Closing the human skills gap created by technology

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man vs machine

Advancing technology has always played a disruptive role in the global economy. Overall, the disruption usually leads to positive economic outcomes, including greater output and enhanced efficiency. Sometimes, though, technologies come along that threaten to upset the balance in other ways, such as altering how workers must approach their jobs. As artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies begin to take over tasks that would have required years of learned industry-specific knowledge for a human employee to complete, we're fast approaching a time when there will need to be a complete reexamination of workforce skills, and therefore how we develop them.

For example, the rise of artificial intelligence is placing a premium on the high-level technical skills required to manage and maintain such systems, but it's also creating a growing need for skills that AI cannot yet emulate, such as critical thinking and empathy. It's those kinds of human skills that will require industry leaders to rethink their training and employee development programs, as current models don't do enough to strengthen those skills. Here are some of the steps they should take as soon as possible.

Out of the classroom, into (virtual) reality

Over the last several years, the latest eLearning tools have allowed businesses to build robust and wide-ranging employee training and development programs. Those programs have been invaluable in the upskilling of existing employees throughout the global economy. Now, however, it's becoming clear that the skills that tomorrow's workers will need aren't the kind of things that can be taught in such abstract ways. Instead, employee training programs will have to be reoriented to make use of advanced simulation training through virtual and augmented reality platforms, as well as real-world apprenticeships and on-the-job training experiences.

A new focus on at-risk employees

One additional side effect that AI and automation technologies are going to have on the global workforce is an increasing dislocation of workers, first in manual labour jobs, and then further up the chain. In fact, experts believe that as many as one in three jobs may soon be affected in parts of the UK, which will create a massive imbalance in the labour pool. It's going to be crucial to get ahead of that trend by developing employee training programs that will prepare those most at risk of dislocation for the positions that will be at the core of the new economy. To begin the preparations, comprehensive, freely available retraining programs should be made available to all at-risk employees as soon as is practical.

Create individualised programs

One of the difficulties that businesses will encounter in designing programs to teach soft skills like empathy and critical thinking is that not everyone will begin in the same place. Some employees will possess innate skills in these areas that will make training easy, while others will need to be brought along slowly. On top of that, not everyone learns the same way. To bridge the gap between the two, programs must be individually tailored to suit the preferences and needs of the learner. The key will be to provide programs that include a healthy mix of engaging content, as shown in this guide, and experiential learning that covers the widest mix of employee starting points. Doing so will encourage employees to work on their skills at a sustainable pace, and to absorb the broadest skill sets they are capable of.

Decisive action needed

The key to getting out in front of the looming skills challenge created by advancing technologies is going to lie in how fast businesses can revise and adapt their existing training strategies to accommodate the changing environment. It's important to realize that technology rarely decelerates, so the changes that we're already seeing in industries around the globe are but a preview of what's to come in the very near future. The good news is that there are already some ways, like those mentioned here, that businesses can rise to the challenge. Now, it's up to them to do it, and do it soon.

About Philip P.


My primary focus is a fusion of technology, small business, and marketing. I’m an editor, writer, marketing consultant and guest author at several authority websites. In love with startups, traveling and helping others get their ideas off the ground.


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