(Photo by PeopleImages/iStock by Getty Images)

After two years of major upheaval in workplaces, more is coming. In just three years, by 2025, an estimated 97 new types of jobs will need filling, 6% of the workforce will be displaced, and one in two employees will need reskilling. “The future of work has arrived,” said Cynthia Stuckey, VP of professional services and growth for the upskilling platform Degreed.

In a presentation at From Day One’s December virtual conference on the future of work, Stuckey focused on using skills to shape the workforce, stressing that the pandemic has changed how employees see themselves. “If there’s one takeaway I’d ask you to think about, it’s the employee as a ‘market of one,'” she said. Skills and upskilling can help address many of the new worker expectations coming out of the pandemic. Workers are feeling burnt out, are willing to take less compensation for more flexibility, are becoming more disillusioned by climbing the career ladder, and want control over how, when, and where they work, Stuckey said.

New policies should prioritize flexibility and virtual resources, as well as support new skills and different levels of skill proficiencies, she said. Other workplace transformations, according to Stuckey, include new digitized work processes, ESG and human capital accounting, and the growing urgency around skills management and upskilling. “All of these changes indicate one common theme: new skills, reskilling, the need to understand technology, the need to personalize the way we serve an employee,” Stuckey said.

“It’s far easier to upskill and reskill someone committed to your mission, driven and passionate about what you do, than it is to go hire,” Stuckey said. She pointed out that the annual cost of worker attrition comes in at an estimated $47 billion.

Cynthia Stuckey, VP of professional services and growth for Degreed (Photo courtesy of Degreed)

So how can companies reimagine workplaces that respond to these different changes and prioritize reskilling? “My belief is that in talent, L&D and HR, there’s a challenge in front of you to really reflect on your life cycle,” said Stuckey. “Map that life cycle and your employee proposition against that ‘market of one.’” Work, she said, must be reimagined around the human-centric expectations of the employees. One of the biggest priorities should be investing in a “culture of learning,” Stuckey said. She pointed to a few companies–JP Morgan Chase, Accenture, Amazon and AT&T–that have made big investments in upskilling and retraining. “Many of them have decided to look at how they’ll do a skills-management strategy and how they’ll upskill employees to stay competitive,” she noted.

Continual learning is important too, as the half-life of a learned skill is 3.5 years and for a technical skill, just two years. “There’s new software, new complexities that my current skills won’t align to,” Stuckey said. “Skills are decaying faster and faster, and new skills are being required, and that requires continual learning.”

Skills in high demand, she noted, include “power skills” like communication, teamwork, and flexibility, as well as technical skills like cybersecurity and artificial intelligence. She described another important skill as “learning management.” Said Stuckey: “What I want to call out is that it’s about learning agility and an intense desire to learn.”

Looking ahead, companies will need up-to-date data about employees’ current skills, as well as a willingness to engage employees in learning, retraining, and empowerment. “We need better integrations and experiences,” Stuckey said. About 75% to 80% of workers don’t complete their HR system’s talent profile and more than 60% of the workforce isn’t getting regular feedback on their performance or skills. Eight of ten CEOs say lack of key skills is a serious threat to their growth, Stuckey said.

She recommends that employers connect skills development to employee expectations and technology. That means collecting current data on the supply of skills and skills demands, as well as integrated learning systems, the sources of learning content, and real-life opportunities to put skills to work.

“It’s about underpinning your business with knowing what capabilities and skills you need, so you can prepare for the work that needs to get done today, tomorrow and next year,” she said. “It will enable you to get ready for some of these shifts, like Covid, like new strategies, like new market changes.”

Emily Nonko is a Brooklyn, NY-based reporter who writes about real estate, architecture, urbanism and design. Her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York magazine, Curbed and other publications.