In the digital age, there is no way back; it is a one-way ticket. In the past few years, the Middle East and particularly the GCC have been attempting to understand the impact of digital transformation and how to reskill in order to shape and execute it.

Success stories include the Smart Dubai digital government initiative and innovative transport solutions, as well as the region’s taxi booking service, Careem. These triumphs demonstrate that, in many instances, local institutions know what the changing workplace means for business and the workforce, and what organisations should do to adopt digitalisation.

In our Future of Work (Deloitte Review 21st edition), we explored selected trends shaping the economy and the workplace: robots and artificial intelligence; a dispersed workforce in which people work from anywhere, anytime; and the need for employees to constantly learn new skills to revitalise their career.

One key element of all things digital is the workforce. Deloitte’s point of view is drawn from an array of successful engagements in the region. It is also underpinned by research, lessons learned and what we have heard from clients in the region.

Skills of the future

Theories around the skills of the future vary. The World Economic Forum (WEF) says that to successfully live in the digital age, people have to build their digital intelligence.

The WEF defines this as a set of competencies that enable people to face the challenges of the digital life. It also equips them to adapt to the demands of this life. 

This is surely one of the hottest topics in the economics world, as people are no longer competing against each other anymore: we are starting to compete against robots. Universities, corporations, and others are working hard to identify how people can differentiate themselves in the workplace in order to remain relevant.

The influx of artificial intelligence, robotics and automation into the workplace has accelerated in the past year, transforming in-demand skills inside organisations and beyond. Perhaps surprisingly, those skills focus on the ‘uniquely human’ rather than the purely technical.

To be able to maximise the potential value of these technologies today and minimise the potential adverse impacts on the workforce of tomorrow, organisations must put humans in the loop, reconstructing work, retraining people and rearranging the organisation. The greatest opportunity is not just to redesign jobs or automate routine work, but to fundamentally rethink ‘work architecture’ to benefit organisations, teams and individuals. 

Reskill the workforce

Human capital is a driver of national economic and social development. A large part of human capital definitions deal with the value created by the skills, knowledge, attitudes and ideas of people involved in the economy. The potential of human capital is realised in full when jobs are viewed as bundles of tasks, and through “learning by doing”, a worker becomes more proficient.

In the digital age, it becomes an economic necessity to reskill the workforce. This is even more important in the GCC, given the governments’ ambitious economic growth, nationalisation and productivity targets. The good news for several Gulf economies is that a large, young workforce will be entering the workplace in the coming few years, one that is already well versed in all things digital and that will require less effort to be reskilled, providing the proper frameworks are functional.

Many governments and organisations are already reskilling their workforces. Some are prioritising selected sectors as part of broader macro-economic strategies; others are adopting bottom-up approaches through education. In a recent Deloitte publication, the way learning can help to reinvest workforce development was addressed. No matter what stage organisations are at, awareness is increasing about the need to reskill the workforce.

Future success

Every person is responsible for their own ability to prepare for the future. It is also the shared responsibility of players such as educators, employers, families, private sector firms, government agencies and
job seekers.

Deloitte’s report, Winner Takes it All, looks at how governments and organisations should react to changes in the labour ecosystem by adopting integrated approaches. ‘Winners’ were identified as countries or organisations that embraced the future of work and adapted their ecosystems to manage the realities of the labour market of tomorrow.

Now is the right time to reskill the workforce in this digital age. Today, learning is on demand – accessible to all, anytime, anywhere. It is a matter of personal choice and clarity of purpose.

About the authors

deloitte reskillGhassan Turqieh, partner, human capital, consulting, Deloitte Middle East

deloitte reskillJoana Abou Jaoude, senior manager, human capital, consulting, Deloitte Middle East