As technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), predictive analytics and blockchain become more commonplace, organizations are struggling to find candidates with the skills needed to keep up and evolve these new systems and platforms. More than 80% of talent development professionals report a skills gap in their organization, and 78% anticipate a future skills gap.
"Companies are having to change what they do and how they do it," says Mikell Parsch, CEO of global IT training company New Horizons Computer Learning Centers. "The double change—pace of technology and pace of business evolution—is making workplace skills training essential." To bring the skills they need to their workforce, today’s HR leaders must rethink professional development programs and look into personalized learning courses, skill-specific workshops or company-sponsored degrees or certifications to meet their needs. They also need to take into consideration the upsurge in remote work as a result of COVID-19, likely investing more in online rather than instructor-led learning opportunities.
But one-off reskilling or upskilling efforts simply aren’t enough. To ensure their workforce remains competitive and agile, organizations will need to constantly evaluate employees’ individual capabilities and the future skills needed for their business to thrive—setting the stage for continuous learning. To get a better understanding of how reskilling and upskilling fit within this broader "new skilling" strategy, let’s examine each.
Reskilling: A necessary about-face
What is reskilling?
Reskilling involves training employees on an entirely new set of skills to prepare them to take on a different role within the company. This typically occurs when workers’ previous tasks or responsibilities become irrelevant, often due to advances in technology.
"Businesses do this because an employee may fit well in a team and have marketplace or company knowledge that would be difficult to replace," explains Parsch. "To keep that employee, the company just needs to update their skills to match new systems and new capabilities." Reskilling may involve obtaining a new degree, certification or education in a different field or area of expertise.
Last year, for example, Amazon started retraining programs for 100,000 of its workers to put them on a relevant career path in the face of automation. In this case, warehouse floor workers were prepared for potential new roles as IT technicians, and low-level coders were transitioned into data scientists. Reskilling allows businesses to retain reliable workers and minimize turnover by investing in employee growth.
The trouble with reskilling
Many organizations aren’t proactive enough with their reskilling efforts, waiting until they see a decline in skills and/or not properly identifying their specific needs (for example, overlooking critical-thinking skills in favor of strictly technological capabilities). A more holistic approach to skills development (what we’re referring to as "new skilling") involving regular evaluation will greatly improve a company’s ability to quickly and successfully adapt.
Upskilling: Expanding current skill sets
What is upskilling?
As opposed to reskilling’s 180-degree pivot, upskilling occurs when workers improve upon existing skills and deepen their abilities and impact within their area of expertise. By expanding their knowledge, employees become better positioned for additional responsibilities and higher-level roles on a particular career track.
For instance, a marketer will need to learn new digital tools and skills to better engage with their audience (and reach new ones) on emerging social platforms. If they do so successfully, they will simultaneously give their business a boost and set themselves up for future success in more advanced positions.
Make upskilling a staple of employee development
Providing employees with upskilling opportunities should be top of mind for HR executives and part of a larger, continuous new skilling strategy devoted to developing industry-leading talent. After all, it’s a win-win situation and a smart way to stay on top of best practices in the field. Similar to reskilling, upskilling also tends to build strong inter-company relationships. "Upskilling can keep good leaders from leaving to join your competition," Parsch says. "By investing in your team and showing that you want them to grow, they are more likely to stay."
New Skilling: Continuous learning for an adaptable workforce
The demand for skilled talent is only going to continue to grow, and the skills gap will only widen as technology advancements and societal shifts disrupt the status quo. The new world of work requires people to continuously hone their skills to stay relevant and improve their employability. The term new skilling represents all types of continuous learning to help build high-demand skills, whether an individual is trying to upskill current capabilities or they need complete reskilling to build entirely new capabilities.
A new skilling mindset keeps both a workforce and a company agile by ensuring learning initiatives are relevant to future business objectives and tailored to the needs of learners. This is simply the new reality—no business will survive for long without reskilling and upskilling initiatives driven by a new skilling strategy. By regularly identifying what skills will be needed in the future and which of those employees currently possess, organizations can build more thoughtful, continuous skilling programs to effectively develop those abilities in their workforce.
Conventional approaches for closing skills gaps are failing to keep pace with revolutions in work and technology. Download this research report from HCI and the Cornerstone People Research Lab to learn about six recommended action items for building a new-skilling approach that adapts to the changing needs of your organization and your people.
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Creating an Action Plan for Your Agency’s Skills Gaps
Times change, and agencies cannot predict when their employees will need new skills. Triggers such as new hiring mandates can leave agencies painfully aware of the abilities their workforces lack. However, there are many strategies that exist for closing these skills gaps. GovLoop and Cornerstone OnDemand put together this worksheet to help you and your agency develop an action plan for effectively filling its skills gaps. In this worksheet, you’ll gain insights into: Best practices from the public and private sectors for addressing skills gaps. The strategies for closing skills gaps including recruitment, reskilling, and upskilling. Your agency’s triggers, biggest skills gaps, and the best approach to eliminate those gaps. Download this worksheet to create your action plan to close your agency’s skills gaps.
5 Ways to Empower Employees with Future Skills
With the onset of artificial intelligence and automation, the demand for a highly-skilled workforce dedicated to continued learning is growing. Though these tech tools have vast capabilities, employees need specific skills in order to engage with this emerging technology effectively. But many simply do not possess the necessary knowledge: according to a new report from Deloitte Insights, there could soon be too few college graduates to fill the over six million currently vacant jobs—52 percent of employers say they consistently can't fill open positions. The skills gap is real, and it's widening. Increasingly, organizations need individuals who are able to learn quickly and who are adaptable to outside factors like emerging technology. In today's skills economy—where employees' existing knowledge and their ability to gain new skills are their biggest assets—a lifelong effort to learn new technical, social and managerial skills is a required reality. In partnership with Cornerstone OnDemand, the Institute for the Future unveiled a Future Skills Map highlighting the capabilities that modern workers will need to thrive in an ever-changing, fast-paced, tech-focused work environment. Below are five of the 15 skills outlined in the map that you can already nurture in employees today, and advice for empowering employees to attain them: 1) Get [Course] Credit for Everything To ensure career growth, employees shouldn't rely on existing skills alone. Lifelong learners never stop developing, always getting credit for every new skill they develop, and using those credits to propel themselves along their career paths. Hiring managers can identify individuals who have pursued relevant courses, certifications or made other efforts to learn, and reward them. For example, before looking outward to fill open positions, consider candidates internally who have prioritized gaining new skills. Seeing their colleagues grow will also motivate other employees who may have been complacent in the past. 2) Upgrade Your Digital Fluency Robots aren't replacing humans any time soon, but there's no denying that automation is changing employees' roles. By 2020, companies will spend $150 billion on artificial intelligence, $83 billion on robots and $70 billion on AI-based systems—lifelong learners aren't afraid of this; they embrace it as an opportunity to develop their skills. Managers should help employees more wary of automation focus on ways the technology can simplify their work lives by demonstrating how AI can help them. In the healthcare space, for example, AI now plays a growing role in digitally verifying insurance coverage information, reducing the need for manual calls and freeing up office managers' time to take on important projects, like pricing new technology for the office. 3) Connect the Dots to Make Change Thanks to increased mobility and connectivity, the modern workforce is dispersed. Because of this, insight into everyone's tasks and projects can be a challenge. Lifelong learners make a consistent effort to understand what their colleagues work on—it's the only way to gain a full picture of overall organization goals and help fill gaps that appear. Empower employees, especially leaders, to better understand how their own teams, and other teams across the company, function. This may require bringing on new technology. To connect the dots for its workforce, plumbing-product manufacturing company Kohler implemented a new talent management system across all of its business units. This solution gave leadership deeper insight into employees' roles, skills and team structures. 4) Grow Your Multicultural Dexterity Diversity today means more than different genders, races or religions—it's now about uniqueness of experience, and how these experiences shape individuals and their workforce interactions. Lifelong learners are not afraid to work in unfamiliar situations or with new people, and can quickly and appropriately shift their mindsets and approaches depending on the environment they're working. This skill doesn't come easily to all. Improve employees' multicultural dexterity by challenging them with new environments. Does your organization span multiple offices? Encourage employees to travel between them and interact with colleagues they don't see every day. 5) Grow Caring at the Core Even in the age of automation and AI, humanness is essential in the workforce because it determines how machines are programmed, and how the insight they gather is applied on the job. Empathy is an intrinsic characteristic of lifelong learners because the ability to reflect is key for growth. For others, empathy can be a learned skill. Building empathy should be an ongoing practice in every organization. Open, respectful conversations that address biases and opinions are one way to start. Self-discovery training programs that help individuals assess their own personality types and psychological needs can also help employees better understand themselves before they attempt to understand others. Creating a culture that celebrates lifelong learning and inspires employees to achieve more will only work if the organization's leaders make it a priority. When developing a learning strategy, organizations would do well to remember that just as consumers have expectations of the brands they engage with, employees also expect a great deal from the companies that employ them. The onus is on organizations to deliver the kinds of learning experiences employees now crave—personalized, on-demand and holistic. Photo: Creative Commons
Use Skill Adjacencies to Upgrade Reskilling Efforts
In today’s job market, employers prioritize technical and specialized skills, especially when hiring junior-level employees in an effort to address ever-changing needs. But technical skill shortages in the labor market exist and are likely to continue as technology continues to evolve and rapidly permeate our working lives. As a result, organizations are developing learning and development strategies to address their urgent need for tech talent. Our team at the Cornerstone People Research Lab (CPRL), in collaboration with the Human Capital Institute (HCI), recently explored this trend, and researched viable solutions for closing the tech talent gap. The final report, titled "The Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change," found that one way that organizations can start to more proactively and quickly address skills gaps—sometimes even before they appear—is by locating skills adjacencies and leveraging them to develop new and necessary skills. This is also referred to as "new-skilling," which is defined as a proactive, data-driven approach to learning that leverages partnerships and tools to simultaneously strengthen existing skills and develop skills for new roles. What Are Skill Adjacencies? Skill adjacencies are linkages between employees’ existing abilities and those that they need to learn. By identifying these adjacencies, HR and L&D professionals can identify opportunities for upskilling or reskilling to meet emerging needs. For example, Gartner Research recently analyzed billions of job postings and found that a company in need of a natural-language processing expert can look to employees with machine learning, Python or TensorFlow experience because these skills are closely related. Similarly, employees with email marketing skills have experience that will help them more easily learn community management, while those with interface design skills can pick up the tenants of modern user research. How Do You Locate Skill Adjacencies? Our findings showed that 46% of high-performing organizations actively work to identify adjacent skill sets to better inform reskilling programs, while only 26% of other organizations do. But while using skill adjacencies to refine upskilling and reskilling efforts can bolster the success of an organization, our research also suggests the methods used to identify skills adjacencies might not be effective enough. Our survey revealed that the most common way to study skill adjacencies was by collecting information on similar employee capabilities online and saving that information into spreadsheets and databases. But these tracking techniques can be esoteric and, especially for larger or more complex organizations, collecting and analyzing the massive amounts of data necessary to identify trends is challenging without more advanced technology. As the need for more technical skills revolutionizes work roles, companies will be better served using emerging technological tools like machine learning or artificial intelligence tools to collect, analyze and identify skill adjacencies. These tools empower companies to parse more information—from not only online job postings but also internal skills surveys, competency models, certification requirements, experience metrics and more—in a faster, more automated fashion. The use of these tools will also ensure that reskilling and upskilling efforts zero in on changing skills trends as they appear and address them before they create deficiencies. Skill Adjacencies Keep Employees Confident In addition to their ability to improve a workforce’s agility, there’s another underlying benefit to skill adjacencies: increased employee confidence. Today, some 40% of employees aren’t confident that their abilities will be relevant in the future. But by directing them to skills development and training that’s aligned with their existing capabilities and their interests, employees will more easily and rapidly transition from their current roles, to emerging positions, to new needs within their organization. To learn more about Cornerstone’s HCI Survey and how to use its findings to inform or update your skills development efforts, click here to download and read the full report.