For the 8th year Donald Taylor asked ‘What will be hot in L&D?’ in his annual Global Sentiment Survey and this year a newly introduced option went straight to #1. The 3,114 voters from 95 countries all agreed that 'upskilling/reskilling' was the top of everyone’s agenda.
What is upskilling & reskilling, and why is it a priority now?
There is a marked difference between the terms - upskilling is where you further enhance your skills and knowledge in a particular area, whereas reskilling is gaining a completely new set of skills. For example, an IT developer might upskill by learning a new coding language, whereas an accountant would reskill by learning how to code from scratch.
These concepts have always been in existence - many of us have had to learn new skills in our role as new software systems are introduced, or to take over tasks that a colleague used to do. Plenty of people have changed careers entirely over the course of their working life, and these progressions have always been part of developing within a role as well as remaining productive and employable.
So, if skills have historically been transient, why is there suddenly so much focus on upskilling and reskilling now? Here are the 2 main reasons why:
1 - The never-ending tech vs talent crisis
Terms like the ‘talent crisis’, ‘skills shortages’, ‘skills gaps’ and the ‘war on talent’ have been bandied about for some time now, but that is because there is a very real and evident deficient in the talent pool and it is only getting worse.
Although the digital transformation is meeting changing business needs, the technological advances such as increased automation (including AI and chatbots) are facilitating a massive shortage of digital knowledge in these current and future skills areas.
By 2030, two thirds of the UK workforce could be lacking in basic digital skills. (McKinsey)
Organisations are struggling to attract and retain the skilled talent they need to match the speed of technological change. Plus, the hard-to-fill roles such as IT demand higher salaries meaning many companies fail to secure critical talent at a reasonable cost.
With organisations unable to hire their way out of the talent crisis, they must grow their own future workforce from within.
Upskilling and reskilling has become a matter of survival.
2 - Pandemic panic
The skills gaps that were evident across industries before the global health and economic crisis have now become gaping chasms within many companies, further exasperated by furloughs, redundancies, and the scattering of staff having to work from home. Plus, at a time when training was of paramount importance, the pandemic brought a halt to many of the development opportunities such as face-to-face classroom training.
In the Degreed State of Skills Report 2021, based on a survey of 5,208 people they found:
Nearly half of workers (46%) say their employers have reduced upskilling and reskilling opportunities during the pandemic… More than a third (38%) of respondents feel less confident now than they did before the pandemic that they have the skills to do their jobs effectively.
Many employees are feeling the pressure to stay employable, yet they are lacking the means to develop due to the pandemic. The Degreed report states that 'nearly half of workers (46%) would consider leaving their employer if they don’t see a commitment to upskilling and reskilling' - not something companies can afford to happen in a talent crisis.
Anxiety about skills is becoming a mental health and wellness issue - the more employees cite a lack of confidence in their skills, the more their mental health is affected. This anxiety can further impede their daily performance, causing reduced productivity and more days off - costing the company money.
More than half of workers globally (55%) say that as confidence in their skills decreases, their stress levels increase. (Degreed)
Providing the means to upskill/reskill while looking after our mental health is more critical than ever for both the business and its workforce.
What skills do employees need most?
The Degreed report found that the 5 'most in demand skills overall' are:
- Advanced IT and programming skills
- Leadership and management skills
- Communication and negotiation skills
- Entrepreneurship and initiative-taking skills
- Project management skills
It is interesting to note that although a ‘hard skill’ such as advanced IT skills is in the top spot, the other four areas stated in the report involve ‘soft skills’ such as thinking creatively and having good communication skills. As computers continue to automate many of our processes, having good interpersonal skills i.e. being ‘good with people’ is still essential, and can make you more employable, as this Forbes article states:
Whether you’re looking to break into a new field or move up in your current career, it helps to know which relational and interpersonal skills can best complement your technical abilities in the career arena.
Although basic digital skills are a must in modern workplaces, not everyone will have the ability or need to gain advanced programming skills. However, soft skills transcend across every industry and can be gained by all employees through effective training programmes.
The need for soft skills has become more evident in our remote working lives as communicating virtually with colleagues brings many opportunities and challenges. The onus is on organisations to ensure employees have the means and ability to work in a virtual world as well as in an office environment.
How can L&D support upskilling/reskilling
The nature of the rapidly changing business landscape means that we must all embrace the practice of upskilling and reskilling throughout our careers. Companies should support this by fostering a culture of continuous learning and in our recent L&D ThinkTank, the senior learning professionals we asked stated that creating a learning culture is highly important for companies today.
‘Organizations must embrace the fact that learning is a lifelong journey. While lifelong learning has always been critical, our digital world now requires new ways of working, which makes lifelong learning a must to the long-term success of organizations and individuals.’ (IBM)
Having the time to learn has always been an issue, with employees not being able to take a chunk of time away from their work to complete training courses. Increasingly employees want autonomy over their learning with the ability to be self-directed and access information on-demand and at their point of need. Yet expectations from learners for curated, instantly available, multi-channel experiences in key skills areas have some companies struggling to meet these requirements.
What can companies do when they don't have the time, budget, or in-house expertise to offer the extent of training employees want, need, and expect?
By utilising ready-made digital learning content, companies can upskill from within, fill the hole that classroom training left, and provide high-quality training quickly that brings real value to the learner and the organisation.
Upskilling and reskilling can become easier through the deployment of expert-led learning content that covers many essential and in-demand business areas such as leadership, digital skills and even virtual collaboration techniques and soft skills.
An online platform like Percipio provides a 'setup and go' approach that allows companies to quickly bring a wealth of engaging digital learning resources to their workforce.
Percipio contains an extensive digital learning library available 24/7 that covers the skills described in the Degree report: Business Skills, Management and Leadership, Productivity and Collaboration Skills and IT Certifications. There is also information on mindfulness and supporting good mental health. Each collection is broken down into approximately 500 pre-curated channels which consist of 3,700 courses and 21,000 books, 38,000 videos, all created by experts. Plus, its data analytics can show managers how effectively upskilling and reskilling is taking place.
Try it for yourself - start a free trial of Percipio now and see how upskilling and reskilling can be easily supported in your organisation. The library is also available separately and can be added to any pre-existing LMS.
How Logicearth learning consultants can support your Upskilling/reskilling goals
At Logicearth, we focus on developing long-lasting partnerships with all of our clients. In addition to making available the right libraries of content, we work strategically with organisations towards a shared vision, and offer our extensive knowledge and resources to help them achieve long-term learning and development goals; and far beyond pandemic pressures.
Providing access to online learning content is the first step. The Logicearth team of consultants will support you to:
- Fully implement the learning platform and embed its use as part of your core learning services
- Empower your administrators through training and knowledge sharing on the best practices of managing digital learning libraries to fully support and develop staff
- Enable the upload of customised content
- Develop customised learning paths aligned to your organisation's goals
- Support communications and engagement planning
Whether it’s ready-made learning, content development or bringing a blended learning solution to your organisation, we are here to help. Speak to a learning consultant today.
 The L&D Global Sentiment Survey 2021: the Covid effect
 The future of work: Rethinking skills to tackle the UK’s looming talent shortage
 Upskilling is Key to Your Business Recovery Strategy | Degreed State of Skills Report 2021
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