Jobs and Skills

Suppose there was a reskilling revolution and nobody showed up: How do we regain lost trust?

Reskilling and upskilling for the digital and sustainability transformations needs buy-in first.

Reskilling and upskilling for the digital and sustainability transformations needs buy-in first. Image: Unsplash/Nathan Dumlao

Judith Wiese
Chief People and Sustainability Officer; Member of the Managing Board, Siemens
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Jobs and Skills

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • A natural human inclination is to resist and even mistrust change, but that tendency will impede digital and sustainability transformations.
  • Skills development is crucial for no one to be left behind in the current digital and sustainability transformations; however, change is a constant, so lifelong learning, ethics and curiosity must feed into the strategic core of companies.
  • Public-private collaborations can build confidence in transformational technologies.

The message from the top is consistent: “Embrace this new digital technology that will change the world. It has powers like no one has ever known. But you must reskill to meet the demands or be left behind. Trust us, it’s for your good.”

You, too, may have led with the “do or die” message, expecting people to fall in line. But what if they don’t?

Despite this momentum for digital and sustainability transformation, built mainly on this undertone, it is human nature to question change and consider whether innovation is really good for the individual and how it will impact their life.

Change can bring uncertainty and disruption and uncomfortably challenge established beliefs and norms. That’s why some naturally resist change or, in the worst case, fear or mistrust it and those associated with it.

We live in a world of mounting challenges, and people’s trust is eroding in many areas – among these are the technologies needed to drive digital and green transformations that could save our planet and help us lead better, more equitable lives. The speed of technological evolution has contributed to an environment of fear – a fear of losing jobs, losing autonomy and the unknown. And the timing could not be worse.

Our need for technology to tackle the many and often complex issues of our times will continue to grow. However, taking the necessary actions to reach our goals won’t be easy without skilled people on board – trusting, understanding and willing to use the technology for good. So, how do we regain lost trust?

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Building trust and confidence

Trust, as we understand, is two-fold – trust in one’s abilities and trust in external people or factors. It is a fundamental belief in the reliability, honesty and integrity of a person, system or entity. It is the conviction that actions by those parties come from a place of good, sincerity and honesty. However, trust deteriorates when one or more of these elements is missing. But there is hope.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer 2023, in most countries, people still regard their workplace as trustworthy, with workers requesting more societal involvement on issues such as climate change, economic inequality and workforce reskilling. But how can we use this to build trust in new technologies and accelerate positive change and progress for a better future?

If trust is about having confidence in individual capacity to deal with change and believing in others to help me, then the answer to this question is simple. Businesses and institutions must be trusted advisors, partners and knowledge providers, empowering people to shape their future in an ever-changing world.

The reality of changing demographics in many regions and the nature of technological evolution will require some jobs to shift. The speed of technology has created the need to realign skills acquisition with the needs of people, the labour market and industries. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, by making this adjustment, people will be better equipped to face uncertainties and ensure everyone has a role in our economic and sustainable future. We need to support people to embrace this change for good.

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Putting people back in the driver’s seat

At Siemens, we understood quickly the need to steer workforce change in a new way.

Within the strategic skills agenda, resilience and learning skills are essential, boosting confidence to deal with change. Re- and upskilling measures will strengthen sustainable employability in the workforce. However, beyond skill development, life-long learning, ethics and curiosity must be integrated into the core strategy. In addition, we foster a growth mindset of continuous adaptation that involves critical thinking, creativity and the ability to collaborate across diverse fields and cultures.

By encompassing these broader capabilities, we prepare our people not just for the following technological change but for a future where change is the only constant – where they will be capable of leading and driving innovation in unforeseen directions.

Working with policymakers, governments and other institutions, there is an opportunity to shape and guide the future of education, standardize regulations and create transparency.

We already see the benefits of this broader education perspective in our collaboration with the Sustainable Employability initiative in Germany, which includes embracing digitalization as an opportunity for everyone, encouraging lifelong learning and improving the teaching of digital and green skills. As part of the World Economic Forum Reskilling Revolution, we join forces with other private-public organizations to engage in large-scale change in education models and to champion and provide people with better education, skills and opportunities globally. And through work with the Good Work Alliance, private-public partnerships form to shape the future of work.

The rewards of reskilling

It might not be possible to slow innovation, but with the right tools and acquired skills, we can empower people to accelerate their knowledge and understanding.

To succeed in the digital and green transformation and create a better future for all, we must meet people where they are on their journey and prepare them for the future.

People need hope and words of encouragement. We need to continue to boost motivation by demonstrating opportunities and positive outcomes. We need to show that technology is being used for the good of all, not just a few.

Let’s inspire people to take control of their future. Don’t just invite them to the skills revolution; actively show them the importance and benefits of our actions – step by step, hand in hand.

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Jobs and SkillsDavos Agenda
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