Dziennik Gazeta Prawna - Special Edition: World Economic Forum Davos 2022
Taking into account the average number of man-hours worked in 2020, which dropped by a mere 2.1% domestically, Poland ranked first in the European Union and second in the world in terms of labour market stability during the coronavirus pandemic. However, this does not mean that ever-increasing expectations resulting from revolutionary technological and organisational changes triggered by the rapid digital transformation are not affecting Polish workers.
To stay afloat the digital tsunami today, we need a full set of advanced skills to secure a safe, stable, and satisfactory future on the labour market for the working population of Poland. The OECD report entitled “Future of Education and Skills 2030” presents three key areas for the future, referred to, to use a term coined by modern business, as “Competences 4.0”, which will become standard on the Polish market within the next few years. These include: cognitive competences that enable, as defined by well-known futurist Alvin Toffler, “learning new and unlearning old ways”, social skills, also called soft skills, that facilitate efficient collaboration and team management and digital competences related to handling new technologies and a readiness to work with AI solutions.
Although it may seem that in the third decade of the 21st century, an awareness of the significance of digital competence is a given, Poland still ranks third from last in the DESI (Digital Economy and Society Index), followed only by Bulgaria and Romania. According to Eurostat data, only 21% of Poles have above-average digital skills, while the EU average is nearly twice as high. Poland is not much more proficient in terms of problem-solving skills, which only one in two Poles have mastered at a more than basic level (47%, which relegates our country to 21st place in Europe).
In light of project work currently underway to popularise the digital transformation, good communication, understood as efficient communication within interdisciplinary project teams with the use of modern ICT technologies, is also of key importance. Unfortunately, Poland does not have much to boast about in this regard – only 58% of adult Poles have mastered above-average communication skills, compared to, e.g. Scandinavia where more than 80% of citizens possess such skills. Efficient communication in an era of mature digital revolution within businesses also means the readiness to communicate and cooperate with machines, which seems to be a real challenge in the course of company development and the drive towards “Industry 4.0”.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the implementation of technological innovations, including automation of the production process, has accelerated significantly. Data collected by the International Robotics Federation demonstrate that in 2020 the density of autonomous industrial machinery in Poland was 52 units per 10,000 workers. This translates into a restrictive personnel policy since as many as 68% of Polish entrepreneurs expect galloping robotisation to lead to more layoffs in their plants in the near future. One in five Poles (18%) already knows someone whose position was fully automated and whose job was liquidated.
Furthermore, the remote work trend that emerged on a large scale during the pandemic has clearly demonstrated that the Polish workforce still lacks transformative competences, i.e. self-drive and the ability to plan and manage one’s work time, as well as, in the long term, the ability to manage one’s professional career path. As illustrated by research conducted by the DELab of Warsaw University, 48% of respondents (employees in the finance sector) struggle to organise their workdays and set clear boundaries between their work and personal lives.
It is also worth noting that owing to the change in the specifics of implemented projects, the digitalised market is no longer seeking experts with narrow industry-specific competences with a laser focus on their tasks, but rather employees with diverse skills, from specialist to digital and communication skills who can ensure the efficient initiation, planning and execution of a project phase from A to Z.
From the perspective of individual biographies, a key future competence defined by OECD experts is being globally aware but locally contextualised. This two-directional anchoring of one’s mind-set to draw upon established specialised knowledge at the micro level while retaining a wider, bird’s-eye perspective of a problem seems to be the key to success in the age of the 4.0 technological revolution.
The Polish employee of the future is a proactive, independent and responsible individual with a considerable set of specialist skills who is confident and capable of translating their professional competencies into a unique asset that is highly sought after on the labour market. The age of generically educated white collar workers who can be employed in any office position is a thing of the past.
Although the unprecedented scale of labour resignation that has recently been observed abroad is not a significant issue in Poland yet, we are already dealing with high staff rotation due to vertical shifts of workers between companies and sectors. Without a doubt, we can also expect certain changes on the labour market, and as a result, a complete shift in the employment paradigm. What could currently strengthen the position of Polish employees, including during this time of intense market transformation, are cognitive and analytical skills, technical skills, as well as social skills facilitating interdisciplinary communication and adaptation to ever-changing working conditions. After all, the only thing we can be certain of in the age of the 4.0 technological revolution is change, both the abrupt and the expected. Gearing up for change well in advance certainly makes sense. ©℗