Comment: Mindset key to thriving in the digital workplace

Lucy Murdoch, MD of Accenture's global corporate citizenship delivery team, explains which skills will boost employability in the economy of the future.

Seven in ten employers in Scotland are not confident about filling their high skilled future jobs.
Seven in ten employers in Scotland are not confident about filling their high skilled future jobs.

One frequently cited estimate suggests that 65 per cent of children starting school today will one day hold jobs that currently do not exist, simply because of the unprecedented pace of technological evolution.

Increased global connectivity, exponential advances in processing power, the flow of accumulated data and rapidly dropping price points are fuelling technology innovation at a speed and scale we have not seen before. We are beginning to understand what this means for jobs and there is a growing acknowledgement that the issue must be tackled as a matter of urgency.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Today, approximately eight in ten middle skilled jobs in the US require basic digital skills, and digitally-intensive middle skilled jobs are growing 2.5 times faster than their analogue counterparts. The trends point to greater use of digital collaboration tools, project-based work and fluid working arrangements.

Perhaps it is not surprising, therefore, that respondents to a recent Accenture survey believed adaptability would be the most valuable skill to have in ten years’ time.

Giustina Mizzoni, who pioneered the CoderDojo network of free computing clubs for young people around the world, says: “Adaptability is the most important skill – one that we should be cultivating. If you are an adaptable and resilient person, you will be able to change quickly and meet the evolving needs of the world.”

But how do we cultivate the open mindset that will have the capacity for constant learning, which is fundamental to match the pace of change?

This is one of the questions addressed by our report New Skills Now: Inclusion in the Digital Economy. Researched and compiled by the Accenture corporate citizenship team, the report hopes to inspire action to drive critical skills development and prepare workers of all backgrounds for success, today and tomorrow. In Scotland, we presented the report’s insights at a roundtable event to some of our Skills to Succeed partners, who recognise that Scotland has its own imminent challenge.

Scottish jobs are set to increase 3 per cent by 2027 (a net rise of approximately 90,000 jobs), yet 69 per cent of employers in Scotland are not confident about filling their high skilled future jobs. At the same time, up to 46 per cent of Scottish jobs are at high risk of automation and there is evidence of a “squeezed middle” in job creation – growth in high and low skilled work at the expense of middle skilled jobs.

There was resounding agreement at the event that work in the digital economy will not be restricted to one employer, job or team. People will need to constantly learn new skills to remain relevant, backing up our own research, which found the ability to manipulate digital tools will become critically important in the next five years.

In addition to big data analysis of in-demand skill trends, a review of skill frameworks and a landscape scan of 1,000 workforce development programmes, we interviewed experts in a range of fields, from neuroscience and corporate learning to education and workforce development. Their insights helped identify the skillsets and capabilities needed for inclusion in the digital jobs market.

We concluded there are a number of core competencies required for success. We must “learn to earn”, which covers the employability skills needed to thrive in the future workplace. We must acquire the knowhow to use, interpret, manipulate and create technologies and data; be able to interact, build relationships and grow self-awareness to work well virtually, in person, and in human/machine teams; and develop strong creative thinking and problem solving abilities, drawing on empathy and logic. Thereafter, specialist skills and industry expertise to address local market priorities can be addressed.

The pivot on which all this turns is a growth mindset. It is this attitude that provides the agility, resilience, curiosity and love of learning required to adapt, specialise and transition in the new economy.

Instilling that love of learning early is critical, perhaps above anything else, if people are to thrive as the economy and labour market evolve. But there is also significant opportunity and need for workforce development to focus on cultivating the growth mindset of existing employees, given its importance for navigating rapid technological change.

The final, sobering facts that our research found are that while 63per cent of business leaders expect a net gain in jobs from using artificial intelligence in the next three years, only 3 per cent of executives plan to significantly increase investment in skills development programmes in that time.

We all know the world of work is changing, but are we ready? Sharing ideas on how to improve the current framework of skills development, how to build new skills now and how to make them stick for the future, needs to happen as a matter of some urgency.