Reinventing Myself in times of worldwide shift. by Helena M. Herrero Lamuedra

Reinventing Myself in times of worldwide shift. by Helena M. Herrero Lamuedra


“You want a revolution,
I want a revelation.
So listen to my declaration.” Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton


These times of global turmoil demand personal and professional reinvention. With many others you will feel the urge of reinventing yourself.

This article is a mosaic of personal experiences, as well as valuable insights gathered from conversations with coaching clients. It is aimed to spark a reflective pathway to start a journey of reinvention.


Many of us (mostly those with careers in corporate America) usually reach a point (prompted by stage of life, stage of the business, or stage of circumstance), in which we ask ourselves why and how to move forward with our lives -personally and professionally. We have forged a reputation backed by solid and successful careers based on 3 or 4 tricks that we do very well and which have permitted us to score some serious successes. So why change? And why now?


The current COVID-19 new-normal is providing a state-of-the-art springboard for personal reinvention. It metamorphosed the world as we knew it in a few days, tearing down “the way things were” into a new norm. The nudge to reinvent ourselves is self-evident.

Many of us don’t have places to go back to, or careers to resume, or business opportunities to realize. As Eric McNulty (Harvard University) says, resilience is not the ability to bounce back, but to bounce forward.


So here we are, without a world to go back to, and unsure where to bounce forward.


Prof. Carol Dweck (Stanford University and author) has laid the invaluable concepts of fixed and growth mindset. In my appreciation a fixed mindset is “the world is as it is. I am as I am. And that is that.”. Growth mindset as I see it deals with the concept of “things transform. There are many possible futures, and I can change.”


This second framework constitutes a venue for exploration, a radical necessary activity to realize personal reinvention. As Satya Nadella (Microsoft CEO) states, moving from a place of experts to a mindset of learners permits breakthroughs in technology… personally and professionally. When we are in the learner mindset, we are curious and ask questions; we allow ourselves to laugh at the incongruencies; we seek the company of others (and listen to them!); and we crowdsource our way forward.


Learning is about expanding what is known (the cozy, comfortable, predictable, “and who I am”), to allow ourselves some discomfort by trying and testing what we have never done. It’s about allowing revolution, revelation, declaration… or the three of them at the same time! It is moving from “this is who I am” to “this is what I am becoming” and opening endless possibilities.

This is a state-of-mind that practitioners in design thinking and futures thinking leverage systematically. It can yield surprising, expanded and inclusive results.

In my personal experience, the practice of yoga constituted a “via regia”. It has taught me to explore flexibility, find inner space, stretch where it seems I couldn’t, and see things from different perspectives as I do upside-down poses.

Finding a nurturing conversation between body and mind relays in four pillars: balance, strength, flexibility and opening. And most importantly, transitioning in and out of poses, finding and letting go in the flow.


Let me share 5 suggested-to-do strategies, certainly not new, that I “bundled” around the journey of personal reinvention, to prompt action for those that are ready to try:

  1. Be aware of the company you keep: the motivational speaker Jim Rohn states that you are (at least in part) a result of the 5 people you more frequently and extensively interact with. Design who you will pick as partners for your journey, make sure your buddies embody curiosity, exploration, and a good sense of humor..
  2. Design your day-to-day for exploration: if you want to lose weight, don’t leave a cake on your kitchen counter! Give yourself space and time to try new things, such as brushing your teeth with “the other hand”. That will start to create “memories” of “things done differently”.
  3. Exercise!: whatever you do, use your full lung capacity, raise your metabolism, elevate your cellular vibration. It is easier to change when your body is prepared and willing to. Convert your body into your ally for reinvention.
  4. Use frequently the “what if” mind frame, as in “what if I can respond differently?”, “what if she didn’t mean what I thought?”, “what if there is another way to solve this?”.
    Unstuck your brain from “there is only one possible way”,
    and start entertaining other possibilities.
  5. Keep a diary: collect your thoughts, and see your new
    self revealing in the pages. Articulating in handwriting your thoughts will reduce anxiety and create some distance with emotions, and will prompt reflection and subsequent action.

Last but not least, when in doubt, revert to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words: “Every wall is a door”.

Happy Reinvention!

Unlearning & Relearning.

Unlearning & Relearning.

By Deb Geyer | Chief Responsibility Officer, Stanley Black & Decker

The benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) draw closer. They’re starting to feel real, almost within reach, promising greater value that extends across the business community and touches all levels of society. Which means we’re at the point where we could take them for granted and miss out entirely. Fully realizing the potential of 4IR will require a more inventive, inclusive approach to talent development, and some serious unlearning of outmoded ways, paired with learning contemporary methods. Today, even as 10 million global manufacturing jobs remain unfilled due to gaps in skills and education – gaps that will only widen as Industry 4.0 technologies advance – the 4IR future requires all of us to unlearn and relearn in order to create new paths forward.

As you think about the changes your organization will need to make to compete and grow in this shifting environment, here are a few insights based on our own journey.

Make unlearning and relearning part of your talent roadmap

Any upskilling roadmap today must build human capital through personalized learning and continual development. Learning needs to be ubiquitous, part of the job. In our case, the learning mix includes advanced vocational training, STEAM education, a certification programme specifically designed for our workforce, and new maker spaces – hands-on innovation environments that offer a wide range of equipment for training, upskilling and hackathons.

But we have found the paired “unlearning and relearning” opportunities we are creating are in some aspects more powerful, and are accelerating overall growth in unexpected ways. For example, at our Lighthouse Facility in Jackson, Tennessee, we are pairing people who are early in their career with experienced employees to accelerate mutual unlearning and relearning in areas such as human-machine interfaces, connecting digital and engineering disciplines across generations. It’s a collaborative model worthy of replication in the 4IR future.

The multiplier effect from such an intensified focus on development is clear. A shop-floor operator named Lana, who works in a different area of the Jackson facility, stands out in this regard. Lana not only embraced her training, she also began training the other operators in her area. She also took it upon herself to optimize the way all of the machines were set up.

Imagine collaborative co-mentoring models and employees like Lana emerging at scale, and you begin to see how an unlearning-inspired talent roadmap could empower 10 million makers and creators to thrive in the 2030 economy.

Align development efforts with next-generation curricula

As the pace of change accelerates, organizations will increasingly need to invest more learning and development resources not only in their own workforces but in the broader labour markets and surrounding communities – and do so for the long term. Partnerships with public and private organizations offer compelling solutions that both strengthen today’s workforce and reshape curricula for the next generation of students.

For example, Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), a partnership model designed by IBM in 2011, provides local high school students with an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in a vocational field. Students graduate with both a high school degree, a no-cost, industry-recognized associate degree, and relevant experience they can immediately apply in a high-paying “new-collar” job.

By investing both in the current workforce and in tomorrow’s, organizations can ensure that we are strengthening the talent pipeline and our communities for the long run.

The coming decade will be a pivotal time for organizations to establish successful 4IR trajectories. This requires a willingness to unlearn, learn and relearn the concept of accountability.

The way we think about our own 4IR prospects is best expressed by our new 2030 corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy, which specifically aligns with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and represents the most material issues for our organization.

Pursuing that strategy on a global enterprise scale has required us to develop a rigorous governance structure and process, and keep improving it. For the past two years, our CSR strategy has been supported by multiple levels of oversight across the company, all the way up to the executive steering committee, which includes the CEO, CFO and senior vice-president of HR; it is also championed by the corporate governance committee of the board of directors.

Now we’ve taken another step, adding an external advisory panel consisting of expert stakeholders who advise on CSR strategy. The enhanced governance structure provides board-level rigour and best-practice guidance to ensure that the company continues to meet its stated goals not only in terms of product and environment, but also from the standpoint of talent and governance. While we are in the early stages of rolling out this new structure, we believe that organizations will need to continue to raise the governance bar and take a more comprehensive approach to ensure accountability.

On the path to 2030

I sometimes think about this process of unlearning, learning and relearning as a kind of cook book – a living repository of successful recipes to transform business models in collaborative ways.

The ambitious goals of 2030, combined with the unmet societal needs we encounter every day, favour such an approach. You cannot progress and succeed in the 4IR without advancing the people who brought you there. The next decade, and the many innovations it holds, will come at us fast. We must be bold and seize this moment, both with a willingness to invest in talent and in our communities in completely novel ways, and with a recognition that greater governance is not a check on progress but a catalyst for positive change.

Leaders fit for the Future.

Leaders fit for the Future.

Lee Waller, Viki Culpin, Sona Sharratt, Paula Bradbury

The path from a successful functional role to organizational leadership is well trodden and well known. In recent years though, navigating this path has begun to require an increasingly sophisticated set of skills, as the environment in which leaders lead has become significantly more complex and fluid. With the coming era of AI – when interaction between humans and machines will be critical, the skillsets leaders require will become more sophisticated still.

The generation of leaders whose skills and outlook were honed in the pre-digital, pre-globalization age, were operating in a relatively stable environment. Computer power and the internet had made life easier, but technology had not yet brought the market and societal disruptions heralded by the tech pioneers of the early 2000s and heightened during the past decade.  

Our recent research, culminating in our report Learning to Lead in the 21st Centuryfocuses on the capabilities and skills, and the forward-looking mindset, that today’s leaders need to succeed in a world characterized by rapid technological advance, globalization, changes in societal attitudes, and market disruption, not to mention economic and political volatility. It also considers the most effective means of developing those skills – which we will touch upon here.

What Today’s Leaders Wish They’d Known

528 executives, of diverse ages and experience were asked what cognitive, social, emotional and behavioural skills they wished they had gained ten years previously, that would have most increased their effectiveness as leaders now.

In order of prevalence, these were the top five capabilities perceived as important:

Relational SkillsLeading OthersEmotional IntelligenceTechnical SkillsConfidence

Participants also described critical incidents and events that had taught them valuable lessons. These were the top five mentioned:

ExperienceFailurePersonal DevelopmentTechnologyMajor Life Events

Participants also divulged that they didn’t know enough about, or didn’t possess enough of, the following:

Technical KnowledgeTraining & EducationUnderstanding of the OrganizationLeadership      SkillsCommunication &  Negotiation

These were the top five ways participants believed they might be able to develop their skills for the future:

Learning by DoingLearning through PeopleFormal LearningExtra-Curricular LearningA Growth Mindset

These were the five things participants thought most likely to derail career progression:

Lack of Knowledge & ExpertiseLow Emotional IntelligenceLack of ConfidenceNot Adapting to New Technology Poor   Communication   Skills

The Leadership Skills Needed Today

The participants point to a number of capabilities, essential for those now learning to lead, which they wish they had acquired ten years ago. Above all else they highlight the need for strong relational skills and the ability to communicate effectively in order to lead others. Acquisition of knowledge and expertise as well the development of greater emotional intelligence and confidence were key factors.

The ability to understand and adapt to new technology was a priority stressed by many. The importance of learning from failure and the value of feedback were also highlighted, both being seen as confidence-boosting (and confidence being something a great many participants wish they had had more of, earlier in their careers).

To operate effectively in a volatile, fast changing environment, two other key capabilities were suggested by the research. First, the need to have a ‘growth mindset’ – one that enjoys a challenge, seeks new opportunities and constantly seeks to learn. And secondly, the importance of ‘learning agility’ – which can be defined as curiosity and the ability to adapt well to change and new ideas. Both these capabilities, which rely heavily on learning from experience and from the evolving environment, are capabilities which embrace and welcome innovation and change, and are thus clearly essential for leadership success in the 21st Century.

Acquiring Skills and Learning to Lead

In our research we found that the development being offered needs to be tailored, both in terms of seniority and gender. Younger leaders and less senior leaders emphasised a need or preference for formal development, whereas older or more senior leaders emphasised on-the-job learning.

The 70:20:10 principle – the idea that development comes 70% from on-the-job experiences; 20% from feedback from colleagues and the boss; and 10% from formal training – may need rethinking. In today’s fast paced environment, where keeping up-to-speed with the latest knowledge, technologies, and expertise are key, formal development may have a greater role to play. For the younger participants, formal development came out as the top theme, with first line and middle managers reporting education and training as the most valuable factor supporting their career success.

L&D professionals should consider offering more formal development opportunities directed towards junior and middle level roles within organizations. Whereas to develop older and more senior leaders, emphasis should be placed on identifying experiential, on-the-job learning opportunities and coaching.

Gender differences were also present here, in terms of the skills participants considered important to future success. Perhaps counter-intuitively, female participants were more concerned about a lack of emotional intelligence while male leaders were most concerned about a lack of knowledge and expertise.

Conclusions

A number of lessons can be drawn from our research: the importance of relational skills to performance throughout a leadership career; the need for a growth mindset and learning agility; and the ever-present need to up-date knowledge, and adapt to new technology; the importance of experiential learning; and the need for formal development – perhaps more than is generally given.

Learning these lessons successfully relies of course on individual application – with the support of L&D professionals tailoring learning. Paramount even to that though, is organizational culture. An organization able to address these issues is one that encourages the development of agile learning and growth mindsets by developing a culture that fosters trust, respect and psychological safety, supports risk taking and entrepreneurial behavior, and emphasizes continuous learning.

Working Longer and Differently: The 21st Century Innovation Model

Working Longer and Differently: The 21st Century Innovation Model

To unleash productivity, innovation, and growth in the 21st century, we must realign discussions about the future of work to recognise the importance of aging and longevity – unprecedented, accelerating trends that are reshaping economies, societies and individual lives around the globe. Human history has never seen such a dramatic demographic transformation, with a billion over 60 – doubling by mid-century – lives reaching 100 as a matter of course and a world that has more old than young. This megatrend opens an opportunity to power historic prosperity, but only if employers and others across global society lead innovative strategies to transform the future of work for the era of longevity. As the World Economic Forum put it over a decade ago in their seminal Peril or Promise, the paths are clear and stark.

Despite the wide-reaching impacts of aging and longevity, conversations about the future of work typically focus on other trends. These are certainly important, but they’re not the whole story. Digitalisation is changing how we work – new tools enable virtual work, and artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies drive automation that is creating, disrupting and changing how we work and at what. There’s also an ongoing transformation of who works, as women have entered the workforce in huge numbers and employers focus on diversity and inclusion. Additionally, new types of enterprises are changing what work people do, with the rise of new industries like home care and new work models like the gig economy. Twentieth century manufacturing is being replaced by 21st century services.

Each of these reflects a broader trend in society, yet expert discussions still too often ignore perhaps the most fundamental shift in today’s world. This is population aging – a historic shift that impacts nearly every aspect of life and is only now picking up speed. As S&P Global warned in their equally prescient report about the same time as WEF’s, “No other force is likely to shape the future of national economic health, public finances, policymaking [and markets] as the irreversible rate at which the world’s population is aging”.

In the growing number of “super-aged” countries, like Japan and Germany, older adults already make up more than 20% of the population – and counting. At the same time, lives are longer than ever, routinely reaching into our 80s, 90s, and beyond.

Though this demographic shift has often been framed as an economic and workforce challenge, it actually opens up a number of opportunities. According to Aegon’s global survey of more than 16,000 people, nearly 70% of respondents envision working in some capacity later in life – transforming the traditional retirement model to create a new period for productivity and income.  In fact, OECD countries could realise a cumulative USD 2 trillion long-term increase in GDP if they raised the employment rate for those over 55 to match that of Sweden, the best in the OECD.

Research has found that these older workers bring different perspectivesimportant institutional knowledge and valuable mentoring skills. They can drive innovation and help to design products and services for the massive “silver market” of older consumers. And by extending their careers, they can support the fiscal sustainability of public and private institutions. Moreover, as the data around activity and healthy aging accumulates, working longer is also good for people’s health, and therefore societies’ exploding health costs.

However, there are several barriers to this longevity opportunity. To shape the future of work through the lens of aging, employers and partners in government must implement forward-looking responses to address three challenges.

First, while a growing number of employers recognise the demographic shift, few are actually taking action. Workplace policies that support later-life employment – new and creative benefit structures and innovation on work itself, such as phased retirement and new roles for older workers – have been adopted by some innovative organisations, but remain relatively rare.

Second, ageism is widespread in both the workplace and society. According to Deloitte’s global survey of business leaders, just 18% said that age is viewed as an advantage at their organisation, and 20% see it as an outright disadvantage. This reflects ageist attitudes across society, where it’s often assumed – falsely – that a 70 year old should not be working, is a drag on their employer and is taking the job of a younger person. Wrong, but a persistent myth.

Third, our underlying societal and policy structures are not aligned with aging and longevity. Consider education: currently, our institutions support learning until our early 20s, but then stop entirely. In the era of longevity, we need new models to support lifelong learning. And we need to reinvent a number of other social structures, including work and retirement, healthcare delivery and housing. In short, we need a new social contract.

Employers can overcome these challenges, and there are rich incentives to do so. Leaders in this area will tap into an underutilised, valuable talent pool, reach a huge consumer market and realise key competitive advantages. In the near future, not having an aging strategy – guided by principles for the multi-generational workplace – will seem as outmoded as not having a digital or green strategy.

The opportunity – for employers, policy-makers and society – is to design a new social contract that aligns to our 21st century’s demographic realities. Reimagining the future of work in light of aging, and then translating that vision into concrete changes, is an essential step forward.

We need a new conversation about aging and the future of work – including voices like yours.

  • How do you think work, jobs and careers will change as a result of aging and longevity?
  • What are the most important changes that employers and employees can take?
  • What are the wider social and policy efforts needed to realise the economic potential of longevity and the silver economy?
  • What are the most important opportunities and challenges for workers, employers and other stakeholders?
  • Where does the balance stand between employer and employee responsibilities for action?

Source: OECD Forum Network

Four Ways Work Will Change in the Future

Four Ways Work Will Change in the Future

At a Stanford symposium, experts discuss shifting education expectations, technology’s impact, and new worker demands.

By Louise Lee

In the future, a traditional college degree will remain useful to build fundamental skills, but after graduation, workers will be expected to continue their education throughout their careers.

Workers, for instance, may increasingly pursue specific job-oriented qualifications or applied credentials in incremental steps in flexible, lower-cost programs, says Jeff Maggioncalda, chief executive of online learning company Coursera.

Maggioncalda, who received his MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1996, spoke at “The Future of Work,” an all-day symposium held at Stanford’s Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center on August 30.

Speakers explored the changing workplace, new possibilities for higher education, and technology’s impact on careers and industries.

Embracing the Liberal Arts

Students are hesitating to major in the humanities and social sciences out of fear that those degrees will lead only to low-wage jobs, says Harry Elam, Jr.., Stanford’s senior vice provost for education. Yet those fields remain crucially important to industry, which needs liberal arts students for countless tasks, such as to help understand biases in data, facilitate collaboration, bring insight, provide historical perspective, and “humanize technology in a data-driven world,” he says.

For instance, machines should not only function but should also optimize human welfare. What if a self-driving car needs to go faster than the speed limit to avoid an accident? Should that car be allowed to break the law? These kinds of questions of the new digital economy “all require diversity of thought, diversity of approach, and diversity of background to address these complex issues,” Elam says.Those who major in the humanities or social sciences, especially fields like philosophy and public policy, can easily develop transferable skills that employers value, says Trent Hazy, a current student at Stanford GSB and co-founder of MindSumo, a firm that connects college students with employers by inviting students to submit solutions to challenges that companies post online.

Because many employers seek candidates comfortable with data and data analysis, humanities majors who also learn some quantitative skills by taking classes in, say, statistics or logic will have an advantage over those who don’t, says Hazy.

Learning Throughout Life

Speakers generally agreed that the traditional brick-and-mortar college campus will certainly remain because the face-to-face encounters in and outside the classroom are educationally and socially valuable. After graduation, though, employees will increasingly need continuing education to stay competitive, and companies recognize that, says Julia Stiglitz, vice-president at Coursera who earned her Stanford MBA in 2010. Already, some large firms such as AT&T use online learning in a “massive reskilling effort” to re-train workers. “There are all of these educational opportunities that are open to anyone who has the will and desire and ability to go through it, and as a result I think we’re going to see all sorts of new people come into fields they otherwise wouldn’t have access to,” she says.Anant Agarwal, professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and chief executive of online learning firm edX, adds that workers may think of continual training and education through online classes as earning “micro-credentials” that could garner credit toward a full degree at a traditional institution. Individuals could earn multiple micro-credentials over years, perhaps beginning even with a “micro-bachelor’s” in high school as a head start on an undergraduate degree, he says.Michael Moe, co-founder of GSV Asset Management, notes that over the course of their careers, people will augment “the three R’s” of reading, writing, and arithmetic that they learned early in life with “the four C’s” of critical thinking, communication, creativity, and cultural fluency.

Restructuring Roles and Workweeks

Research suggests that by 2030, about half of today’s jobs will be gone. Speakers agreed that automation will perform many current blue-collar and white-collar jobs, while independent contractors will fill a large fraction of future positions. Robots and other automation in the short term will displace individual workers, but technology over the long term is likely to create new economic opportunity and new jobs. “While automation eats jobs, it doesn’t eat work,” says Moe.Future workers’ attitudes toward employment will be different from those of today’s workers, forcing companies to change how they recruit and retain. In a survey of college students, respondents indicated that they highly value work-life balance and are interested in working from home one or two days a week, says Roberto Angulo, chief executive of AfterCollege, a career network for college students and recent graduates. “Students are switching from living for their work and shifting more toward making a living so they can actually enjoy life,” he says.Other shifts in demographics will force employers to rethink how they structure work and benefits. Many aging “baby boomers,” for instance, are remaining in the workforce past the traditional retirement age of 65 and may demand fewer hours or shorter workweeks. “There are different things people value at different ages,” says Guy Berger, economist at LinkedIn.

Aiming for Equity

Companies are committing to a diverse workforce for varying motivations. Some believe that diverse teams are just “smarter and more creative,” says Joelle Emerson, adjunct lecturer at Stanford GSB and founder and chief executive of diversity strategy firm Paradigm. Other firms, especially technology companies, believe that they’re disproportionately responsible for designing the future and therefore it’s simply wrong to leave entire communities out of their teams, Emerson says.Overall, Emerson adds, companies must understand that the same strategies that increase diversity also boost a range of other positive outcomes as well. For instance, “When people feel like they belong at work, they perform significantly better,” she says. They take fewer sick days and less time off.Speakers cited various initiatives designed to increase inclusion, such as reacHire, which trains and supports women re-entering the workforce, and Stanford’s Distinguished Careers Institute, which brings individuals with 20 to 30 years of career experience to campus for a year of “intergenerational connection” and learning with undergrads and graduate students. “There are so many people who are not 18- to 22-year-olds who are still interested in being alive, alert, connected, and contributing,” says Kathryn Gillam, the institute’s executive director.“Diversity is a fact, inclusion is a practice, equity is a goal,” says Dereca Blackmon, Stanford associate dean and director of the Diversity and First Generation Office.

The Future of Work is here… what are you doing about it?

The Future of Work is here… what are you doing about it?

#futureofwork #digitaltransformation #shiftmindset #leadership

Retraining and reskilling workers in the age of automation

The world of work faces an epochal transition. By 2030, according to the a recent McKinsey Global Institute report, as many as 375 million workers—or roughly 14 percent of the global workforce—may need to switch occupational categories as digitization, automation, and advances in artificial intelligence disrupt the world of work. The kinds of skills companies require will shift, with profound implications for the career paths individuals will need to pursue.
How big is that challenge?
In terms of magnitude, it’s akin to coping with the large-scale shift from agricultural work to manufacturing that occurred in the early 20th century in North America and Europe, and more recently in China. But in terms of who must find new jobs, we are moving into uncharted territory. Those earlier workforce transformations took place over many decades, allowing older workers to retire and new entrants to the workforce to transition to the growing industries. But the speed of change today is potentially faster. The task confronting every economy, particularly advanced economies, will likely be to retrain and redeploy tens of millions of mid-career, middle-age workers. As the MGI report notes, “there are few precedents in which societies have successfully retrained such large numbers of people.”
So far, growing awareness of the scale of the task ahead has yet to translate into action. Indeed, public spending on labor-force training and support has fallen steadily for years in most member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). Nor do corporate-training budgets appear to be on any kind of upswing.
But that may be about to change.
Among companies on the front lines, according to a recent McKinsey survey, executives increasingly see investing in retraining and “upskilling” existing workers as an urgent business priority—and they also believe that this is an issue where corporations, not governments, must take the lead. Our survey, which was in the field in late 2017, polled more than 1,500 respondents from business, the public sector, and not for profits across regions, industries, and sectors. The analysis that follows focuses on answers from roughly 300 executives at companies with more than $100 million in annual revenues.
Among this group, 66 percent see “addressing potential skills gaps related to automation/digitization” within their workforce as at least a “top-ten priority.” Nearly 30 percent put it in the top five. The driver behind this sense of urgency is the accelerating pace of enterprise-wide transformation. Looking back over the past five years, only about a third of executives in our survey said technological change had caused them to retrain or replace more than a quarter of their employees.
But when they look out over the next five years, that narrative changes.
Sixty-two percent of executives believe they will need to retrain or replace more than a quarter of their workforce between now and 2023 due to advancing automation and digitization. The threat looms larger in the United States and Europe (64 percent and 70 percent respectively) than in the rest of the world (only 55 percent)—and it is felt especially acutely among the biggest companies. Seventy percent of executives at companies with more than $500 million in annual revenues see technological disruption over the next five years affecting more than a quarter of their workers.
Appropriately, this keen sense of the challenge ahead comes with a strong feeling of ownership. While they clearly do not expect to solve this alone—forging creative partnerships with a wide range of relevant players, for example, will be critical—by a nearly a 5:1 margin, the executives in our latest survey believe that corporations, not governments, educators, or individual workers, should take the lead in trying to close the looming skills gap. That’s the view of 64 percent of the private-sector executives in the United States who see this as a top-ten priority issue, and 59 percent in Europe
As for solutions, 82 percent of executives at companies with more than $100 million in annual revenues believe retraining and reskilling must be at least half of the answer to addressing their skills gap. Within that consensus, though, were clear regional differences. Fully 94 percent of those surveyed in Europe insisted the answer would either be an equal mix of hiring and retraining or mainly retraining versus a strong but less resounding 62 percent in this camp in the United States. By contrast, 35 percent of Americans thought the challenge would have to be met mainly or exclusively by hiring new talent, compared to just 7 percent in this camp in Europe
Now the bad news: only 16 percent of private-sector business leaders in this group feel “very prepared” to address potential skills gaps, with roughly twice as many feeling either “somewhat unprepared” or “very unprepared.” The majority felt “somewhat prepared”—hardly a clarion call of confidence.
What are the main barriers? About one-third of executives feel an urgent need to rethink and upgrade their current HR infrastructure. Many companies are also struggling to figure out how job roles will change and what kind of talent they will require over the next five to ten years. Some executives who saw this as a top priority—42 percent in the United States, 24 percent in Europe, and 31 percent in the rest of the world—admit they currently lack a “good understanding of how automation and/or digitization will affect our future skills needs.”
Such a high degree of anxiety is understandable. In our experience, too much traditional training and retraining goes off the rails because it delivers no clear pathway to new work, relies too heavily on theory versus practice, and fails to show a return on investment. Generation, a global youth employment not for profit founded in 2015 by McKinsey, deliberately set out to address those shortcomings. Operating in five countries across over 20 professions, Generation operates programs that focus on targeting training to where strong demand for jobs exists and gathers the data needed to prove the return on investment (ROI) to learners and employers. As a result, Generation’s more than 16,000 graduates have over 82 percent job placement, 72 percent job retention at one year, and two to six times higher income than prior to the program. Generation will soon pilot a new initiative, Re-Generation, to apply this same formula—which includes robust partnerships with employers, governments and not for profits—to helping mid-career employees learn new skills for new jobs.
For many companies, cracking the code on reskilling is partly about retaining their “license to operate” by empowering employees to be more productive. Thirty-eight percent of executives in our survey, across all regions, cited the desire to “align with our organization’s mission and values” as a key reason for taking action. In a similar vein, at last winter’s World Economic Forum in Davos, 80 percent of CEOs who were investing heavily in artificial intelligence also publicly pledged to retain and retrain existing employees.
But the biggest driver is this: as digitization, automation, and AI reshape whole industries and every enterprise, the only way to realize the potential productivity dividends from that investment will be to have the people and processes in place to capture it. Managing this transition well, in short, is not just a social good; it’s a competitive imperative. That’s why a resounding majority of respondents—64 percent across Europe, the United States, and the rest of the world—said the main reason they were willing to invest in retraining was “to increase employee productivity.”
We hear that thought echoed in a growing number of C-suite conversations we are having these days. At the moment, most top executives have far more questions than answers about what it will take to meet the reskilling challenge at the kind of scale the next decade will likely demand. They ask: How can I map the future against my current talent pool and processes? What part of future employment demand can I meet by retraining existing workers, and what is the ROI of doing so, versus simply hiring new ones? How best can I tap into what are, for me, nontraditional talent pools? What partners, either in the private, public, or nongovernmental-organization (NGO) sectors, might help me succeed—and what are our respective roles?
Good questions all.
Success will require first developing a granular map of how technology will change the skill requirements within your company. Once this is understood, the next step will be deciding whether to tap into new models of online and offline learning and training or partner with traditional educational providers. (Over time, a more fundamental rethinking of 100-year-old educational models will also be needed.) Policy makers will need to consider new forms of unemployment income and worker transition support, and foster more intensive and innovative collaboration between the public and private sectors. Individuals will need to step up too, as will governments. Depending on the speed and scale of the coming workforce transition, as MGI noted in its recent report, many countries may conclude they will need to undertake “initiatives on the scale of the Marshall plan.”
But for now, we simply take comfort from the clear message of our latest survey: among large companies, senior executives see an urgent need to rethink and retool their role in helping workers develop the right skills for a rapidly changing economy—and their will to meet this challenge is strong. That’s not a bad place to start.

About the author(s)

Pablo Illanes is a partner in McKinsey’s Stamford office, Susan Lund is a partner of the McKinsey Global Institute, Mona Mourshed and Scott Rutherford are senior partners in the Washington, DC, office, and Magnus Tyreman is a senior partner in the Stockholm office.