To be sure, we will not be bouncing back to things as they were before the pandemic: there will be no business as usual in the post-Covid world. Rather, it will be a case of bouncing forward to a new set of circumstances and a changed environment, one that will require both mitigating measures and a large dose of adaptation - the essence of resilience.
In the context of education and re-education, here are some early predictions on what may change, offered with the usual caveats:
- Change is the new normal. The change in professional roles will be significant for any new worker starting now but expecting to work for the next 50 years. The nature of the transition or transformation will involve rapid technological change, environmental and resource constraints, mobility modifications like greater home working, etc. Anyone wishing to navigate the new landscape will require flexibility and adaptability.
- New ways of working. The concept of portfolio careers is already recognised but it will grow in both scale and speed. Career choices will be fluid and professional development more varied. The traditional paths into professions will require revision. People will therefore need to retrain throughout their working life. The idea of ‘skills fade’ will also raise its head for those who have been furloughed or unemployed for several months: this will be particularly important in highly skilled areas.
- Educating the next workers. Teaching in schools and colleges on resilience, whether personal or professional, will be important to help youngsters prepare for a turbulent future. New basic skills will have to be learnt, optimising the use of social media. There will be a greater need for structured but progressive learning and qualifications (e.g. CPD), plus refresher courses. Standards and regulation may also need to adapt.
- Non-technological drivers. Non-technical competencies such as emotional intelligence, communication, project management, leadership and collaboration are likely to become increasingly important as skill sets. In a RICS survey of members (February 2020), responses to the question ‘What skills are you planning to develop?’ showed an interest of 37.5% in project management, and 13.9% in mentoring/counselling; only 6.9% were happy with their current skill. The highest return (41.7%) was for new digital/new technology skills.
- Technological drivers. Technical developments will quickly out date competencies gained in qualifications that seemed cutting edge at the time. This will be particularly relevant when choosing a profession but it will also apply throughout one’s career. The increasing use of robotics, automation and remote monitoring will put a focus on creative positions and see a decline in manual and guarding skills. Distance learning as well as remote performance assessment will become significant elements.
- Setting new benchmarks. There will be growing expectations on companies by employees to meet new standards and performance in environmental, social and governance arenas. Employees will expect greater ethical obligations and levels of sustainable development. Climate change and activism will become main stream and require new working norms. There will be new built and natural environments as well resilient low-carbon infrastructures to maximise productivity and wellness. Connectivity and creativity will become more important.
- Protecting mental wellbeing. As complex, vulnerable systems increase pressures on staff then mental health will become an important feature for workers and employers. There will be a need to prepare and apply mental-health programmes as part of the duty-of-care responsibility and this may be for the long term.
- Coping with the demography. The ageing of the UK workforce will require reskilling and work to suit talents at all life stages. For leaders who have risen through the firm then dealing with new staff who have unfamiliar skills may no longer allow them to feel that they are the smartest person in the room. This will make the selection of talent and competence development key issues.
Not all these predictions will come to pass but one can be sure that the new world of work will be a lot different to one that existed before the pandemic. What is clear is that actions that were originally planned over several years or trends that were slowly emerging have now taken on a new lease of life and are likely to be completed or cemented sooner than previously envisaged. The path of change has suddenly accelerated.
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