Peter Drucker, the founder of Modern Business Corporation, said, “The only skill that will be important in the 21st century is the skill of learning new skills. Everything else will become obsolete over time.”
The early 1900s saw a large-scale shift from agricultural work to manufacturing in North America and Europe, which spread later to Japan, China, and the rest of Asia. The world of work is currently undergoing a similar epochal transition.
A recent McKinsey report estimates that by 2030, nearly 375 million workers—constituting almost 14% of the global workforce—will need to change their vocational specialisations owing to the growing digitisation and automation across industries. The impact has already begun to be felt, with transformative implications for individuals’ careers.
Every nation and its workforce—especially individuals in the early and middle stages of their careers—must aim to re-train and upskill themselves for future workplaces. A Dell Technologies report suggests that 85% of future jobs do not even exist currently.
Stay updated with upskilling
Learning new skills or upskilling is not just a trend but a reality and requirement of today’s dynamic market. It can potentially transform the size of the economy radically. Planned wide-ranging investments in upskilling could grow global GDP by $6.5 trillion by 2030.
As seen in the figure above, once launched, upskilling initiatives would go through an initial phase of slow growth while private and public sector businesses strengthen their upskilling processes. As these initiatives gain traction, they boost economic growth before finally tapering off.
Due to the hybrid work mode, companies are evolving and creating new opportunities—thus, they need employees possessing relevant, specialised skill sets. Employees and managers who are agile have a better chance of growth. The current volatile market, brought about by the pandemic, the Great Resignation, indicates that it is time to upskill through popular courses.
Upskilling regular employees lets organisations fill new positions in-house instead of going through the complete hiring process. For employees, it creates an opportunity to move out of their comfort zone and pursue professional growth. It returns the zeal and curiosity which might have diminished by playing a fixed role. Upskilling also helps working professionals climb the corporate ladder, apply for higher-level jobs, or switch for better pay, work environment, and responsibilities.
That being said, upskilling can also significantly boost employment. By 2030, it could add nearly 2.75 million jobs in India and almost 5.5 million globally (see figure below).
The path to upskilling
As a working professional, upskilling will help you dispel stagnancy and propel your career forward. Most institutes offer online learning courses that do not hamper the learner’s current work routine. But before you leap, look.
With so many skills in demand, how do you decide which one skill to master? For instance, with MBAs, you can specialise in Retail, Human Resources, Supply Chain, etc. The straightforward idea behind upskilling is to make yourself and your skill relevant in the market. A professional SWOT analysis will help you zero down the skills you need to acquire next.
A SWOT analysis, as you know, focuses on your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Asking yourself relevant questions will help you identify your strengths, reduce weaknesses, take up available opportunities and create contingency plans to minimise threats. For instance, if you want to make in-roads as a financial controller and are good at statistics and analysis, go for an MBA specialisation in finance.
A SWOT analysis will help you understand yourself as a person, your attitude, skills, abilities, and capacities. Following this, you can choose a career path that will be most beneficial for you.
Achieving your upskilling goals
While searching for a secure and meaningful career, you may find it daunting to identify the skills and experience that will be valued in the future. A planned approach to upgrading yourself helps. Follow these steps:
- Set realistic goals: Identify and set your career end goal. This will help you track your progress and make upskilling quantifiable for you. Set realistic short- and long-term goals.
- Identify your knowledge gaps: Now, identify your strengths, weaknesses, and knowledge gaps. Study job descriptions to shortlist in-demand skills, talk to people in expert networks, consult a mentor, etc. Having identified your strengths and weaknesses, hone the skills you need to learn.
- Plan and enrol in an MBA program: Work out a plan to fill the gaps and acquire in-demand skills with the appropriate training/education. Choose a credible institute which offers well-designed courses like MBAs for working professionals. These courses are flexible (with distance learning) and can be done virtually, on weekdays or weekends. Remember that learning requires time and sustained effort.
- Apply your skills. Once you have acquired new skills, look for opportunities to apply them. Starting small with low-risk ways to test the newly acquired skill and gain greater competence and confidence.
- Prepare for the worst: Sometimes, you may fail to achieve the required progress due to unforeseen reasons. Don’t feel disheartened. Re-strategise and double up your efforts to achieve more at the next opportunity.
- Remain adaptable: Upskilling isn’t a one-time effort but an ongoing process. Remain adaptable, look out for evolving technologies and keep growing with continuous learning.
Businesses and individuals are increasingly viewing investments in retraining and upskilling as urgent priorities. Upskilling is not hard to achieve with the kind of opportunities available today, like online learning, podcasts, online social learning, and digital skills exchange platforms.
Companies can help employees upskill by organising employee training and upskilling programs specifically designed for working professionals. Individuals may also pursue such journeys independently, for which they can enrol in reputable institutes. These offer full-time, part-time, and distance-learning courses to meet individuals’ varied needs at different stages in their careers. The courses can include MBAs in IT and Systems Management, Marketing Management, etc.; certifications in Data Science, Digital Marketing, and so on; and diplomas in International Trade Management and Business Management, amongst others.
The ever-changing market dynamics make upskilling mandatory rather than a choice. These changes in the workplace require radically new talent development and skill-building programs to thrive, or even survive, in the workplace of the future.