Redesigning jobs and mindsets to meet the pace of change

Written by Armin Hopp on 21 November 2018

Reading time: 3m 20s.

The accelerating pace of technological innovation is driving rapid change in the workplace. Intelligent software is already beginning to automate knowledge-based job roles that were previously assumed to be immune from ‘computerisation’, such as in the legal and HR sectors.

Learning professionals have long promoted continuing professional development initiatives for the workforce. But the current pace of change means that companies are often changing beyond all recognition within a year or two. 

Employees in the current workforce, from millennials to baby boomers, share a major misconception about the shape of their working life. The widespread belief that a person studies hard in their youth and learns most of what they need for their future profession in their early career is increasingly false. 

Now, lifelong learning that sets an expectation for continuous radical change and adaptation is key. This is not just about delivering new skills training as needed. It is now necessary to foster a culture of change and ensure that each individual employee buys into it by taking control of their own learning and development. 

Make the shift to lifelong learning

Organisations need to have a strategic plan for talent to make the shift to lifelong learning. “By 2030, as many as 375m workers globally will have to master fresh skills as their current jobs evolve alongside the rise of automation and capable machines,” estimates McKinsey Global Institute. There are a number of ways that L&D professionals can help create a workforce-wide mindset for innovation and change:

Enable employees to develop job roles that will help drive the business forward. As technology progresses, new roles are emerging all the time. An open culture that encourages employees to explore new technologies and new ways of working and design their own job roles is key.

Video is becoming increasingly important to market the business on YouTube for example – consider developing employees’ performance skills alongside their presentation and communication skills so that they may become assets for video marketing.

Or where artificial intelligence (AI) is automating some aspects of knowledge-based work, assess how that role could be evolved to add value. In the legal sector, AI can now perform large swathes of contract review work, freeing up the law professional to focus on more complex risks and on developing soft skills that benefit customer communications.


Review the nature of entry-level jobs. Challenge the accepted wisdom that entry-level jobs should be repetitive and boring, a necessary rite of passage for learning on the job. Danny Goh, in a TED talk, points out that in the first few years of a ‘dream job’ in the investment banking sector, new entrants spend most of their time in tedious, easily automatable tasks, perhaps reviewing materials for somebody more senior to action.

There is little opportunity for challenging work or to contribute intelligently to the business. In today’s fast-moving global marketplace, this extended learning curve is a waste of human resources. As elements of entry-level jobs are automated, it is increasingly important to help young employees develop broader soft skills that will help them capitalise on their professional and vocational skills.

Value and foster creativity. Machines might replace humans in many areas but the creative spark that marks a business out for success is uniquely human. Soft skills such as communication skills are vital to develop and share creative ideas.

Recruitment is no longer a panacea for filling emerging skills gaps to keep up with the accelerating pace of change. There is an increasing recognition of the need to drive internal skills development – in fact, three quarters of executives responding to a McKinsey survey said they believed reskilling would fill at least half of the future talent needs.

Focusing on ongoing right skilling of the workforce also addresses issues of engagement and retention. 

HR and learning professionals can help create a workforce-wide mindset for innovation and change. If workers feel that they are valued and have ownership of their career development, they will provide the flexible and committed human resource necessary to succeed in a challenging business environment.


About the author

Armin Hopp is the Founder and President of Speexx.



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