Reskilling is smart way forward

Recent letters to The Straits Times Forum (How do firms gain by reskilling displaced staff?, by Mr Tan Kar Quan, May 30; and Surprised by consulting firm's recommendation, by Mr Edmund Khoo Kim Hock, June 13) suggest that there is some confusion over McKinsey's position on retraining staff whose jobs are affected by digital technologies.

I would like to clarify our position and comments made by our global managing partner Dominic Barton.

Without doubt, digital technologies will trigger disruptions in the workplace.

Amid these changes, McKinsey does not suggest companies retrain outgoing staff, as these letters imply. Rather our experience and research have shown that smart companies work to reskill staff and move them to new positions within the organisation.

Our analysis has shown that new hires and outsourcing can fill only a portion of the skills gap that develops as companies transform themselves into digital organisations. The remainder - and this can be a significant proportion - must be filled by reskilling current staff. Visible retraining efforts for those whose jobs may be at risk can also soften any employee resistance to the organisational changes.

Reskilling and repositioning employees bring other benefits, as well. For example, severance and recruiting costs are lowered and investment in knowledge and capabilities development is retained.

Further, reskilling employees demonstrates a company's commitment to its staff and community.

Governments and educational institutions have roles to play, for instance in crafting financial support and new curricula, but the onus remains on private companies that don't want to be left behind by their rivals.

Diaan Yi Lin (Ms)

Managing Partner, Singapore

McKinsey & Company

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2018, with the headline 'Reskilling is smart way forward'. Print Edition | Subscribe