Reskill Morning Future
Guiding The Case 23 July Jul 2018 0830 23 July 2018

IBM’s reskilling: “That’s how you protect people’s employability”

IBM has created its ‘Career Transition Centre’. It serves to reposition the company in the labour market and teach staff new skills they can use within the company and elsewhere, a philosophy is called “reskilling”.

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There are those - such as the World Economic Forum - who think that the technological revolution, the so-called “Industry 4.0”, will destroy over five million jobs in the coming years. And there are those - such as Roland Berger - who instead say that by 2035 new technologies will have given birth to 10 million new jobs. Whatever the outlook on the future - optimistic or pessimistic - one thing they all agree is that the future of labour lies in reskilling. In other words, in rebuilding people’s skills and outplacement, helping professionals move from one company and settle in the next. “This is a crucial matter of which we are acutely aware,” Andrea Raimondi, HR Director of IBM Italy tells Morning Future. IBM has implemented a service called the ‘Career Transition Center” which serves “to reposition the company in the labour market and teach staff new skills”, skills they can use within the company and elsewhere.

And IBM’s own recent past tells a story of huge transformation: “Today half of our revenue comes from products and services that just a few years ago didn’t even exist, from cloud services to Watson AI,” explains Raimondi. “When you’re constantly redefining the products and services you provide, it has a huge impact on the business.”

For IBM, the ‘Career Transition Center’ is an “attempt to present people with a new way of looking at their career, so that they can see it within its ever-changing context. We want to offer employees the opportunity to update their skills to help them stay employable in a different world.” In essence, Raimondi explains, “it’s a voluntary course: there are six months of professional support, offering tools that will help the attendee boost their position in the labour market.” The project’s winning feature is its modular structure: it is a global project available to the entire IBM Group and geared around the same philosophy of
“trying to find a mechanism that boosts people’s employability”; yet, it is structured differently in each country, “because things like this are only successful if they implemented with an awareness of the surrounding context.”

Reskilling is a winning strategy. It’s the only one that can ensure Italy embraces the digital ​revolution, so that those left out of the labour market readjustment can re-enter it by gaining new skills.”

Andrea Raimondi, HR Director of IBM Italy

Speaking of shared ideas, Italy is not the easiest country in the world in which to experiment with initiatives of this kind. The data says as much: less than 10% of the country’s entire workforce undertakes professional training, which compares to European averages more than double that figure. “The reskilling philosophy isn’t very widespread in Italy,” Raimondi explains. “But that doesn't mean it isn’t a winning strategy. It’s the only one that can ensure Italy embraces the digital revolution, so that those left out of the labour market readjustment can re-enter it by gaining new skills.” Education is central to this, but it’s not everything: “We also need to give people the time to train, offer them solutions that facilitate continuous training within standard working hours.”

It is a gap that needs to be filled by policy too, according to Raimondi. “Some years ago there were employment incentives in the form of tax relief,” he explains. “A good system would be to establish partnerships with companies who reach into every niche of the job market and who could offer incentives to help people retrain. This type of collaborative working doesn’t yet exist and needs to be established.” Because, “rather than protecting specific roles, policy needs to protect the employability of people.” In summary, it should not cling to a conservative belief system - perhaps now more than ever.

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