While the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of companies and industries, it has also resulted in the widening of an already large skills gap and other inequalities. As companies seek to recover and economies face mounting levels of unemployment, now is the time to invest in people.
Where the pandemic has disproportionately impacted women and minority groups—according to McKinsey estimates, female job loss rates have been about 1.8 times higher than male job loss rates globally—the technology industry, in particular, has a responsibility to increase their representation and implement more flexible working arrangements.
Bridging these gaps isn’t just important to get people into meaningful jobs today, but also to ensure everyone can participate in the digital economy of tomorrow. As businesses and governments emerge from the pandemic, here are three reasons why reskilling must be a priority.
New technologies are changing the nature of jobs
As the pandemic has evolved, so have the demands of customers and the services that businesses offer. In a world where companies are increasingly judged on the quality of the customer experience they provide, technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are imperative. The International Data Corp (IDC) predicts that global spending on AI will double over the next four years—reaching $110 billion in 2024 (up from $50 billion in 2020).
While the combination of the pandemic and rapid technological advancements may decrease demand for certain task-orientated jobs, a lot of jobs will be transformed entirely. Increasingly, professions like marketing, for example, rely on AI to deliver successful campaigns. The potential for cloud computing, software engineering, data analytics, and AI to complement existing jobs and to create new roles, products, and services is enormous. With the right skills, businesses can set employees up for success.
Address skills mismatches for an inclusive economy
Even before the pandemic, the impact of digital transformation on civic spaces and the world of work had resulted in a major disconnect between education systems and the needs of global economies and societies. Digital competencies are increasingly becoming just as important as the ability to read and write.
Although academic institutions have encouraged the building of careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM), there remains a lack of understanding of how accessible digital careers can be. Working together—education systems, governments, and businesses—can provide knowledge, training, and skills to break down barriers to participating in the digital economy, entering the tech industry, and ensuring no one is left behind by technological advancements that will continue long after the pandemic.
Companies must cultivate a culture of continual learning
Businesses don’t just have a responsibility to provide opportunities for communities to retrain and transition to the jobs of the future. It’s increasingly within their interest to do so. Just as the fourth Industrial Revolution demands that we close existing hard skills gaps. The work-from-anywhere world we now live in requires us to further invest in soft skills to solve complex problems, challenge the status quo, and engender a shared sense of purpose among remote teams.
To advance the representation and potential of women and minority groups, in particular, we must consider the entire employee lifecycle, starting from how we attract and recruit talent, to how we invest in development. Only then can we truly build a workplace that reflects society.
The writer is an SVP & MD (Sites) of Salesforce India