A note from the editor: Over the last few years, organizations have gone through a number of shifts as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting Great Resignation or Great Reshuffling. Add to that the increasing popularity of AI, and we are looking ahead at a totally new work landscape. Dr. Michelle Ellis dives into these changes and how HR and L&D teams can support skill development for existing employees—resulting in higher engagement, retention, and a future-proof workforce.
For decades organizations have focused learning and development efforts on upskilling employees to meet the demands of the business.
Areas of focus have been on filling the gap between what is taught in traditional academics, the half-life of learning4,5, and the demands of the ever-changing job market and technological advancements3. When graduates enter the workplace, organizations are faced with addressing the fact that most, if not half, of their acquired skills are mismatched to the job market demands.6 Additionally, the rapid pace of technological advancements has required employees to learn and gain new skills at even shorter intervals. Add to this that in the next five years up to 44% of all workers’ skills will be disrupted1—and it’s clear reskilling is a huge need in the modern workplace.
For organizations to address the global skills crisis head-on, they need to approach it like a long-term investment, not just a short-term strategy. This is the opposite of what many organizations did during the pandemic7. Organizations are tackling the war for talent by shifting from a recruit-for-roles strategy to a skills-based operational model2 that puts skills mapping at the center of people strategy3.
As organizations begin to strategize their skills-based approach, it’s essential first to understand the differences between upskilling and reskilling8 and then consider which best practices and tactics will fit the organization’s needs.
Reskilling builds critical skills to support performing in a different or slightly evolving role.
Upskilling builds a higher level of competency that improves performance in a current role.
The following outlines a four-step approach9 and some best practices to help get started on shifting to a skills-based operating model for upskilling and reskilling talent.
Assess the skills of current employees, identify future skills that will align with the business strategy, and create a skills matrix to deploy, upskill, and reskill talent where needed.
Consider the following strategies9 to help ensure a smooth transition where customers and employees embrace the changes. Don’t rush to solve the gaps identified and overlook this important step.
Identify a deployment strategy
Leverage the Skills Matrix to identify upskilling and reskilling journeys
Create a change management plan
Map out the communication plan
With a plan in place, it's time to put it into action. Designing, developing, and implementing interventions that are just-in-time, bite-sized, multi-modal, personalized, formal, and self-directed will help employees build new skills and apply them in real-time.
Take the time to evaluate the overall skills-based approach. This enables continuous improvement and refinement—your approach will grow and change over time. Here are some ways to do that:
Aside from the approaches and best practices shared for how organizations can mitigate current and future talent shortages, there are additional benefits to investing in redeployment, reskilling, and upskilling. As a result of focusing on internal talent development organizations are seeing increases in business results, employee and customer satisfaction, employee retention, engagement, motivation, and productivity.2,18,19,20
Employees want to learn new skills that benefit them in their current job, help them grow beyond their roles, and align with their career aspirations. In fact, 74% of workers would be willing to learn a new skill or retrain a current skill to remain employable21. By investing in the internal workforce, employees see they are valued and vital to the organization’s mission. Learning new skills is a powerful source of motivation, inspiring commitment, and increasing productivity.9
Consider using skills mapping as a key part of your people strategy3. This enables you to assess your internal talent’s skills, identify future skills that align with your business objectives, and create skills matrices to deploy, upskill, and reskill talent where needed.