Digital Upskilling

Learn: Life-long learning as a major strategic investment

In a nutshell

By upskilling, we mean preparing people for a technology-driven future. It includes the ability to interact with technology, i.e. having a high degree of digital fitness. It is also to be combined with enhanced cognitive capabilities – critical thinking, problem-solving skills, creativity, emotional intelligence and resilience. There is a clear opportunity to improve how we use intrinsically human skills and attributes, leaving machines to what they are best at. Upskilling is first and foremost a new way of thinking.

Minimising potential risks

Some business leaders might think their companies do not need upskilling, but they are mistaken. Doing nothing is no longer an option, as there will be new jobs created and companies need to be ready to have the right people and skills. New technologies have changed how we work. More and more people are being shut out from the digital economy, and this is creating social and economic risks:

  • Transformation is happening at a faster rate than people’s ability to develop their skills independently or to move into other professions and sectors.
  • Wage inequality continues to rise and this is often linked to lack of the skills that organisations need.
  • Tax receipts to governments are falling because fewer people are able to enter the world of work. At the same time, we are facing a major increase in unemployment costs in most economies.
  • There is social unrest and people are demonstrating.
  • National economies and society being undermined.

Upskilling – the imperative for action

Upskilling is more than just providing access to training; rather, it’s a key strategic investment. It requires an effective strategy to support and inspire people to take action today and continue to adapt in the future. The challenge is also to shape corporate culture so that companies and their people continue to have a place in the working world of the future. There is no going back!

Top of the agenda

Higher productivity, stronger growth, more innovative momentum and an acceleration in the digital transformation – for CEOs worldwide, these are the advantages of upskilling. In a survey, 79% of CEOs expressed concern about the availability of core skills prior to COVID-19.1 Today, a lack of people with the right skills and adapt­ability is hampering companies’ ability to thrive in a post-pandemic economy. CEOs know that their strategy and operating model need to change, but they don’t have the right people with the right skills to make their strategy a success. Organisa­tions are now rethinking their upskilling and reskilling efforts, both in the short term and the long term.

1 “PwC’s 2019 annual CEO survey”, PwC Global, 2019

Unlearn, relearn and keep on learning

77% of the world’s workforce would learn new skills today or retrain completely to boost their future employability.2 This calls for openness and a lifelong willingness to learn. Optimism about the digital future correlates with respective age and educational level.

2  “Upskilling Hopes and Fears”, PwC Global, 2019

Make vs. buy

Experience shows that developing the desired skills among existing employees is easier and cheaper than recruiting new talent. That is because most of the time the needed experts are not available or not affordable.

Cost alert!

The World Economic Forum estimates that 1.37 million jobs in the US alone are currently threatened by digital change.3 The upskilling costs are estimated at USD 34 billion or USD 24,800 per person. To spread this cost burden, companies should use networks and operate in ecosystems with other companies, customers and the government.

3  Insight Report “Towards a Reskilling Revolution”, World Economic Forum, 2018


Digital and web-based learning formats promote individual learning and are therefore highly efficient. This currently involves e-tutorials, virtual classrooms, webinars, wikis, social media, video-based learning, microblogs, simulations, serious games and augmented reality applications, and will continue to be at the forefront after COVID-19. There is a clear new paradigm for skills and talent with a new learning ecosystem.

From labour force to force of nature

A great deal of momentum is created when people drive forward technology. Companies must combine the top technologies with the best people, preferably by taking a systematic approach:

A structured approach is best:

  1. Analyse the employee environment, and identify and prioritise skills gaps.
  2. Develop a strategy for those gaps with the potential to add the most value.
  3. Invest in technology and help people understand what this means.
  4. Build a culture of continuous learning.
  5. Nurture physical and mental well-being.
  6. Set up an employee-driven innovation process.
  7. Offer personal development plans, training and coaching.
  8. Provide a motivating learning experience, time to learn and incentives or rewards.
  9. Measure learning success and employee commitment.
  10. Jointly develop and promote new job profiles.