It seems that every day there is a new a reference to the march of the robots, or the impact for today’s primary school children whose jobs are ‘yet to be created’. One recent example that really brought the scale of the digital revolution home to me, was the realisation that my cousin’s baby, born last Christmas, might never learn to drive as automated cars become safer and more efficient.

But we face a challenge to make sure digital skills keep pace with the potential advance. A recent report from the House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee found that 93% of technology companies say that lack of skills is hampering commercial operations. This need for skills is not just confined to the technology sector: the Government Digital Strategy suggests 90% of jobs will require the ability to interact with technology by 2020. But at the same time 47% of workers are telling us they have insufficient digital skills (European Commission).

The question is this: how do we all benefit from the digital revolution? It was with this question in mind that I participated in Business in the Community’s Responsible Business Week last month to share the stage with other companies to exchange ideas and experiences of how to address the future of work.

At Capgemini we have been thinking about how we prepare for tomorrow since we started the business in 1967.  There is no set route map to growing the right skills but we believe we can learn from real time experience through pockets of activity as groups of individuals adapt and seek new ways of working.

We have identified three elements. Firstly, we need a workforce which is agile and able to adapt quickly to change – we have a number of initiatives which help to develop the mind-set to thrive in a rapidly changing environment. Second, we are addressing the need for in depth skills through specifically looking at new ways of training and evolving our people. The third element is about ensuring that we engage and inspire the workforce of the future – to ensure that everyone has the basic skills required for future employment.

Creating an agile mind-set

In Capgemini’s Applied Innovation Exchange – a platform containing a global network of workspaces where teams collaborate to solve business problems using technology – the design sprint process enables teams to go from problem identification to a proof of concept solution in 5 days (read this blog post from one of our clients about their recent experience) . In the process individuals with different backgrounds who have not worked together before adopt an agile approach which builds confidence, creativity, communication skills and team work while also encouraging diversity of thought. Employees get the opportunity to spend a week in this space working alongside clients and partners who also benefit from the process.

We’re also seeing a move towards self-learning across different communities in the business. We have engineers who prefer to attend conferences to exchange ideas and to stimulate innovation and then build the corresponding technical skills on open learning platforms connecting with peers across the industry to learn the latest technology stacks.

Such virtual communities have wider implications for creating open minds as our people engage with peers and experts outside the organisation to build the skills they need regardless of location. We are seeing a move from traditional training days to time spent with others (virtually or otherwise) to collaboratively problem solve and gain real time feedback or work in cross teams through hackathons.

Growing and developing our people

As an early supporter of apprenticeships in the IT sector Capgemini has had over 1000 apprentices. There are over 360 on the programme today. We will see our first cohort of degree apprentices graduate this summer. Our schemes have bought us additional benefits. We have increased the diversity of our teams. Over 40% of our junior talent is female and we offer strengths-based employment rather than demanding experience or degrees. We now see the potential to create similar schemes in partnership with clients in areas of low unemployment

Over the last 6 years our apprentices have been instrumental in driving a more diverse culture with their energy and ideas. The vibrant social media community allows them to share their experiences with #lifeatcapgemini and our Company Secretary has been the beneficiary of reverse mentoring changing her own communication style as a result.

Developing skills for the future

Working with young people and disadvantaged groups we focus on skills for the future and on taking our experiences of work into schools and disadvantaged groups. Working with partners like Apps for Good and the Careers Enterprise Company, we have worked with 15,000 students over the last 3 years. We’ve recently refined our long term partnership with The Prince’s Trust to develop specific digital skills programmes including a 5 day course similar to the design sprint process described above. Of the 66 who have completed this course 28 have had a positive outcome.  Our clients get engaged setting the business problems, hosting and mentoring and judging.

So what can lessons can we take from these activities? 

The convergence of the physical and virtual world will create new opportunities for our future and we must embrace them.

We see can see the power of the virtual community in terms of pushing the boundaries for our people to learn from people and experiences wherever they are. Organisations can identify and seek to support these bottom up initiatives to speed up learning, and change mind-sets.

The importance of a physical space through which teams of people can work collaboratively using the right technology to address problems and innovate. Creating a space and adopting processes which are conducive to diverse, creative thinking will help to develop these new ways of working.

Organisations will need to support both approaches to build the right mind-set to meet today’s fast paced technology advancement – as well as to enable and speed up training and to connect with the next generation. Over the coming months we have an opportunity to identify, amplify and share ideas and in the exchanging of them, learn from each other.