A third of the workers worldwide were laid off or asked to accept reduced working time as consequence of the COVID pandemic impact on business, with, of course, a lot of slow – downs and bankruptcies.

These troubled times have reinforced a general feeling one could observe before, of professional uncertainty. For instance, there was a rising concern about automation, software, and virtualisation, that may lead to severe and profound mutation. Covid has probably only make it worse, as we all saw, forced to adapt, that many things and many tasks could be done remotely.

Even though our industrialised countries seem to be the less worried, as social frame and workers protection make a difference, there is single main question rising across our markets: “What will become of my job?”

This is indeed a very anxiogenic question, and the answer the market seems to provide these days lies in two words: Upskilling and Reskilling…For those of us who have been overexposed to disruption in their jobs during the lockdown, this kind of solution seems like the obvious answer. On the other hand, many of those whose jobs have been less under attack are also those who are less willing to take that road.

But what are we talking about exactly?

Upskilling is a skill building, for someone already in place.

This is what normally takes place in the context of continuing education: you already have the skill in question, but you could refine it, become more expert, or update your knowledge on the subject.

So, you will train yourself and improve your skillset, not by acquiring new skills but by pushing your abilities in fields you already master at some stage. The goal is to keep up in your current position, or possibly grow in a hierarchical fashion or take on more responsibility but staying in the same field.

Reskilling meets a business need.

The concept: the employer settles its recruitment exclusively on, the candidates’ soft skills, or interpersonal skills to hire them, on the principle that a missing technical skill can be acquired. The newcomer will then be trained in the skills essential to taking up a position.

In some cases, it may also concern an employee already working in the company. If his job becomes obsolete, for example due to the automation of his job, or a new direction taken by the company, he can benefit from reskilling to learn new skills that will allow him to occupy a position.

This is a way for the employer to avoid letting go good people who already know how the company works and what its values are.

At the same time, the labour market is facing structural problems such as the shortage of talent in certain area, or the collapse of the age pyramid in the most industrialized countries, for example. Moreover, confronted with sudden changes because of the health crisis, the executive market will know or already knows transformations in terms of recruitment. From the moment when, to overcome the shortage and new needs, companies focus on soft skills, and accept to play the game of reskilling, a major consequence will be a permeability between industries, branches, and sectors, that has never existed before.

Headhunting firms have, for a very long time, been confronted with client expectations regarding technical skills of candidates. From now on, companies will want and expect from their Hunters a real ability to assess and render an assertive appraisal about candidates’ soft skills and, more specifically, the guarantee that candidates are able and eager to learn new skills to join a new job.

In conclusion, what, at the outset, may seem a very heavy constraint for employees, and a mandatory response to a situation that they did not want, presents a real opportunity, not only to change jobs, but also and especially business sectors, thanks to employability, intellectual flexibility, and candidate’s curiosity.

Faced with a market that will automatically have fewer candidates in the next 20 years, the ability to move from one sector to another will also be added to program one’s professional success.

What seemed a constraint for the candidates therefore turns out to be a real game changer for them, who will have the decision and the final choice. It is up to companies to offer great training modules and attractive integration paths, if they want to win the war on soft skills!!!

At CFR Global Executive Search, we have been emphasizing the importance of strongly assessing soft skills since the creation of the network, and we are therefore already actors in this major transformation of the market.

Article written by Stéphane LEHIDEUX, CFR Global Executive Search France

Photo source: Unsplash

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