Technology and innovation has made pretty much everything faster and more efficient. Today’s the pace by which technology is advancing is almost blinding. With all the advantages that come with it, the average person might call you crazy for saying technological progress is detrimental.

Unfortunately, the truth seems to be far more complex than a simple binary answer. Yes, the rapid advancement of technology has increased the efficiency and speed of businesses a hundred fold. However, at this pace, technology is outpacing the speed by which human beings are able to learn the skills required to utilise said technology.

We can already see the effects throughout the world. A survey throughout Australia, Japan, India and Singapore conducted by LinkedIn has shown that 62 per cent of professionals in India feel daunted by the speed by which they must learn new skills to adapt. Roughly 45 per cent of those surveyed have admitted to leaving organisations because of lack of learning and development opportunities. This number is comparable to that of Singapore, but Australia featured a lower percentage at 29 per cent. Japan featured the lowest percentage at 16 per cent resignations due to lack of L&D; however, this number is likely affected by the work culture of company loyalty present within the country.

The mismatch between market requirements, labour skills and opportunities will only become more apparent in the future. By 2020, it is estimated that Asia-Pacific (APAC) will face worker shortages in excess of 12 million workers; with annual opportunity costs in the range of US$4.2 trillion. LinkedIn also reported that by 2020, 42 per cent of core skills required for a job will change.

According to the LinkedIn report, some of the top rising skills that are growing in relevance are related to compliance, social media marketing, continuous integration, workflow automation, gesture-recognition technology, blockchain, artificial intelligence, robotic process automation (RFA), human-centred design and front-end web development. These skills in particular are noted to be three-times more desirable today by organisations looking for talent compared to other skills.

Countries like Singapore are incredibly quick and enthusiastic adopters of new technology and innovations. However, they have not given their work force enough time to adapt; as seen by the many efforts the Singapore government has taken over the years to encourage workers to up-skill or go for retraining and for companies to offer such courses.

The survey also found that there were several barriers to learning new skills, one of which was a lack of time:

  • Singapore (57 per cent said so)
  • Australia (60 per cent)
  • India (60 per cent)
  • Japan (53 per cent)

Other major factors include cost, resource availability, accessibility and interest. As for the companies, the most significant barrier they find in delivering L&D programmes is their ability to engage employees:

  • Singapore (48 per cent said so)
  • Australia (39 per cent)
  • India (46 per cent)
  • Japan (30 per cent)

As slowing the adoption of new technology to help the workforce catch up is not really an option, companies will have to find ways to further develop their L&D offerings and encourage their workers to obtain new skills. If not, it is likely that the world, including APAC will be facing a severe shortage of qualified and desirable workers.