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Why upskilling and reskilling are key in the post-Covid economy

Necessity is the mother of invention. Last year we have seen significant growth in digital transformations that impacted us on all levels – from remote working, through supply chains to healthcare, and this great acceleration will highly likely become the new norm.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella noted in April 2020 that “we’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months”, and according to McKinsey, many executives report that they moved 20 to 25 times faster than they thought possible on things like building supply-chain redundancies, improving data security, and increasing the use of advanced technologies in operations. As an example, US productivity in the third quarter of 2020 rose by 4.6 percent, following a 10.6 percent increase in the second quarter, the largest six-month improvement since 1965.

The classroom of the future

The future of work brings important challenges as workforces move away from offices, not just because these represent the heart of the organisation where culture and sense of belonging takes place. The bigger challenge comes from adapting to the new requirements of the hybrid working model and the reskilling and upskilling needs of employees. Even prior to the pandemic, back in 2018, the World Economic Forum estimated that over 50 percent of employees will need significant upskilling by 2022, and this requirement has significantly accelerated as a result of the Covid crisis.

It’s a common misconception that during a crisis, employees need to do what they have to do, utilising their existing skills, however this is especially untrue during the Covid pandemic, where we have seen major changes to the economy and the linked demand for new approaches to mobilising the existing talent base. Pre-pandemic, CEOs ranked talent risk behind 11 other risks to long-term growth, however in the recent KPMG 2020 CEO Outlook survey, talent risk has risen to the number one threat. In addition, the recent post-COVID-19 CIO survey highlighted that 62 percent say skills shortage is preventing their organisation from keeping up with the pace of change.

Crisis-led evolution

Investing in employee training fosters employee loyalty and engagement, and creates a positive brand perception, and it is more financially viable than redundancies. However, successful training starts with identifying the current and future skill gaps and requires commitment from the top that drives a culture of lifelong learning. The future of work requires a new talent strategy that develops critical digital and cognitive capabilities, social and emotional skills, as well as resilience and adaptability. This is a critical time for learning and development, not just to thrive in the current economic climate, but also to strengthen companies for future disruptions.

According to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), nine in ten employees in the UK will have to reskill by 2030 as a result of the pandemic accelerated changes in the workplace. The report has found that in the next decade, 26 million workers would require upskilling to keep up to date with technological and business developments as their role evolves, while another five million would go through a fundamental job change and require retraining.

The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated that individuals, markets and even the economy as a whole have limited control. Long-term goals are more likely to fall through than ever before, and this is why this is the time for employee reskilling and upskilling. At Acumen, we pride ourselves in offering development that gives managers practical tools to help solve real-life challenges. We offer an extensive menu of courses, workshops and coaching programmes, ranging from communication skills through to executive leadership development. In most cases, we design the interventions specifically for each client, but we also offer a wide range of off-the-shelf programmes for those who prefer this approach. For more information about our programmes please contact Simon at


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