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How do we upskill and reskill for the future of workforce and workplace?

A sea change to remote work and flexible schedules happened almost overnight

The workplace and the workforce as we know it has changed – and organizations need to figure out ways to increase connectivity and a sense of belonging, regardless of where employees are – says Laura Quigley, senior vice-president for Asia Pacific at Integral Ad Science.

Companies are emerging from the pandemic into a workplace of physical distancing, amid significant changes in customer behaviors and new demands from the industry's talent base. Recovery is forcing organizations to reimagine their operations for the new normal. The future of work will require two types of changes across the workforce: upskilling and reskilling.

Need for reskilling and upskilling

Upskilling is when employees gain new skills to help in their current roles; reskilling is when employees adapt current capabilities to take on different or entirely new functions. Companies will require people with the right skills to develop, manage, and maintain their knowledge to do the jobs that machines cannot. Workers will need the skills that enable them to access employment. Developing existing talent is among the most crucial investments organizations can make. Employers should actively invest in upskilling and reskilling employees to accommodate shifting needs, and constant learning should be a core expectation from employees.

Reimagining the workplace and workforce

Once the pandemic severely constrained the ability of companies to bring people into work, a change to remote work and flexible schedules happened almost overnight. This will be an enduring legacy of the pandemic, not just when it comes to physical workspaces but also new ways of working, including long-term remote models; greater attention to employee benefits, wellbeing, and inclusion; and flexibility for productivity. To adequately prepare for the future of work, organizations need to fully understand the evolved nature of their work, the needs of their employees, and the spaces where they operate. Getting this right will determine the winners in the post-pandemic world.

Organizations must consider a few of these actions to reimagine the workplace

  • Be open to cross-functional and cross-industry hiring. Employers have an opportunity to consider a wider talent pool by assessing candidates with cross-functional or cross-industry experiences. Candidates with data and technology-related skills within specific verticals such as finance may choose to apply those in the adtech industry in the future. These skills are increasingly transferable across sectors and dedicated onboarding and training from companies can bridge the gap.
  • Provide clarity to employees. Organizational leaders have an excellent opportunity to chart the path for managers and employees regarding future work arrangements. Transparent and frequent communication, with managers playing a key role, can help ensure that the organization moves in unison.

  • Reimagine physical spaces. Since in-person work will likely look substantially different, organizations can adapt by making their physical space focus on areas of collaboration, innovation, and community-building.

  • Lean into productivity. With the shift to remote work, many companies reported increased productivity and have taken note. A McKinsey analysis found that more than 20% of the workforce could work remotely three to five days a week as effectively as from an office. Focusing on productivity and impact, rather than just physical location, will be a lasting trend.

The workplace and the workforce as we know it has changed. The gradual return of in-person work alongside the newfound importance of virtual workspaces means organizations need to figure out ways to increase connectivity and a sense of belonging, regardless of where employees are. Companies must also bake reskilling and upskilling of employees into their strategy so that their teams feel empowered to solve the challenges of tomorrow.

Doing so can help employees balance productivity, well-being, and a sense of connection in the evolving future of work.

Laura Quigley is senior vice president for Asia Pacific at Integral Ad Science

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