Building A Future-Ready Workforce In The Age Of Digital Disruption

Building A Future-Ready Workforce
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Summary: Future-looking organizations are wary about the skills gap challenges in the existing workforce as well as the workforce of the future. Let’s explore how organizations can address some of these challenges and achieve a future-ready workforce today.

Learn How To Build A Future-Ready Workforce

We’re in an age where the frequency of digital disruptions is overwhelming, to say the least. Emerging digital technology and automation are swiftly changing the workplace requirements, and there is a rising demand for newer skillsets. As the proliferation of technological advancements takes center stage in industries the world over, global organizations are increasingly facing the ultimate challenge of retaining talent and building a future-ready workforce.

However, a future-ready workforce doesn’t mean employees skilled in technologies that don’t exist. The need for future skills is now. For example, skills like agile working, which exist even today, as well as skills in emerging technologies, like data science, Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), blockchain and more.

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The Skills Gap Challenge

The challenge is predominant, and Korn Ferry predicts that several industries, like media, technology and telecommunications, may feel a shortage of over 1.1 million skilled workers. And, going by the current rate, by 2020, 25% of the world’s workforce will either need to find a new job or upskill/reskill in relevant technologies as well as cross-disciplinary skills, including adaptability, programming, agile working, etc., as per McKinsey’s Closing the Future Skills Gap.

Jennifer Byrne, chief technology officer at Microsoft US, says, “Modern developer skills, advanced data science and management, cloud-based skills, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning are all in great demand.”

A report from McKinsey indicates that nearly 40% of organizations in the United States alone are facing a dearth of skilled people, not enough even to fill entry-level jobs. This is an early indicator of a massive industry-wide skilling challenge. Moreover, the skills gap comes in different forms—it is either in terms of the newer generation (especially the millennials) struggling to find suitable work or mid-career individuals who are unemployed due to layoffs. But the problem doesn’t end there. Individuals disconnected from their workplace are most likely to be disconnected from ancillary social institutions too. This is not ideal, neither for the individuals nor for society. And, recognizing the criticality of the problem is imperative.

So, how can organizations address some of these challenges and prepare for the future of work with the in-demand skills and get the most out of their existing talent?

Building A Future-Ready Workforce

To compete and succeed in today’s changing corporate landscape, organizations need a digital-savvy workforce as well as a workforce ready for newer challenges. Future-proofing activities have led global organizations to develop newer strategies in terms of performance, reward, and training. While some organizations adopt peer-led training, others prioritize learning emerging digital technology and ensuring they are adept in business skills as well.

"A stop-gap solution is seldom the answer to a persistent challenge and often falls short," says Kristine Dery, a research scientist with the MIT Sloan Center for Information Systems Research, adding, “Now we're starting to understand a little more the nuances of what that looks like, and what we need to provide for people, and the support we need to give them to make that work more effectively.”

There is a rising need for organizations to focus on continuous skills development and embed learning into the organization’s culture. This will empower employees to take learning into their own hands and be responsible for their own career paths by building confidence in skilling themselves in in-demand technologies and being open to further skilling requirements.

Microsoft US’ CTO, Jennifer Byrne, suggests:

We need to significantly lower the barrier to skills adoption for every employee in every organization. Future workforce strategies that address training and certification, coaching and mentoring, aligned to broader digital transformation objectives should be a board-level initiative. Companies that invest in their current and future workforces invest in themselves...Creating an environment where learning is a core value, and a ‘growth mindset’ is embedded into every aspect of a company, can shift human dynamics towards curiosity and open-mindedness about new ways of working. That reduces the friction often present in technologies rolled out across an organization and hopefully creates more viral adoption of technology.

Let’s take a look at what some global organizations are doing to address the skills gap challenge.

  • DBS Bank
    For Singapore’s DBS Bank, building a future-ready and digital-savvy workforce is part of the company’s core agenda. DBS’ teaching program titled "Back to School" hosts classes every hour for one week with an aim to encourage its 26,000 employees to keep learning irrespective of age or seniority.
  • Schneider Electric
    To empower employees to embrace a digital mindset, Schneider Electric created a Digital Citizenship program where the company’s 140,000 employees have the opportunity to achieve four levels of digital citizenship, from basic, intermediate to advanced and expert.
  • Microsoft
    Microsoft has always been a pioneer in many aspects, and by creating a growth-mindset culture, it has also redefined talent development. Through its program "Talent Talks," Microsoft’s leadership meets with department heads, including engineering, sales, etc. to review employees and discuss promotions and explore ways to augment skills. By empowering employees to become leaders, such programs have boosted greater potential across the organization.
  • Facebook
    Facebook’s training camp titled "Bootcamp" serves as a six-week-long introductory program to its codebase. It is mandatory for all company engineers and has been successful in fostering a learning culture for the engineering team.


One of the best answers to address the skills gap challenge is instilling a lifelong learning culture within the organization, in addition to efficient and sustainable employee training programs and innovative learning delivery tools and solutions. A continuous learning culture ensures the workforce is constantly upskilling/reskilling as per industry demands. All in all, creating learning opportunities for everyone in the organization must be a key objective. Quite simply, not empowering your employees to learn newer skills means not having a future-ready workforce.