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Future Shock: what is it and why should you care?


Lucy Scott
4 min read

Imagine you’re transported back to the 1970s, what comes to mind? Polyester, psychedelics, and avocado bathroom suites? The breakup of the Beatles and the death of Elvis? If you’re more politically inclined, maybe the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal, Margaret Thatcher…?

Whatever your train of thought, I’d hazard a guess you didn’t immediately think ‘Future Shock’. And, unlike some of the above (green bathrooms: I’m looking at you), it’s a 70’s throwback that’s still surprisingly relevant today.

What is Future Shock?

In 1970, a futurist called Alvin Toffler popularised the term in his book Future Shock. In it, he predicted a future where rapid technological and societal change would result in widespread overwhelm, stress and crippling anxiety – we’d become ‘future shocked’.

In 2024, as we continue to experience rapid advancements in technology, sudden shifts in global economies, and ever-changing social norms, Future Shock feels very real. And it’s not just impacting individuals.

Why SMEs must adapt to the pace of change

Over the last decade, we’ve witnessed unimagined change: from Brexit to the global pandemic, ongoing economic and environmental uncertainties, and the explosion of AI.

For SMEs, it’s tough. With limited resources (both human and financial), it’s harder to scale up quickly or adopt new technologies at speed. Smaller teams means there’s more dependency on key individuals: if one person can’t adapt to change, it’ll affect the whole business. And on top of this (as if that wasn’t enough) we’re also more vulnerable to external factors, such as economic downturns and the cost-of-living crisis.

However, a bit of proactive planning goes a long way: investing in strategic partnerships and having a willingness to innovate can help you remain competitive and even thrive, whatever’s round the corner.

The key to resilience? Continuous learning.

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Toffler said this nearly a century ago, but it still rings true.

Instilling a culture of continuous learning should be at the forefront of every SME’s business strategy. Fortunately, it’s probably already on your to-do list, as the UK’s SMEs are prioritising investment in staff training and development this year, according to a recent report.

By continuously updating your employees’ skills and knowledge they’ll be able to adapt to changes more quickly. Learning new skills can also help boost confidence – reducing the impact of stress and overwhelm on both individuals and the wider business. And, importantly, continuous learning encourages creativity and innovative thinking.

Here’s a quick five-point checklist to get you started:


    1. Identify any skills gaps. What areas need to be addressed to help upskill your workforce and meet future business goals?
    2. Partner with a trusted learning provider. Do your due diligence and make sure they fit your needs. Do they offer the expertise you need, e.g. industry-specific knowledge, mandatory training or broader skills-based courses? Are they well-established (will they stand the test of time)? Do they have the capacity to scale with you as you grow?
    3. Create customised learning pathways. Tailor these to the needs of each role, team or department, focusing on areas that’ll have the most impact for the future.
    4. Measure the impact. If you’ve partnered with an online learning provider, use their analytics tools to measure the impact of training on employee performance and business outcomes, and pivot as necessary.
    5. Encourage a culture of continuous learning. By rewarding employees for reaching milestones, you’ll reinforce the value your business places on continuous learning.

By investing in a more future-ready workforce, you’ll be in a stronger place to absorb whatever shocks the future brings.

At Staff Skills Training, we help businesses upskill and retain staff with our award-winning e-learning, in-house and blended training solutions. Our range of 700+ CPD and RoSPA-certified courses cover everything from mandatory training programmes to industry-specific knowledge and soft skills courses. Could we be the right fit for your business? Have a look and see what we do, or book a call with us today!

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