September 18, 2019

How to future-proof your workforce

An estimated 1.8 billion young people worldwide will not have the skills or qualifications required to participate in the workforce by 2030, according to Deloitte Global and the Global Business Coalition for Education.

That’s a scary statistic, and it underscores the speed at which technology has been taking over businesses and transforming the nature of work itself. Business leaders have to buckle up and take the wheel to drive their organisations forward in the digital race without crashing out.

Another prediction from Deloitte’s 2019 Human Capital Trends report, a survey of more than 10,000 people in 119 countries, indicated that 28% of C-suite executives consider transitioning to the future of work as their most significant talent challenge. Ninety percent say their organisations are redesigning jobs as a result.

Considering the current state of what we know and don’t know about the future, the most essential question leaders need to ask today is: “How can I prepare my people today to build a competitive workforce for tomorrow?”

Let’s look at four things leaders can do today to build tomorrow’s workforce:

1. Communicate about change

When an organisation is in the process of transformation, you may encounter different kinds of doubts and confusion in the minds of people about where and how the change is going to affect their job and the overall organisation. Naturally, every employee wants to know what the future looks like for them in particular.

Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half, puts it this way: “Business leaders should build the idea that digital disruption can be a positive force rather than something to fear. For example, when adopting a new system or application, explain how that technology will allow team members to work more efficiently.”

2. Help your employees develop their skill sets

Reskilling and upskilling are the most important steps in preparing for the future workforce. They can improve recruitment, retention, performance and productivity.

According to Dan Schawbel, the research director at Future Workplace: “Investing in your workers is smart. Retraining employees not only can help save the business money in the long run but also helps them advance in their career.”

Reskilling and upskilling is a process that takes two to tango. It requires both management and employees to work hand-in-hand with the same objective and direction. Companies can provide resources and opportunities and take the initiative, but employees also need to have the willingness to learn.

3. Unlearn old styles of working

Preparing for the future is mostly about the willingness to unlearn what worked yesterday and the openness to learn new tricks all over again.

“Leaders need to look regularly at their professional development programmes, and not rely on what’s worked in the past,” says  Colin Mooney, chief digital officer at Robert Half.

The most effective way to adapt to a new technology and business is to encourage employees to develop their current knowledge and skill sets with consistent support and adequate resources to help them learn more.

Dr Tracey Wilen, a researcher and speaker on the impact of technology on society, work and careers, offers this advice for leaders: “Career discussions with your employees need to happen more often if you want your workers to prepare adequately for coming changes.”

He adds: “Listen to what your workers want and need. Let them know it is okay to look for new opportunities within your organisation when they feel it’s time to change.”

4. Encourage people to believe in their ability

Preparing for the workforce of the future can be a dreadful process if people are uncomfortable with change. So, as a leader, it is your responsibility to help them believe in their ability to change and the potential to learn.

It is helpful to encourage your employees to become the change-makers themselves, rather than looking at change as an external force or obligation. The benefit of seeing themselves as change-makers drives every worker to take the initiative to make the change happen, and not just wait for the change to find them.

You need to build an inclusive environment where every employee can propose ideas and suggestions about how they can become more efficient, more productive and happier in their job. This open culture of work, where people get the freedom to share their thoughts, can increase passion for performance, improve job satisfaction and, in some cases, even retention.

There is no crystal ball to predict the future. However, better communication, openness to learning and willingness to unlearn with constant encouragement from leaders can help ensure that your workforce stays relevant and competitive, regardless of what the future looks like.

Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC (formerly APMGroup) Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at or Experience our lifelong learning ecosystem today at