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Why retraining is everyone’s responsibility

As automation brings masses of redundancies and jobs change, constant focus on retraining comes down to the individual – and brings real opportunity.

Entire economies are shifting, as the march of advanced automation up-ends industries and jobs. I can’t think of a single industry that isn’t affected and, of course, it’s all having an enormous impact on people.

Blue-collar jobs are being automated by increasingly sophisticated robotics while white-collar jobs are being automated by artificial intelligence and deep-learning algorithms.

This moveable work scape is not about to settle down: those entering the job market today could have up to around 20 different jobs over the course of their working life. That projection is for kinds of work, not places of work. We’ve never lived through such a period of change.

From responsibility comes opportunity

It might seem counterintuitive on the surface, but the fact that workers will be more mobile means it’s a fundamental responsibility for leaders to ensure they prepare their staff for change.

We need to develop future-oriented people with a growth mindset, starting with those who are just beginning their working life to those who are well into their careers and facing redundancy as their roles are automated.

There’s a lot of anxiety around all this upheaval because of the mass redundancies, and that’s understandable. Being faced with downsizing is a challenging experience for leaders, but there are choices about how you do it, what you stand for and how you set up your workers for future success.

Leaders have the opportunity to make a real difference for the future prosperity of their companies and their people, including those who end up working somewhere else.

Retraining is everyone’s responsibility, but it’s down to leaders to guide the development of the right mechanisms to ensure their staff have the skills for the jobs of today and for their future employability. Executives who succeed in this critical piece of modern leadership create long-term advocates for themselves and their organisations.

Long-term agility

As we bring people into our businesses, working on developing agile mindsets needs to begin from day one.

Knowing that many industries or jobs are going to continue to change, shrink or disappear in the wake of technological disruption, we need to think about our employees in terms of helping them to develop future-oriented skill sets.

That means consistently exposing them to other industries, including arranging secondments, study tours and collaborations, and by leaders modelling their own active curiosity on how other businesses and institutions operate, then sharing their learnings.

Lifelong learning

To that end, I should add that while retraining is the term commonly applied to all this, don’t be limited by the word. I’m talking about something way more expansive: being invested in your learning across the entire course of your career.

Executives have a responsibility to encourage their people to keep their curiosity high, to lead by example and to remember that an essential part of lifelong learning is trialling new things – and failing.

The key is for everyone to realise that at some point in their working lives they’re going to need to do a job that’s different from the one they started out with.

That’s not really something that traditional outplacement firms are set up for. They do the psychology very well, but for those who need technical retraining, it might be too little, too late. This is why it’s the responsibility of leaders to ensure their staff stay ahead of that.

It’s a terrific opportunity for universities and other educational facilities to collaborate with corporates: pursuing multiple micro-credentials is a proactive, or even pre-emptive path, for retraining.

Making such courses widely available to workers benefits the company now and helps set them up for the future, a win¬-win for any organisation’s human capital.

It is an individual’s responsibility to be open and eager for retraining, but executives who run an enterprise must do much more. They must constantly scan the horizon for macro changes across the market and industries, open up their firms and their workers to collaborations, focus on workforce planning way beyond tomorrow and build a vision that incorporates possibilities outside their known world.

Leaders who do all that will ensure their people are set up for a sustainable future.

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