10% of employees feel their own competencies are obsolete

The ability to adapt to change remains the most important skill: it is not the strongest, but the most flexible employees who survive

4 June 2020

10% of employees feel that their competencies are obsolete in the workplace. They believe that their capabilities are no longer in line with the company's developments. Particularly employees who have been with the organisation for a long time engaging in everyday routine tasks think this way. This has become apparent in a study conducted by Antwerp Management School in collaboration with newspaper De Tijd and HR service provider SD Worx.
These findings are based on the continuous execution of manual and routine tasks. Employees with the most routine jobs in industries such as trade, logistics and transport came to this conclusion most often. The same trend can be seen in positions such as administrative staff, parcel delivery staff or shop employees. One in ten employees say that their skills are no longer in demand in the labour market. They are finding it difficult to keep up with the developments in their field, and they are afraid that their job may even be compromised in the event of a possible reorganisation.

Obsolescence in the workplace

Managers are also concerned about the internal employability of their staff. For example, 29% of managers believe that few or none of their employees could easily take on a different internal job if they were to look for it. Almost 1 in 5 of managers (18%) indicate that the competencies of many employees in their team need to be updated. No less than 4 out of 10 say that the qualities of many team members will become obsolete in the longer term if technology can replace it. More than half of employers (52%) say that one or more of their employees is no longer able to keep up.

This type of obsolescence is not really about age. More than anything it is about people who have been with the organisation for a very long time and who are mostly engaging in manual and routine tasks. 19% of all employees who have been doing the same job for more than 25 years show a higher than average score for outdated competences. By comparison, if people have been in their current job for less than three years, that percentage falls to 12%.

“Employees who are afraid that they are not future-proof and who feel that their competencies are outdated tend to attach a lot of importance to job-specific knowledge and do not think very highly of their own general skills. As a result, they don't see many opportunities for themselves in the event of a reorganisation or job change," says Ans De Vos. “However, we do see that employees are clearly still attached to their employer. Although about 1 in 4 indicate that they would one day like to do something else in their careers, the majority (63%) want to do this with their current employer.”

Focus on shared responsibility

Making employees future-proof remains the shared responsibility of the employee, the manager and the HR department. A large proportion of employees (40%) get the necessary support for their development. For example, they have conversations about their further career, their manager pays attention to their further development (not merely to improving performance) and they receive training opportunities. One-third of employees do not experience this type of support: 33% say that conversations with their manager are only ever really about performance and not about their further development. Another 41% miss any kind of feedback from their manager.

“Learning and development are usually limited to traditional forms of training and have so far focused mainly on skills that are important in the current job. However, almost half of our employees (45% to be exact) say that they want to make sure that their skills stay relevant in the future, for example after restructuring or when they look for a new job. It is therefore essential that both the manager and the employee continue to take sufficient initiatives to develop career ambitions," SD Worx Senior Managing Consultant Jan Laurijssen adds.