May 03, 2017
Building a future-ready workforce: Learn, unlearn, relearn. Repeat.
By: Sanjeev Vohra

As the onslaught of digital and new technologies continues to disrupt entire industries, adaptability and a willingness to quickly rotate to the new has never been more critical. This holds true both for enterprises striving to become digital leaders, and for their employees.

#NewIT takes properly-skilled people, & we’ve already trained 70K of our own in the past year—our @sanvohra

At work, we rub digital shoulders with artificial intelligence (AI) and machines to do our jobs better. We work with colleagues on the other side of the globe, whether they’re human or not, many of whom we’ll never meet. Areas of practice that once seemed impossible to digitize are fundamentally changing under the impact of AI, Internet of Things and Big Data analytics.

It’s not just businesses that are being transformed; technology is transforming the nature of work too. Automation is radically altering the in-demand skillsets. As machines begin to handle many routine tasks previously done by people, technology workers need to be continuously reskilled on the latest technologies and practices. At the same time, organizations often grapple with defining and introducing entirely new roles that never existed.

Our own journey

With a workforce of more than 400,000 professionals, Accenture is a people-powered business. We believe that as an organization, we have a responsibility to invest in our people, and that means equipping 400,000 plus people with the right skills for today and the future. Accenture as an organization is rotating to the new—cloud, digital and security—all powered by New IT. We are proactively training and up-skilling thousands of people in key areas such as cloud, artificial intelligence and robotics. But, New IT is more than new technologies; it uses new architectures, methods and tools to drive a shift from “project” orientation to continuous development and liquid delivery of application services. In New IT alone, we have already trained more than 70,000 people in just one year.

In addition, we have several ongoing tie-ups and collaborations with leading research and educational institutes to provide cutting-edge technology education to our employees. For instance, our 10-year-old collaboration with MIT Professional Education has seen 100,000 employees worldwide receive more than 16 million hours of quality training and skills. We have tie-ups with several entities across MIT, with focus on learning, research and recruiting to spur innovation for both organizations.

We started on this journey years ago, ensuring we were putting significant resources into organic reskilling for our people. We have already invested more than $900 million in training to ensure that we have the best skilled people and are able to attract the best talent. In addition, we are complementing our existing workforce with top-notch talent from the market, acquiring deep skills in niche areas through recruitment as well as acquisitions. This two-pronged strategy has served us well, as it allows us to expand our capabilities at a rapid clip while nurturing a highly adaptable, flexible workforce.

The way forward

As artificial intelligence and automation become increasingly pervasive and take over portions of people’s jobs, it is essential to acquire new skills to stay relevant and chart new career paths. We can debate endlessly whether there will be more jobs or fewer jobs in the future but one thing is certain: employees as well as organizations must prepare for new roles and skills, and prepare for them fast.

In this disruptive world, workforces must be built to adapt, to embrace new business strategies and continuously learn new skill sets. The responsibility for this falls as much on the organizations as the people who work for them. In an environment where new skills emerge as fast as others become extinct, “learnability,” or the capacity to learn new skills and adapt quickly, matters more than what a worker already knows. They should be ready to learn, unlearn and relearn. Organizations that are willing to enable this learning journey will be able to not only address current skill shortages but also anticipate the demands of the future.

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