Reskilling Needed as Transformation is Now an Everyday Reality 

(Part 1 of 2) 

Talent acquisition is going to see a radical transformation. If global mobility managers and their talents have been content to ride the waves, the search for talent and good skill sets in a pandemic world would be like building an ocean. 

New skills will need to be acquired, because transformation is going to be an everyday reality, which will be heightened by other challenges along the way, including the suspension of US work visas

Without it, America is going to face the biggest opportunity and challenge. Now it’s a race against time for companies to find ways to unlock the time it takes for reskilling their employees in this new normal or abnormal.

Companies will certainly need to find a way to reskill employees that would deliver a return on investment (ROI). That is a tall order, because it can mean giving their employees a break from their work to learn new things on company time; thus, the analogy about building an ocean. Would any company allow companies to spend company time training? It’s not even unusual for employers to trust their employees to work from home.

Era of shifting market needs

For employees, though, getting additional training is very much welcome. It’s necessary to learn new skills to remain employable, while also taking into account that they will need to gain recognition for their effort to learn new skills and technologies.

In Mercer’s report, 63% of employees say that they trust their company to invest in their skills and 55% trust their organization to teach them the new skills they will require should their job change or disappear.

In an era of shifting market needs, continuous learning, job redefinition and redeployment have to become part of the new work deal.

But, has human resources done enough to shift its own mindset? In contrast to business leaders, who rank reskilling as number one, reskilling and measuring the skills gap reportedly appear as HR’s fourth and sixth strategic priorities for delivering the future of work. It doesn’t help that only two in five CEOs are reportedly held accountable for employee reskilling.  

There is also a difference of opinion between employees and HR about what skills are relevant today and what will be in demand tomorrow. And, as businesses flatten organizational structures and place a premium on technical skills, employees may undervalue some pandemic in-demand skills.

The cost of reskilling

The risk for everyone is that, if we place a premium on quantifiable technical skills, they may neglect to nurture the necessary skills for tomorrow. Thus, organizations being transparent about technical skills and soft skills enables employees to be active stewards of their future.

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Work reskilling initiative is helping to drive greater fungibility of talent by the identification of the most crucial technical skills by industry and agreeing to common standards.

The quantitative cost-benefit analysis for companies considering whether to reskill current workers or “fire and hire” different workers was argued in the World Economic Forum’s Reskilling Revolution report. 

If a company chooses to reskill, the cost will include the reskilling itself as well as lost earnings and productivity while the worker retrains. The benefits include post-training gains in productivity. The report confirms it’s in the financial interest of a company to reskill 25% of at-risk employees (overhiring externally). The need for reskilling is also influenced by the People Dependency Index (PDI).

Agility starts with knowing your talent ecosystem—that is, knowing who you have and where.Two in five HR leaders acknowledge they don’t know what skills they have in their workforce. And only one in three are quantifying the skills gap against business objectives, which over half of HR leaders say is a challenge, up 20% from last year. 

One obstacle can be traditional HR models which typically have HR influencing from the sidelines. Honestly appraising where your workforce is today through pulse surveys, job simulations and hackathons can set the agenda. Global mobility managers would do well to take note how they can learn from these HR models.

HR’s strategies for filling skill gaps

A system-wide response starts with strategic workforce planning that takes account of both human and digital interactions and demonstrates an understanding of how work and workflows can be redesigned. 

Organizations need clear views of the skills in their talent ecosystem, which jobs include the skills and competencies that overlap with new jobs, and the reskilling pathways and critical experiences (or job hops) people will need to get from “at risk or stagnant” roles to “bright future” positions. Yet only 29% of HR leaders rate job redesign a priority.

Are plans to prepare for future jobs taking shape? Companies that are making inroads are identifying required skill clusters and mapping surplus talent with transferable skills. For instance, retail has been hit particularly hard by automation. 

Sephora, for example, introduced a program through which entry-level cashiers are eligible for free training to become beauty advisers through courses such as the Science of Sephora and the Skincare PhD.

These employees (unlike contractors and outside hires) are already wired for the culture and full of vital organizational know-how. Furthermore, building skills on demand—that is, among candidates or displaced workers—is becoming more widespread as companies ramp up efforts to source, retrain and prepare cohorts of “trained-to-needs” hires.

Scraping skills from people’s social media profiles or learning about competitors’ skills from their job postings are just some of the ways companies are automating part of the process. But, success rests on the ability for people plans, digital transformation plans, and business plans to come together.

HR leaders say they don’t know what skills they have in their workforce today

Further, the use of digital twins (or “mirror worlds”) and scenario modeling is on the rise to support workforce strategy design and planning. By visualizing scenarios, companies can bring to life the implications of choices on the bottom line and on the workforce.

(To be continued)