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Challenges in the Workplace are Making You Unhappy

Part Four: Challenges 21-31

written by Patrick Ow March 25, 2020
Challenges in the Workplace are Making You Unhappy

Patrick Ow shares the challenges in the changing workplace and how they are making employees unhappy.

21. The Half-Life of a Learned Skill is 5 Years

Even if employees do manage to get skilled up either on their own or through the support offered by their employers, skill obsolescence is real.

Skill obsolescence is the degree to which employees lacked up-to-date knowledge or skills necessary to maintain effective performance in their current or future work roles. To avoid skill obsolescence, employees must continuously learn new skills, acquire new knowledge, and retrain themselves.

According to John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas, authors of A New Culture of Learning, the half-life of a learned skill is five years. What we learned ten years ago is essentially obsolete.

Half of what we learned five years ago will become irrelevant.

The authors of The 100-Year Life noted that as employees face employment spanning sixty to seventy years, they expect employers will help them continually reinvent themselves, move from role to role, and find their calling over time. Of the respondents surveyed, 83% say that their employers are shifting to flexible, open career models that offer enriching assignments, projects, and experiences rather than a static career progression. Also, 42% believed that employees will have careers that span five years or less.

Deloitte asked:

What does it mean in a world where careers span sixty years, even as the half-life of learned skills continues to fall to only about five years? In the past, employees learned to gain skills for a career; now, the career itself is a journey of learning.

22. Employees’ Jobs Have Use-By Dates

Given the current rate of technological change and the half-life of a learned skill, jobs and careers have much shorter use-by dates. According to The Age, every career and job has a ‘use-by’ date.

Lawyers, accountants, and doctors can practice until they drop. That’s in theory at least. They face ‘tripwires’ in their careers that will determine whether they will become well-regarded high flyers or mere journeymen. Lawyers can become partners of law firms within eight or nine years of starting out. This requires significant personal sacrifices.

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