Reskilling And Leadership: Retraining Employees To Bridge Gaps And Bolster Confidence

Reskilling And Leadership: Retraining Employees To Bridge Gaps And Bolster Confidence
Summary: The challenge to retrain employees is a worldwide issue that cuts across organizations and business sectors. In 2017, McKinsey estimated that 375 million workers (or 14 percent of the global workforce) would have to change jobs or acquire new skills by 2030. The prime reasons are the rise of automation and artificial intelligence. Retraining concerns us all: so, what does it involve, how do you go about it and what’s the role of leadership?

Reskilling And Upskilling And Why They Matter

People often mention reskilling and upskilling in the same breath, but they are distinct concepts.  Reskilling means training people with new skills to do a different job or take on a new role.  Upskilling, on the other hand, involves equipping people with the skills to do their job better or prepare them for significant changes to their existing role.  Both reskilling and upskilling are deployed to improve skills levels, reduce skills gaps, and equip workforces for innovation and change.

A McKinsey survey found that reskilling and upskilling programs were generally introduced to enable a change in business model or strategy or to react to the disruption caused by technological advances.  The same survey reported that organizations expected to have to invest more in L&D to meet emerging skills gaps - less than half of those questioned knew how they would bridge those gaps.

McKinsey further identified financial services, telecoms, and high-tech industries as most likely to face disruption and a consequent skills gap.  But no sector is immune to the revolution caused by increased automation and artificial intelligence.  The need to retrain staff is not unique to large corporations or the preservation of high-tech industries.

The potential skills crisis affects us all.  Technological disruption is changing the entire business environment.  If you don’t have the awareness and ability to upskill and reskill your staff, your business is likely to lose out.

Today’s leaders require a broad range of core skills and competencies to manage in an ever-changing, economically and culturally diverse, and constantly challenging environment.  Businesses and their Learning and Development teams need to identify the competencies their leaders require through skills-gap analyzes and then put in place a leadership program to develop and sustain those critical competencies.

E-learning can help bridge that skills gap.  Broad-ranging training catalogues and digital assets accessed via an LMS or LXP offer expert opinion in a way that engages modern learners.  They deliver a flexible resource, available 24/7 across devices, that can be deployed and repurposed to provide the combination of key business and soft skills that aspiring and current leaders require.

Let’s investigate the key core competencies leaders need and discover what makes them so essential.

eBook Release: Leadership Training: How To Equip Leaders For Today's Challenges And The Future
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Leadership Training: How To Equip Leaders For Today's Challenges And The Future
Explore leadership competencies and reskilling and tips on leadership training strategies and activities!

Reskilling And Upskilling: Some Examples

Retraining employees helps you build a resilient and agile organization that can prepare for and respond to existential change.  For example, Amazon’s warehouse workers faced being phased out by automation. The company responded with a $700 million reskilling program to give them the technical skills to take new positions in IT support and software engineering.

Similarly, AT&T discovered that only about half of its employees had the STEM skills the company required to move forward.  It realized that even if it could afford the hiring bill, there weren’t enough people out there with the necessary skills.  Instead, it chose to reinvest in its own people by putting in development paths to reskill them, building trust, and demonstrating faith in its existing employees.

The current pandemic has transformed the way doctors treat patients.  A couple of years ago only 1 percent of all UK GP appointments took place via video or phone.  During the height of the pandemic, that figure changed to 100 percent online or phone consultations.  Doctors quickly had to upskill to enable them to make effective diagnoses remotely.

Banks too have found that interactions with customers are no longer in-person during Covid-19.  So, they’ve upskilled employees to give them the empathy skills to help customers engage with their services and products entirely online.

Tips To Retraining

You can see the benefits that retraining delivers, but what steps, as leaders, do you need to take to start reskilling and upskilling your employees?

1. Find The Gaps

You need to know where you’re headed.  That means having a clear sense of the business landscape ahead.  Then you need to evaluate the skills the organization will require in that environment.

Review existing skills by conducting an inventory to audit the skills that current employees possess.  A skills-gap analysis will determine the target and objectives for your retraining program.  The skills inventory and gap analysis will also allow you to tailor your training to meet demand.  For example, some people may require minimal upskilling while others need to be reskilled entirely to prepare for a new role.

2. Implement Learning To Fill The Gaps

Your analysis should tell you the size of the gap you need to fill.  Tailor any retraining to meet individuals’ learning goals and needs.  Recognize existing skill sets and build on them.

Map out learning and development paths for employees so that they understand where they are and where they’re going.  This context increases relevance, promotes buy-in, and builds resilience and trust in people.

3. Offer A Variety Of Learning Resources And Strategies

Reskilling and upskilling are continuous requirements.  You can’t tackle them with a single, one-off training course.  When rapid retraining and agility are required, e-learning courses offer dynamic, multimedia features that engage learners and allow them to learn at their own pace.  Microlearning can provide just-in-time information to meet specific objectives as well as being a constantly accessible resource for refreshing and practicing learning.

The digital revolution means that we can now store and curate a wide variety of learning assets in a range of formats using LMSs or LXPs.  These assets can be delivered on a variety of devices, including mobile, meaning employees are never without learning support.  This brings learning into the workflow, giving it more relevance.

Collaborative and social learning facilitate the sharing of information between peers.  This can be in the form of job-shadowing, one-off interventions, or in the sharing of learning assets via a learning platform.  This is learning in context and makes for better retention and application of what’s being learned.

4. Prioritize Leadership

Retraining requires buy-in, management, and support from senior staff.  It’s the role of leaders to recognize the changing face of business and devise a strategy to respond.

Building employees’ skills critical thinking and decision-making, along with leadership and management, feature heavily in retraining programs.  This is no surprise as reskilling and upskilling require high levels of self-motivation, confidence, and drive.  It takes commitment and resilience to take on new challenges in an unfamiliar environment.

And leaders aren’t exempt from retraining.  They need to constantly evaluate their own skill sets and up or re-skill.  Modern leadership training programs offer an increasing number of modules on core skills because leaders need to be at the forefront of developing new skills – both their own and those of their teams.

5. Build A Learning Culture

The technological forces that have created the skills crisis show no signs of abating.  So, any retraining program needs to be grounded and agile enough to continue to meet the next disruptor.

Learning and development need to be sustainable.  You can make it so by building and instilling a culture of learning.  This goes beyond just providing access to training.  It means actively promoting learning and making it part of working.  It also means building a growth mindset so employees treat change as an opportunity and take charge of their own development.

Retraining Delivers Long-Term Benefits

The benefits of retraining include:

  • Retaining people and knowledge: offering staff retraining and career development means they’re likely to stay.  Organizations then reap the full benefit of investing in their people.
  • Attracting talent: offering retraining opportunities can make your organization a magnet for other highly skilled and motivated people.
  • Improving confidence and morale: the commitment to retraining will result in more contented, motivated, and confident employees.  They are more likely to be proactive and engaged, leading to a virtuous circle where success feeds off success.
  • Enhancing performance: The positive effect on staff translates into a better bottom line and creates an organization that is resilient, agile, and proactive in the face of disruption and better placed to reap the benefits.

Retraining Is The Way Forward

Even before the pandemic a revolution was underway changing jobs and transforming marketplaces.  There’s no going back, but to move forward leaders need to deliver a robust and broad retraining agenda that develops not only employees’ technical skills but also develops their emotional and mental faculties.  Retraining boosts employees’ skills and confidence.  And a more confident workplace makes for a more resilient business.

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