An increasing number of organisations around the world are looking for new ways to upskill their workforce to fill a growing amount of jobs created by the digital revolution.
In fact, business leaders are more concerned than ever about finding the right talent to fill these new roles. According to a report by PwC looking at how the skills gap hampers businesses' recruitment efforts, 96 per cent of CEOs in Africa say the availability of key skills is the biggest threat to their organisation's growth.
If prospective employees are unskilled for jobs currently available, how will they prepare for the jobs that will be created by artificial intelligence and automation? And what can companies to do to ensure they upskill or reskill their staff to stay ahead of the curve?
Microsoft suggests a few effective ways companies can upskill their staff to complement and ensure success both now and in the future. Growth in cloud technologies and adoption presents a significant step to support digital transformation across the region through upskilling and reskilling initiatives, which promise job creation and economic growth.
Encourage taking the first step
Upskilling is the process of equipping the existing workforce with new skills. By upskilling current employees, companies can fill open positions while retaining their current workforce by creating learning opportunities.
To encourage more employees to enroll in upskilling initiatives, employers should let employees know what upskilling opportunities are available to them. Companies should also offer some sort of incentive for employees who express interest in expanding their skillsets and increasing their value to the company. Opportunities for broader responsibilities, involvement in expanded assignments with high impact, and career growth will encourage more employees to develop and grow.
Invest in employee volunteer programmes
The concept of skills-based volunteering is becoming increasingly popular because it enables companies to leverage the professional skills of employees, and link their experience directly to business objectives. This in turn offers organisations the opportunity to draw on new and existing markets, while also significantly impacting volunteer employees.
Consider staff upskilling solutions and partnerships
Eighty per cent of the jobs we expect to see as soon as 2025 don't even exist yet, and according to research conducted by IDC and Microsoft, cloud computing will potentially generate more than half a million jobs across key markets in the Middle East and Africa between 2017 and 2022 - and these are not confined only to the IT profession.
In the UAE, Microsoft has partnered with One Million Arab Coders to create employment opportunities and prepare students for jobs of the future. The initiative enables young people should have access to computer science and coding education so they can develop critical, computational-thinking, problem-solving and employability skills. The partnership with the UAE Ministry of Education also supports the vision of upskilling its employees in the field of data and AI through the Microsoft Learning Partners Program.
A recent WEF report suggests that by 2022, 54 per cent of the total workforce in an organisation will require significant reskilling and upskilling to stay competitive.
Hire a diverse and inclusive workforce
Hiring and developing the best, most globally-diverse talent pool is vital in helping employees not only upskill but also change their perspectives. This is because employees who represent different markets, communities or groups provide greater insight, creativity, and innovation.
A company that actively engages different perspectives from diverse groups or differently abled people is able to challenge ideas and biases, enrich the experiences of employees, and empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.
Skills gaps are affecting industries around the world, and the Middle East and Africa is no different. If organisations are to ensure employees are adequately trained, they must partner with the right technology provider and utilise the most effective programmes to upskill present and future workforce.
The writer is chief operating and marketing officer of Microsoft UAE. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.
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