The future of work has arrived early. Forced to work remotely because of lockdowns, employees have geared up to use technologies that were just beginning to make inroads into the workplace before COVID-19 hit. Companies, meanwhile, have scrambled to serve their customers through greater use of digital tools that were planned for some time down the road.
But technological change doesn’t stop there. We’ve only just started on the transition into new jobs brought about by automation. Some haven’t yet even been created. And while individuals need to be willing to take the first step and embrace change, employers have to be diligent about providing the right tools, training, and support.
The reason to act
As a global insurer and multinational employer, Zurich believes it has an obligation to ensure people prosper in an increasingly digital society. It’s dedicated to nurturing homegrown talent to combat skills shortages.
Zurich’s analysis of its UK workforce showed that 270 jobs could go unfilled in the next five years if the team is not reskilled for the future. These roles would predominantly be in more specialist areas such as robotics, data science, and cybersecurity. Our research, which was carried out with AI analytics platform Faethm, also revealed that two-thirds of the UK workforce will see a tenth of their roles augmented in the next five years.
As a result, last year Zurich UK invested almost £1m to future-proof its workforce and build a truly adaptable and agile team. The business is now on a mission to retrain 3,000 UK employees – two-thirds of the workforce – over the next five years to ensure the skills gap is closed. By anticipating the future impact of technology, the extended timeline will give employees the opportunity to further enhance and develop their careers as they can embark on new skills and projects across the business.
Zurich has already implemented a range of measures to future proof its workforce which include:
- Over 130 new automated interventions which process over a million individual transactions a year, with a further 100 in the pipeline.
- 55 robotics licences – each the equivalent of an employee working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
While we cannot ignore the benefits that automation brings, it’s important to retain, nurture, and educate our teams – this is a clear opportunity, not a threat to our employees. With this in mind, Zurich became the first financial services provider to launch its own Data and Automation Academies in 2019 which reinforced the development and support of automation, robotics, and innovation across the UK business.
Zurich has also linked up with the University of Winchester to create a comprehensive data science apprenticeship tailored to the needs of business. When Zurich struggled to find a comprehensive course in the field, it linked-up with the institution to create a new one, working with their subject experts to develop the course content.
This was blended with the University’s existing data science degree to create a new three-year Bachelor of Science degree apprenticeship which covers 14 modules across three areas: data analytics, computer science and software engineering, and mathematics and statistics. Already, seven of Zurich’s employees are among the first cohort embarking on the course, which is open to students from across the country.
Skilling a workforce for the future requires a commitment. With more businesses planning to rapidly digitalise work processes, collaboration with government, the education sector, and among the private sector will be essential to ensure that digital tools and training are provided to those in our communities who need them.
CBI members can find out more about the lessons Zurich learnt in setting up its Data Science Apprenticeship in My CBI's Ideas Forum.