As many may have already read, Amazon recently announced it plans to invest $700 million to retrain one-third of its workforce to help ease the effects of automation. The company expects more than 100,000 employees will undergo the retraining process by 2025.

Deeper in the details, Amazon shares that its “upskilling” programs will encompass teaching non-technical employees the skills needed to transition into software engineering roles; educating employees with some technical background the ability to add machine learning skills; pre-paid tuition programs so they staff can train for “high-demand” jobs of their choosing; paid classroom training and on-the-job apprenticeship; and other specific efforts. The program works to reshape a significant portion of Amazon’s workforce on multiple fronts.

While not every organization is Amazon, almost every business in the world faces similar challenges, including:

  • The need to retrain a significant number of staff as tech reshapes work as we understand it
  • Addressing the reality that today’s students (tomorrow’s employees) learn in remarkably different ways than their predecessors thanks to entrepreneurship and technology… and in remarkably different types of environments (see Lassonde Studios)
  • Rethinking workplaces to serve as dynamic workforce education centers with hubs for retraining, entrepreneurial pursuits and rapid discovery and translation

This challenge is multi-faceted, but one way that companies can attack it is by involving their talent and HR leaders more directly into workplace investment decisions and strategy development. Talent is the lifeblood for business success and competition for it grows stronger each day. Those organizations lacking spaces where they can best educate and empower staff while offering remarkable employee experiences risk poor recruit + retain and even irrelevance in the years ahead.

At its core, Amazon’s “upskilling” program signals a powerful shift in our economy where organizations from all sectors are becoming companies reliant on tech talent. Regardless of the market, all organizations are now hiring for emerging tech roles (i.e. Internet of Things engineer) and traditional roles now fueled by tech skills (accountants and HR staff who can interpret and visualize data or execute digital ad campaigns).

This shift amplifies talent competition and inherently requires organizations to be aligned across strategy, IT, talent, real estate and finance. Organizations can’t just view workplaces as places for work, but rather catalysts to address broader goals and seize opportunities to integrate business, talent and workplace strategies.

Ultimately, organizations that don’t make integrated strategy decisions central to their master planning efforts are bound to struggle in the face of current and future disruption – whereas companies that embrace workforce and workplace strategy as key to their strategic planning efforts have a distinct advantage in anticipating an evolving future.