Skill set? Getting ready for the future of work
The pandemic has called on employees in every sector to adapt to a radically changed working world, but what skills do workers and jobseekers need to foster post-pandemic? We find out why adaptability will continue to be key – and how Barclays’ LifeSkills programme is helping millions in the UK to prepare for future workplaces.
“Even before the pandemic, the world of work was changing really rapidly,” says Kate McGoey. “The pace of change was driven by technology and digitalisation in the workplace, alongside things like the evolution of traditional manufacturing industries.”
McGoey is Senior Project Manager for Barclays’ LifeSkills – a programme which offers anyone in the UK access to resources to develop skills for work and has so far supported more than 13m people through a combination of online resources, lesson plans, work experience opportunities and more.
She joined the bank to help set up LifeSkills in 2013 – but over the course of the last year it has taken on a new relevance as many people wonder if they have the skills and experience needed to navigate the post-pandemic employment market. “We had to pivot,” McGoey explains. “But it was great that we had a really solid foundation.”
More than 60 new tools and pieces of content on topics such as money management, wellbeing, working from home, enterprise skills and fraud were introduced in the first few months of the pandemic to make the site more relevant for users – including tools for home learning, as well as for those wanting to reskill.
“What we do is to help people understand how to link their aspirations, skills and strengths to the labour market, and how to really develop a mindset for lifelong learning,” she says. “It’s having that mindset that's going to set them up to be adaptable, to learn from their mistakes, and to continue to develop.”
Learning to adapt
According to the government’s Industry Strategy Council, the UK could face a huge skills gap by 2030 – with 7m additional people predicted to be underskilled for their job requirements.
Investing in learning and development opportunities for employees is now more crucial than ever, if organisations want to stay relevant.
Key Clients, Funding Solutions and Business Insights Lead at Barclays Business Banking
So what skills will be essential to workforces, now and in the future? McGoey says that the team at LifeSkills identified seven areas as particularly important: resilience, productivity, problem solving, communication, creativity, leadership and adaptability.
‘Soft skills’ are a crucial asset to employees, even in a more digital landscape, explains Gillian Gray, Head of Marketing Strategic Projects at Barclays: “It isn't just the technical skills that people will need – it's actually some of the more uniquely human skills such as complex problem solving, resilience and creativity. These are all really transferable skills that we can take on as we progress in our working lives.”
This is particularly important in an ever-changing world where new jobs and technologies have the potential to transform both industries and workplaces. “A lot of us are going to have to retrain, potentially several times throughout our careers,” explains Gray.
“Technical skills that somebody might have gained 10 years ago need to be constantly refreshed in order for workers to remain relevant,” adds McGoey. “It's crucial that we're helping equip young people and adults to develop and recognise those core transferable skill sets to things like resilience, problem solving, networking.”
It’s having that mindset that's going to set them up to be adaptable, to learn from their mistakes, and to continue to develop.
Senior Project Manager for LifeSkills at Barclays
Benjamin Storey, Key Clients, Funding Solutions and Business Insights Lead at Barclays Business Banking, explains that the pandemic – which forced employees across the world to quickly adapt to the ‘new normal’ – has highlighted the real value in being adaptable.
“During COVID-19, colleagues have had to learn resilience, working flexibly and looking after their own wellbeing,” he says. “We cannot put enough emphasis on these skills, how transferable they are between different sectors and different types of roles. Focusing on those, as well as more specialist skills, will be key for many people as they continue to build their careers.”
The career web
In a world that is going to require more transferrable skills and retraining, McGoey says, the traditional ‘career ladder’ that saw employees spend entire careers in the same profession – and even in the same organisation – will look increasingly out of date.
“A lot of people are looking for more of a career ‘web’, I suppose, rather than that traditional career ladder where you might have one job for life. People are changing industries, changing functions, they're taking sabbaticals, they're working remotely and they're having portfolio careers.”
It isn't just the technical skills that people will need – it's actually some of the more uniquely human skills such as complex problem solving, resilience and creativity.
Head of Marketing Strategic Projects at Barclays
This is a trend that’s likely to stick, says Storey, so fostering transferable skills through platforms such as LifeSkills is vital: “As time goes on, we'll see more very highly skilled individuals who have the ability to commit one or two days to a firm from their own side hustle, or work for a variety of businesses. I think the ability to adapt and have skills that transfer across to a multitude of jobs is the key in the inevitable shift we are seeing in the workplace.”
The online platform is now being developed, McGoey explains, to help users become more aware of the sectors that are set to expand as part of the digital acceleration prompted by the pandemic. “Where possible, we can signpost routes to sectors that are going to be growing.”
But, she adds, a big focus is shifting people’s mindsets so that they can pick up new skills when necessary – and recognise their own value.
“According to LifeSkills evaluation by Chrysalis Research, 82% say they’ve improved their awareness of their own strengths and skills, 82% have improved their understanding of the skills needed for the 21st century workplace, and 81% felt better prepared to make future career decisions as a result of going through the programme. These things that are so important when we're helping people prepare for the world of work.”
And of course, recognising the importance of upskilling employees will be crucial to any company that’s operating in the ‘new normal’.
“Attracting and retaining a skilled and talented workforce is always going to be one of the biggest challenges that businesses face,” Storey says, “whether you're a large corporate or an early-stage business.
“Investing in learning and development opportunities for employees is now more crucial than ever, if organisations also want to stay relevant.”