Tuesday, May 01, 2018


The World Economic Forum recently started publishing a series of resources around the changes in the workplace and how to reskill the workforce.

Organizations are complaining that they “cannot find the right skills.”

Individuals, many of whom have been working to master certain knowledge and skills for years, find themselves with outdated knowledge and skills they are not entirely sure they can transfer elsewhere.

At this year’s Davos conference, they started to tackle this disconnect between the individuals, the organizations and the economic environment.

In the session on Putting Jobs Out of Work, Yuval Harari noted that “people are now fearing something far worse than exploitation – they fear irrelevance”.

“There will be new jobs. The question is whether people feel they can re-invent themselves to fill these new jobs…If you have to reinvent yourself every 10 years…that’s extremely difficult…To reinvent yourself when you are 20; it’s difficult, but you do it. To do it again at 30, at 40, at 50…That’s a really high level of anxiety.”

The World Economic Forum, with the help of Boston Consulting, made a first pass at some pathways to make it potentially easier for people to reskill.

The Current and Target job lists are interesting.  My favorite – Printing Press Operators to Farm and Ranch Managers.

This struck me as a stretch – but dig deeper and it kinda makes sense.

Printing Press Operators have a mindset that thinks in terms of systems and processes.  They have skills in inventory and throughput.

Farm and Ranch Managers need a mindset that thinks in terms of systems and processes. They need skills in inventory and throughput.

The materials you are controlling (paper and ink vs plants and animals) and the environment you are in (factory vs barns and fields) are different, but the baseline mindset and skills are the same.

I’m glad to see this conversation.  It’s not about being an expert in a particular field.  It’s about developing transferable skills that can move across fields.


The World Economic Forum realizes this is a multi-pronged problem that requires all stakeholders to participate.

I’m quoting their recommendations below. My comments are in italics.

— For individuals, particularly those under risk of displacement, simply to remain employed will require engaging in lifelong learning and regular reskilling. Additionally, for all workers, continuous learning will not only be key to securing employment but also to building stable, fulfilling careers and seizing rewarding job transition opportunities. Think in terms of transferable skills. And give yourself the time and space to learn new things.

— For employers, relying solely on new workers entering the labour market with the right ready-made skills will no longer be sufficient (emphasis mine). And while predicting the exact nature of the demand for skills is impossible, recent research from the World Economic Forum reveals that across a wide range of scenarios, investment in workforce reskilling and human capital development is a ‘no-regret action’—that is, it will be a beneficial investment even in the absence of skills shortages (emphasis again mine). Stop writing job descriptions asking for 15 years of experience in technologies that have only been around for 5. And give your current employees the time, resources, projects, and environment that will allow them to learn the skills YOU BOTH need.

— For policy-makers, fostering continuous reskilling and lifelong learning across the economy will be critical in order to maintain a labour force with the tools needed to fuel inclusive economic growth and to ensure that companies can find workers with the skills needed to help them succeed and contribute their full potential to the economy and society.  This is going to require a major re-think of our educational systems.  Barring that, I think those of us who claim to be adults could help those younger than we enjoy learning and encourage problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity in their day-to-day life outside of school. We can’t abdicate responsibility for developing the generations behind us to the schools anymore.


World Economic Forum – Towards a Reskilling Revolution

World Economic Forum – 8 Futures of Work Scenarios and Their Implications

World Economic Forum – 6 Reasons to be Optimistic about the Future of Work

World Economic Forum – Which of Tomorrow’s Jobs are you Most Qualified For?

Video: Putting Jobs Out of Work (60 minutes)


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