5 Best Practices to Implement a Reskilling Program
In discussions about the future of work, we often focus on aspects such as culture, a hybrid workforce, and automation. While these areas should be prioritized, there is one decision imperative to the success of a company: upskilling and reskilling your workforce.
On Season 4 episode 11 of the Survive and Thrive podcast, we talked about the importance of upskilling and reskilling for both employees and employers. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at why reskilling in particular is not only beneficial, but will become a necessity in the future.
Upskilling vs. Reskilling
Before we go any further, we need to first distinguish reskilling from upskilling. Upskilling is the practice of training employees' usable skills that build off their existing foundation of knowledge. Reskilling, on the other hand, teaches employees a new set of skills that allows them to fulfill a new role in the company.
While training takes time and money, it’s still more economical than hiring a new employee with the desired skills. In 2019, Gallup discovered that replacing an employee can cost an organization anywhere from half to 2x of that employee’s salary. Additionally, SHRM found that onboarding new employees cost companies on average $4,125.
Even if you decide to invest in onboarding a new employee, you may not be able to find one with the skills you require. The SHRM survey also revealed that 83% of HR professionals are having difficulty recruiting, 75% of those professionals pointing to a shortage of skills in candidates as the reason why.
Overall, investing in your current employees is a better investment for your company. As we enter the future, reskilling will become a path we can’t ignore.
There’s no question that the pandemic accelerated new technology and digitization in the workplace. As we have adopted new technology faster than ever before, we will also need to acquire the skills necessary to use it. In 2020, a World Economic Forum report postulated that automation and technology could displace 85 million jobs – but create 97 million new ones by 2025. Yet the World Economic Forum isn’t the only one to assert this.
In 2021, PwC put forth the idea that 40% of workers will require up to 6 months of reskilling by 2025. However, if employers invest in this reskilling, it could generate 5.3 million new jobs globally by 2030.
A separate PwC survey of more than 32,000 workers worldwide revealed that 77% of workers are ready to learn new skills or completely retrain. In essence, the people who will need new skills, actually want them!
While reskilling may be an additional perk now, it could become vital to an organization over the next few years. In order to be best prepared for the future, we must start now.
Implementing a Reskilling Program
So, how do we get started with a reskilling program? There are a few steps we can take to lay a solid foundation for any programs you decide to implement. In order for the program to be successful, we need to set up an environment that allows it to thrive.
1. Create a Culture of Learning
The first and most important aspect for reskilling is to foster an encouraging culture. Before you try to reskill your workforce, you must first make it clear that they are allowed to be imperfect. Mistakes are a vital part to learning, so for people to feel like it’s acceptable to learn, they must first feel like it’s acceptable to falter.
This culture of learning can be both explicitly and implicitly expressed. Is creativity, asking questions and curiosity included in your mission statement? Are these qualities presented in onboarding materials or during meetings? Before you attempt reskilling, make sure that learning and growth is written in the language of the company.
Leaders play a key role in fostering a culture of learning. Do they encourage employees to try new approaches? How are honest mistakes handled? Are employees afraid to voice their own opinions? In order to make sure your employees feel safe to learn, try first sending out anonymous surveys to identify any pain points or areas of improvement. Then, act on it!
2. Identify Skills You and Your Employees Need
Before you formulate your reskilling program, it’s important to pinpoint what skills are needed and who will learn them. It can be easy to get wrapped up in the flashy new trends of coding and other technological skills. However, it’s vital to do research on your industry and your company to narrow down what areas you should focus your efforts. Additionally, think about who you want to reskill. Does every single employee need to be reskilled? Or just ones at certain levels or certain percentage? By doing this research ahead of time, you can be more efficient with your systems.
3. Identify Best Learning Methods
Another great question to ask is, “How will you deliver these skills?” To answer this, you must look at the demographic and number of people that will be learning. Senior employees may be partial to a lecture, while younger employees may prefer an online course. However, the dynamics are different at every company. Be sure to survey employees or offer other avenues of feedback so that you can collect the right information. As the PwC survey revealed, most employees want to learn new skills, so hopefully you can get some valuable and forthright information out of your data collection.
After all, what’s the use of a reskilling program if no one likes the way it’s taught? If you want employees to successfully complete the program, it needs to be accessible to them.
4. Support Employees’ Education
Reskilling programs should also be affordable. This can take many forms, such as tuition reimbursement, student loan aid and more. Perhaps you can create a system where employees can earn a certificate through their work in the organization. Another great option is partnering with a local university or community college that allows team members to take classes. Perhaps you want to feature a series of lecturers. By establishing a “lunch and learn” series, employees are more incentivized to attend.
If you want to foster more of a learning environment within the organization, implement a mentorship program that pairs senior level employees with newer ones. Although mentorships can form naturally, not everyone is always included. By creating a formal system of mentorship, employees get a chance to meet and bond with co-workers that they may not have otherwise. Additionally, mentorship can be a great way for new employees to feel welcomed and senior employees to feel valued.
5. Measure and Adjust
There are many options and methods for reskilling programs. The important thing is finding the best one for your employees and organization. To start and maintain a flourishing system, think about ways to collect data and feedback in all forms. The more you can measure, the more metrics you can establish, the more informed and effective your reskilling becomes. As we have all learned over the past few years, we must pivot when encountering great change. So, by measuring and adjusting, we can ensure that the reskilling program, and therefore the employees and company, thrive in the future.
If you'd like to discuss how to incorporate upskilling into your organization, schedule a free session with us here. We're working with clients today who are actively shaping their culture in this direction as a key driver of their business success.