To build workforce skills for human-machine collaboration, insurers need to prepare the ground. Knowing what skills are needed is just one part of the equation—creating the environment to grow skills and uncover the latent core intelligences, and putting in place the culture needed to keep a digital workforce learning, will be as critical.

The first step is assessing the readiness of workers and of the business to invest in learning.

Mutual readiness

To prepare for change, insurers need a clear long term strategy. They need to be able to outline their top initiatives for the coming years, know the workforce implications and put structures in place to enable the transition.

For example, one large fintech gave employees a long lead time to prepare for the entry of AI chatbots. This allowed employees to factor skills and work changes into their own career planning, electing either to stay and upskill, move to a different role with training or move to a similar role elsewhere.

Another way to increase readiness is for leaders to shift from ‘planning the workforce’ to ‘planning the work’. By assessing which tasks will be needed and which skills will be required to fulfill those tasks they can map internal capabilities to new roles and then develop new skills to bridge talent gaps. Seeking out workers’ hidden talents, transferrable skills and life aspirations, potentially with the help of AI, can help chart a course of action in terms of skills development and placement.

Accelerate ability

Scientific techniques and smart technologies can help workers learn faster, stretch their thinking and tap into latent intelligences.

Neuroscience techniques can, for example, help to reduce learning time, increase retention and optimise the brain’s capacities. In terms of smart technologies, experiential and interactive programmes will help workers learn at convenient times, while training with intelligent, mobile technologies can accelerate progress. AI-based adaptive learning platforms with built-in analytics can personalise coaching and feedback. In addition, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are now being used to simulate real-world situations, onboard new employees and even train people in the development of socio-emotional skills.

People learn best from others so nurturing in-person engagements, sharing knowledge in the community and welcoming outside-in learning will also add immense value.

Google, for example, helps employees keep their skills current and valuable by fostering peer-to-peer connections. Workers move around the organisation and learn new skills on the job, not by attending mandatory training seminars. Some 80 percent of all tracked training at Google is now done Googler-to-Googler, a voluntary network of 6,000-plus employees who dedicate a portion of their time to helping peers learn.

Perhaps the greatest responsibility for leaders in advancing missing ‘middle skills’ is cultivating the right mindset.

Shared value

Learning is important to ensure the workforce is able to support the business, but it is also critical for individual growth. To embed a culture of learning, companies must recognise and uphold the value of education and lifelong learning. This includes giving employees time to adjust and extend their abilities, providing opportunities for learning, creating psychologically safe environments for learning and creating, and even co-funding employee learning. Employees, in turn, must co-invest their time and effort to acquire new ways of working.

Danone, for example, has set a strategy called ‘one learning a day’ to give each employee opportunities to learn. Discover Financial is experiencing tangible value in paying for workers to go back to school—its tuition reimbursement programme has yielded a 144 percent return on investment in the form of lower talent management costs (people stay longer and are being promoted into new jobs, saving recruitment costs) and higher productivity (less absenteeism).

The way forward

I hope you have found this blog series useful. There is much to learn and to discuss on this topic of building a workforce for the digital era. In the insurance arena, companies are just coming to grips with it. Perhaps the greatest responsibility for leaders in advancing ‘missing middle’ skills is cultivating the right mindset. I am keen to hear your perspectives. Please do share your experiences.

Meantime, for more on the impact of AI on the workforce and the skills needed to thrive in a digital era, click through to Accenture’s research:

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