Onrec logo The Online Recruitment Resource

Why reskilling is imperative to the future workforce

By Peter Linas, EVP of Corporate Development & International at Bullhorn

Company Profile


A recent report from the World Economic Forum showed that more than half of the current workforce will need to be reskilled by 2022. While 133 million jobs could be created thanks to artificial intelligence (AI) globally by 2022, some 75 million would be displaced.

With machines taking on more and more ‘general’ work, it’s time for businesses to take reskilling more seriously. While it’s likely that a lot of the responsibility for reskilling will fall on employers, their recruitment and staffing partners will also play a key role.

In fact, according to Bullhorn’s Global Recruitment Insights & Data (GRID), a quarter of UK recruiters see reskilling candidates and employees as a top three challenge for the industry this year. Despite the hard work involved, a clear majority (77 percent) agreed that reskilling will be an effective way to address skills shortages.

The advance of automation and AI

To get a grip on the changing work environment, it’s important to consider the developments that have led to what many experts are calling the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The rapid advance of automation and AI is resulting in a need to reconfigure business needs. Thanks to advances in machine learning, we are seeing more job automation across industries, as well as an increase in the use of human-machine partnerships to complete more complicated tasks.

While many originally feared that this would eradicate jobs and leave workers in the lurch, the prevailing line of thought now is that these workers will be reskilled so they can continue to contribute positively to either their current company or a new company. Job creation in fields such as engineering, software programming, data science, and cybersecurity is at an all-time high, and we expect to see the need for qualified talent grow.

As the mismatch between current employees’ skills and business needs widen, the pressure on the economy increases. We have already seen that skill shortages cause significant problems in more advanced professions. With unemployment low, meaning less people are actively seeking work, it’s more important than ever that businesses take advantage of available talent. There’s clear potential to mould existing candidates into employees that might appeal to clients through upskilling and reskilling. In other words, looking beyond their immediate profiles and towards the employees they could be is essential.

Of course, businesses must consider more than the technological and economic factors that AI has brought to the fore. As they examine their hiring practices moving forward, it’s important to keep in mind the shift towards diverse hiring and the desire amongst many current job seekers for more flexibility in work schedule and environment.

Here recruiters can step in and be a guide for the employers and candidates that are attempting to navigate this shift in the jobs market.

How recruiters can support employers with reskilling

Reskilling enables candidates to expand their potential opportunities and truly transfer their skills from position to position, unlocking long-term career growth. Employers will require recruitment agencies to act as strategic partners within an end-to-end workforce solution. Here are three key ways recruiters can deliver on these expectations:

Refining and reconfiguring job roles

Recruiters should think creatively about how to fill roles in their clients’ organisations. Prioritising flexibility and removing rigid, obsolete, or mono-skilled roles is key. They must be able to identify skill gaps in their clients’ current workforces and consider how to promote the reskilling of current employees, or bring in consultants to assist with training.

By updating job descriptions to become more task-oriented, recruiters will be better able to find talent, whether freelance or full-time, that have the blend of skills to meet their clients’ needs. If job descriptions are too prescriptive, however, recruiters may accidentally screen people out who may have been excellent matches.

Striking the balance between open and flexible while still addressing specific needs is a great place for a recruiter to jump in. For example, an operational role might become more about analysis and developing insights; a technological role might evolve to integrate creativity; mono-skilled roles might become more multi-dimensional.

Adjusting experience expectations

Previous experience is becoming less and less valued when it comes to assessing a candidate’s suitability for a role. Communication skills, creativity, and the ability to learn are increasingly useful qualities, especially when it comes to adapting to the constantly changing standards of today’s work environment. Naturally, jobseekers and employees who are able to adapt and learn quickly are more likely to find success.

Recruiters can use technology to support more diverse and open-minded hiring: using CV parsing technology, for example, you can automatically screen candidates for abilities, experiences, and qualifications – but you can also look for words and phrases that suggest creativity or other soft skills.

Build a talent pipeline

Preparing for future changes and challenges is essential, which is why recruiters must support clients in building a strong talent pipeline. By keeping in mind what workforce needs might look like in one year, five years, 10 years and beyond, recruiters and employers can work together to consider the tasks and skills that technology is not expected to displace in the near future.

Knowing that certain roles will be needed means recruiters can keep their sourcing and reskilling efforts focused.

What reskilling means for the recruitment industry

Recruitment and staffing professionals themselves are not immune to the effects of automation and AI technology. They must also reskill and upskill so that they can continue to deliver optimum service and maximum value for clients and candidates. Over the coming years, there will be a growing demand not just for recruitment, but for strategic ‘workforce solutions’.

Developing skills in data-driven marketing, for example, is an excellent way for recruiters to improve performance. As more and more automation is used in the process of sourcing and placing candidates, the ability to analyse and action the potential data that emerges will be highly useful. Candidates and clients alike know that they have many options in today’s industry, and good marketing is often the deciding factor when it comes to successful engagement.

In summary, recruitment agencies must be the partners that enable employers to identify their skill shortages, the problems within their existing workforce structure, and their future hiring needs.

Automation and AI will continue to disrupt industries and put more and more pressure on employees to reskill and upskill. But technology won’t take humans out of the picture entirely. Jobs still need to be filled and candidates still need to be sourced. This shift in the workforce simply requires an adjustment in strategy on all sides.

A primary focus for the recruitment industry should be on helping employers to understand how flexible the boundaries of key roles can be, and how they can maximise the impact of individuals within their businesses through reskilling.