of the UK Government, creating a set of TV programmes that were designed to educate the UK population. The TV programmes were also sold around the world. 

The BBC, realised that there wasn't a computer available for the masses and created the BBC Micro with Acorn. The Government of the time started an ambitious project to put a computer in every school. 

(Remember that Microsoft Windows was not released until 1985, the Apple II was launched in 1977. Computing was seen as for hobbyists and not for the masses.)

We are at a similar tipping point for digital soft skills 

In this WEF discussion a number of great points are made.

There was a discussion started in January 2020 and a report that looked at the impact on technology on the global workforce and predicted that 1 Billion people would need to re-skill to take advantage of the technological transformation that is occuring.

The WEF see that reskilling the workforce with digital, one of, if not the challenge of our time. This is about having the skills for today's economy. 

  1. It will impact the pace of economic growth.
  2. It's going to impact Government stability. 
  3. It's going to impact Government finances.

It's going to create a two tier world where there are those that can access and those that cannot access life. 

Let's dig into the conversation ...

Belen Garijo - Chair of the Executive Board and CEO of Merck explains how leadership has changed. Regardless of some companies insistence that we all go back to the office, hybrid is here to stay. That means that "leadership through screens" is a key skill today. She talks about how Merck had to go through a cultural transformation as well as an automational transformation in the factories. 

The UAE minister, Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi mentioned that in the previous generation the average person changed jobs 4 times in a lifetime, today it's 7 times, and it's predicted to be 12 times (in a lifetime) in the near future. This is where there is a need to focus on "soft skills" and adaptability. 

The shift away from STEM

This is an intrinsic shift that digital has impacted on us. 5 years ago we would have trained people for Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) now we need soft skills.

Belen Garijo - Chair of the Executive Board and CEO of Merck also explains that Covid accelerated the need for soft skills, and Merck is building a human centric organization. That is putting people at the centre of that company. And in terms of who is responsible for providing the soft skill training, she sees the responsibility of who provides this as coming from the company and not the universities. 

She also says that the nature of work is changing, for example, in marketing they need less marketers and more data scientists. 

Jonas Prising - Chairman & CEO of ManpowerGroup explained how many organizations are developing the skills of the workforce, but also he explains that employees realize that they need digital soft skills. He also points out that talent shortages and lack of skills are two different things. 

He says that the number one thing business needs to look at is not AI, it's HI (human intelligence), business need to be looking at making humans more productive. 

He also talks about how the term IQ was used as an assessment of a person's intelligence, now he is saying LQ (learnability quotientwhich reflects your desire and ability to grow and adapt to new circumstances and challenges throughout your work life.  The future of work is going to be determined by the workers of the future. 

Learning new skills, such as digital skills is what employees are realizing are what they need to stay competitive and have a great career. 

C. Vijayakumar - CEO & Managing Director, HCLTech says that there will be a need to reskill 1 billion people (third of the global workforce), with these digital soft skills. He goes onto to say that people need to work in groups and the ability to collaborate and communicate over digital is critical. 

Related: The State of Digital and Social Media in 2023