Reskilling Talent through the Centuries



Somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd century BCE, the Egyptians lost their leadership in the world of papyrus. Cai Lun (Ts’ai Lun) is credited as the inventor of paper – mixing hemp, tree bark, fishing nets and old rags. At the time, in 105 A.D., papyrus was widely used - in addition, bamboo and silk – even turtle shells - to record events. Bamboo was heavy and silk was expensive, and turtle shells were, well, cumbersome - so paper became a perfect choice. Cai Lun was an imperial court clerk under Emperor He of the Han Dynasty. The development of paper spurred the rapid growth of Chinese civilization at the time. Scribes of the time needed to re-train on the new paper technology. 

Fast forward to today – we live in a world where corporate training budgets often go un-spent. People are busy with their day-to-day work tasks and rarely take time to learn new things. As we enter this new world, it is critical to carve out time to invest in training. As we think about a new world of AI and automation, human skills are being automated, and it’s more important than ever for the human workforce to up their game. 

Hey, Joe – thanks for meeting today. You have done some amazing transcription work – capturing the day’s events on that turtle shell. These records are important to our respective bosses. I wanted to share more info on a new technology that’s come along – it’s called Cai Lun paper. We think it will make your job easier in the long run, but it will require you to learn some new skills. I know this is new, but I wanted to reassure you that spending some time practicing on paper will serve you well and better equip you for the future. I have confidence in you, Joe. Take some time to get familiar with this new paper technology Joe – you’ve been great at recording on turtle shells, and I have no doubt you can make the move to paper. 

Changing jobs can be unnerving. We’ve all felt the imposter syndrome when we try something new. Managers need to reassure employees and support them in making changes, re-skilling and retraining. HR professionals can help support with training opportunities and coaching managers on how to guide employees into new roles. 

Read other posts in the series: 

Automation and Worker Displacement 

Worker Displacement by Invention of the Wheel - Trust 

The Map and Retaining Top Talent



The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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