Three Reasons Why You Should Reskill Employees, by Bart Van Der Mark

Aegon and Enexis are two of the largest insurance and utilities organizations in the Netherlands. The February article “Bank Employees Are Increasingly Obsolete by Technological Advances” indicates that Aegon and Enexis plan to invest 1% of their labor costs in reskilling employees: that is, teaching them new skills in the hopes that they’ll be ready for the what some call the Fourth Industrial Revolution or the Second Machine Age. This topic was hotly debated during the 2016 World Economic Forum.

Optimistic future for the middle class

De Volkskrant, the leading media source in the Netherlands, stated that “the Second Machine Age is expected to specifically affect middle class labor.” The article reconfirms popular views that Martin Ford records in Rise of the Robots about how the “job-eating maw of technology now threatens even the nimblest and most expensively educated, employees solidly in the middle class.” Is there an optimistic view of the future for the working class? Possibly, but it requires a change in mindset for executives and employees.

Let me give you an example. Andrea is a long-standing employee of Aegon. He was informed that his current position was going to be automated by software bots. In fact, his manager explained that Andrea was going to be instrumental in supporting the development of the new digital tool. Andrea worked closely with the team to transition his former role to software, and Aegon’s HR team recommended that he redefine his skill sets across other job disciplines. Andrea accepted a new position in corporate, retooled his skills, and is now an event manager. Although the article reported that reskilling was a step in the right direction, it did not guarantee that employees like Andrea wouldn’t leave the company with their newfound skills and knowledge.

How do you deal with disruptive technologies? What exact percentage or amount should an employer spend on reskilling? Should employers even provide reskilling opportunities at all?

Three reasons to invest in your talent

Here are the three reasons why investments in reskilling employees makes sense:

  1. Skills for the future are a win-win scenario. Software automation is already having profound impacts on today’s jobs. Organizations can try to protect the jobs of today, but while favorable for employees in the short term, it will result in a lose-lose scenario for both employer and employees. And if employees leave the company without first being reskilled and hence prepared for the future, finding alternative employment will be a struggle.

2. Focus on the future. Reskilling employees helps organizations to focus on the future rather than the past. It is a way of embracing the change rather than protecting the past and fighting the inevitable. Leadership that actively accepts change and innovation will spark creativity and lead their people to think about the possibilities and opportunities of new technologies, rather than spending time and energy on defending jobs that will soon be automated.

3. Think outside the box. Leading companies think beyond the boundaries of their own organizations. They understand they are part of a bigger ecosystem and that they play a role, especially in small countries like the Netherlands, in safeguarding solidarity and the health of the economy as a whole. Through appropriately reskilling employees, they ensure a strong match between company needs, employee skills, and long-term goals.

Would you like to know more about intelligent automation and robotics? Check out a couple other interesting articles:

Opinions expressed in this blog are of the author and may not represent Cognizant’s point of view.

Bart Van der Mark

Bart has been active in the IT services industry for the past 20 years. He has ample international experience and has been…

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Originally published at digitally.cognizant.com on February 24, 2016.