According to a report from the World Economic Forum, 94% of business leaders report that they expect employees to pick up new skills on the job, a sharp increase from 65% in 2018.
The reasons for the increase aren’t hard to find: the pandemic has led teams to make dramatic shifts in the way they work. The report emphasizes the importance of skills in self-management, such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance, and flexibility, all of which remote work demands.
The Human Touch
Of course, advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and automation have been changing, and will continue to change, the shape of work in ways that will lead companies to upskill their employees. While advances in technology demand hard skills in engineering, they also increase the value of soft skills, such as interpersonal skills and communication. In many ways, this is exactly as it should be: automation will provide us with the time necessary to focus on the things that only humans can do.
While there is a clear need for upskilling across many industries, there are also clear benefits, particularly during the Great Resignation. Offering employees learning opportunities demonstrates that their company values their contributions and are willing to invest in them in the long-term, thereby increasing retention.
Upskilling, in some cases, can help remedy labor shortages: if you can’t find someone to fit a key role, you can upskill one employee while hiring another for an easier-to-fill role.
Given its importance to the present and future of work, it’s worth considering how to upskill employees in ways that deliver outstanding results.
How To Implement an Upskilling Program
The best way to target a new program of upskilling is to gather data on mid- and long-term talent gaps on a regular basis. Make sure to keep an up-to-date list of skills required in each role as well as an eye on how automation might change these in the future. Consider what roles can be expanded to incorporate new capacities as well as who in those roles can best develop the new skills you need. Consider having employees perform a skill assessment to figure out what skills they need to develop and what skills they already possess.
Then, launch an upskilling program based on those gaps and begin beta-testing so you can discover the ways in which your employees learn best. Many employees want upskilling to be self-directed. This might ideally take place through microlearning, two- to five-minute lessons that can fit into virtually anyone’s day. You should also think of ways to incorporate teamwork into upskilling because social communities both boost retention and also help promote the soft skills most crucial to the future of work.
Make Lifelong Learning a Priority
Leadership needs to make upskilling part of the culture. Instead of considering instituting new one-off training sessions, think about ways to make learning continual. Weave learning into the culture of the company. Make it accessible. Think of ways to easily harness free time for learning. Put learning in the hands of the employees who stand to benefit from it.
Also, think about the ways that you can weave together upskilling with career advancement. By offering advancement opportunities based on your employees’ newly acquired skills, your company will communicate both that their outstanding performance is valued while also ensuring that they don’t take their skills elsewhere.
HR professionals should be involved in the assessment of these programs. Incorporating feedback from employees can help make learning as engaging as possible. It’s a long-term investment in your talent. Make sure that you also factor in your own evolving understanding of how your employees’ skills need to improve, and what results you can see in the data that tracks your team’s performance. When you see what is producing results, consider scaling that approach to other roles in your company.
Photo by Anna Shvets for Pexels