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Skills Half Life: Businesses Struggle to Keep Employee Skills Relevant

By Dick Weisinger

PwC recently released a report detailing the struggles many businesses are having trying to get their employees up to speed with digital technologies.  Less than half of businesses feel that they have enough savvy to be able to successfully use new digital technologies within their organizations.

One reason for the lack of confidence is the speed that technology changes.  What some people are calling the “half life” of certain digital skills is continually shrinking, requiring workers to continually be off balance as they need to be training to keep up with the changes.

George Corbin, senior vice president of digital at Marriott, commented that the “skills half-life” of  a hotel worker is 12 years.  These are workers with skills in areas like sales, operations and finance.  Twelve years from now half of what employees have been trained to do today will be considered irrelevant.  But in terms of digital skills, the rate of change is much faster.  Corbin said that the skill half-life for digital skills is only 18 months.  This means that people, especially those working with technology, must continually be learning new skills in order to stay relevant.

The 18 month estimate seems pretty short.  A number of other estimates for IT half lives have been made, with some estimates not quite that short, but whether it is eighteen months, three years or five years, the pace of change is still moving very quickly.




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