New Hire Orientation Blog
Why Reskilling is Such a Hot Trend Right Now
- November 29, 2019
- Posted by: Sherman Morrison
- Category: HR Best Practices
There’s a longstanding school of philosophy when it comes to meeting an organization’s ongoing leadership and management needs that can be summed up as promote from within. I always want to add a little something to this strategy. After all, how often does a company take a star performer and promote them into management only to have them fail miserable in short order? Promoting from within can be very effective, but only when done right and accompanied with proper training. The same can now be said with meeting your company’s skills needs. When the labor market is so tight it has you scrambling to find workers with the skills you need, one options is to supplement your external recruitment efforts by reskilling employees you already have to meet your needs. This article explores why reskilling (also called “upskilling” and “retraining”) is such a hot trend right now and how to take advantage of it.
The Skills of Today are Not the Skills of Tomorrow
At the crux of your challenge is the mind-boggling pace of technological change towards digitization. Whatever skills you’re trying to hire for in the present could be largely obsolete within just a matter of a few years. In fact, some are saying that the “half-life” of skills can easily fall within a range of two to five years.
The impact of this rapid skill obsolescence is two-fold on your company. First, it means you’ve got to look ahead and anticipate what new skills are on the horizon for which you should be planning now. Secondly, it should prompt you to make sure everyone you hire is the type of person who has demonstrated their ability to learn new skills rapidly and make good use of them.
If you start keeping an eye on the ability of candidates to learn new skills, you’ll begin developing a workforce where reskilling in an agile fashion will at least be an option. Otherwise, you’ll continue to be reliant upon external searches for those skills, which is a rough ride in a tight labor market. The idea is to make sure a major goal of all your recruitment and hiring efforts includes finding people who highly trainable and eager to learn. Do this and you’ll be increasingly ready to take full advantage of reskilling, which is quickly becoming a go-to strategy to bridge skills gaps:
- 73% of recruiting professionals around the world agree that tight talent pools in the form of skills shortages and gaps is the most serious hiring challenge today (source).
- 66% of US executives believe reskilling/retraining is at least half the battle in bridging their skills gap, with 29% saying it’s a top 5 priority for them and another 48% saying it’s among their top 10 priorities (source).
But the big question is this: Are your company’s training and learning programs up to the task? That’s a whole other topic for another day.
Identifying and Selling Reskilling Opportunities in Your Current Workforce
The old way of looking at workforce issues has to be replaced with something different and better-suited to the present. For example, let’s say a company has decided to make use of chat bots to take care of many of the routine customer support functions. In the old way of looking at things, this kind of automation would naturally lead to reducing the customer service workforce through layoffs. But the new way of looking at things would say your company will be better off by reskilling/upskilling these employees so they can continue to work for the company. Those employees given the opportunity to continue instead of being laid off will be all the more loyal to your company.
Earlier I mentioned how your recruitment and hiring efforts should prioritize candidates who have demonstrated the ability to learn new skills rapidly. But you can also take a look at your current workforce to identify employees ripe for reskilling opportunities. The idea would be to look for workers who have been with the company for at least several years (because they know the organizational culture and overall business) and who also have “adjacent skills” related to the ones you’re looking to develop and fill. They may naturally be interested in reskilling to stay vital and relevant to the company and further their career development. After all, research has shown that a significant number of people identify lack of ongoing training and education as a reason for leaving their position. Robust reskilling programs can be beneficial to both retainment and engagement, which ultimately saves the company money by reducing the costs associated with turnover.
Identifying employees for reskilling opportunities hinges on first knowing what skills are currently present in your workforce. Conducting some kinds of skills inventory can serve as a baseline for figuring out who has those adjacent skills that are related to the ones you think you need or will need in the near future.
Another aspect of this is how you pitch any reskilling opportunities. This has to be done strategically to make it as appealing as possible, which means you’ve got to see it in part from the perspective of “what’s in it for me” for each employee. Work with your marketing staff to develop the kind of messaging that will help you “sell” reskilling programs.
Developing a Reskilling/Upskilling-Ready Workforce Through Hiring
I believe strongly that addressing skills gaps at any company is best accomplished by a two-pronged approach. One prong is to develop robust reskilling/upskilling programs in-house to identify and retrain current workers as much as possible. The second prong is to develop a workforce that is ready for reskilling by ensuring everyone you hire can quickly learn new skills and also wants to do that. How can you screen for this in your recruitment and hiring process?
You can, of course, ask about their past experiences with learning and deploying new skills. But your efforts need to go far beyond that. You must thoughtfully assess the soft skills and personalities of candidates around learning new skills and dealing with unknown situations by quickly learning new information. Some companies are making use of simulations, virtual reality, and gaming in the recruitment process to get at how people handle novel challenges and problem-solving through rapid learning. You want people who are curious, are good a troubleshooting, who can use technology to solve problems, and who learn quickly. Focusing on qualities like these will go a long way towards making sure your workforce is ready, willing, and able to engage in upskilling and reskilling when your company needs it most – which will inevitably be sooner than later.
The rise of the digital economy threatens to leave an increasing number of workers behind who don’t have the digital skills needed to adapt to the rapid change of pace in what skills companies need moving forward. Smart workers see the writing on the wall and are taking their own initiative to learn the skills that will keep them relevant. Smart companies are making sure their workforce is composed of people who are ready for reskilling and upskilling, and developing the internal learning and training programs needed to upskill and reskill employees as needed. If you’re feeling like your company is behind the curve on this, you’re not alone. They key is to start addressing the situation at your company now. The rapid pace of change and the ever-shorter half-life of skills are not going to suddenly change their trajectory. The pace of change will only get faster and the half-life of skills will only get shorter. Now is the time to act!