Clearly no longer confined to the realms of science fiction and Silicon Valley, automation and artificial intelligence are becoming increasingly widespread throughout the modern workplace and will certainly continue to do so. Their increasing dominance is sending shockwaves through organisations and industries where, even as recently as 10 years ago, certain roles would’ve seemed rock solid against the rise of the machines. But not anymore.

In 2017, a survey by the McKinsey Global Institute suggested that as many as 375 million workers worldwide could be forced to change occupations or acquire new skills by the end of this decade, owing to artificial intelligence and automation. That’s an eye-watering (though perhaps not entirely surprising) figure. And it’s where reskilling comes in.

So what exactly is it?

Unlike upskilling, which aims to hone someone’s existing abilities, reskilling opens them up to a whole new set of aptitudes. In today’s world, this is no longer just beneficial to individuals and the organisations they work for, but often essential.

Consider the Covid-19 pandemic; huge swathes of the country’s workforce left the office one evening and found themselves perched at dining tables and in spare rooms the next day. Millions of people who’d never worked a day at home in their entire career were suddenly expected to Keep Calm and Carry On.

That in itself was a major act of reskilling. Working from home requires an entirely different way of managing your time and workload, it presents us with communication challenges we may have never faced before, and it throws open all sorts of problem-solving opportunities.

With the greatest of luck, we won’t face a challenge that sudden and all-encompassing again for a considerable amount of time. And as the dust settles around 2020, it leaves us with a perfect opportunity to formally solidify the new skills that will have been realised over the course of the year.

But let’s bring this back to where we started.

As I say, not all changes will come at us as rapidly as the one we’re currently living and working through. Relatively speaking, the rise of automation is a slow burner, which gives employers the perfect opportunity to carry out a thorough inventory of the skills they have within their workforce. A skills matrix is an excellent way of doing this.

By having full sight of the skills that people have and, crucially, where the gaps lie, you’ll have a powerful advantage as job roles become re-invented in the age of automation and requirements shift. As jobs start to shed some of their more menial tasks, there’s likely to be a greater focus on skills such as cognitive abilities, leadership and people skills, commercial skills and excellent customer service.

But let’s not lose sight of the here-and-now either; reskilling can have substantial benefits today. A 2018 report for LinkedIn revealed that a massive 94% of employees said they’d stay with a company for longer if it invested in their career development. Clearly this is a significant way to reduce unnecessary on-boarding requirements, which can often be lengthy and costly to the organisation.

Embracing reskilling will become more and more important as time goes on. So why wait?