4 Strategies for Upskilling and Reskilling Your Workforce

4 Strategies for Upskilling and Reskilling Your Workforce

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4 Strategies for Upskilling and Reskilling Your Workforce

Recent surveys indicate that new skills and organizational knowledge sharing are critical for tackling the skills revolution. HR leaders will need innovative solutions for upskilling.

By Deborah Waddill

The 21st-century workplace demands a new strategy for human resources (HR). “The novel coronavirus pandemic led to a reworking of the economy unlike any other since World War II,” according to The Wall Street Journal. This shift requires an innovative response from HR professionals in business, nonprofits, government, and education.

  • 58% of the workforce needs new skill sets to do their jobs.
  • 83% of industry association economists say employers in their sectors are finding it more difficult to fill jobs than they did five years ago.
  • 55% of employees struggle to find and share organizational knowledge, and 61% are not satisfied with their company’s workplace technologies.
  • Approximately 53% of college graduates are unemployed or working in a job that does not require a bachelor’s degree.

As a result, HR will need to change substantially in its accountability over the next 12 to 18 months, a recent Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Report indicates.

HR leaders need innovative ways to address these issues. New approaches should include previously underexplored options. Consider four strategies as you rethink your organization’s approach to HR.

  1. Focusing on Skills

“Skills are the language of business,” says Janice Burns, Chief Career Experience Officer at Degreed, an education technology company that focuses on enabling and recognizing professional and lifelong learning and skills. “There is a ‘skills revolution’ going on.”

The Degreed approach to HR strategy is an ongoing upskilling process resulting in positive outcomes that surpass business profit-and-loss statements, Burns says. While benefiting the organization, a skill-building approach also:

  • Demonstrates commitment to employees
  • Embraces social responsibility through inclusivity
  • Offers a positive impact on a variety of industries by solving skill shortages
  • Uses data-driven solutions, resulting in a constant renewal of workforce performance
  1. Sharing Knowledge

“Employees rate the ‘opportunity to learn’ as among their top reasons for taking a job,” according to Deloitte Insights, “and 94% say they would stay in a company if it helped them to develop, yet only 15% can access learning directly related to their jobs.”

At Tenable, a cybersecurity organization, Jeremiah Fern, Senior Director for Sales and Channel Enablement, revamped the sales training to address a need for continuous learning and knowledge sharing.

The unique aspect of Fern’s solution is to customize learning to each learner’s preference while making the material more accessible through a variety of venues and formats. Microlearning assets are made available just-in-time and at point of need; can be pulled by users, instead of pushed to the learners; and are accessible both by desktop and mobile devices.

Because Tenable emphasizes user experience, Fern has designed the microlearning in the context of performance, available in the employee’s workflow.

“It doesn’t matter how you come to know what you know,” Fern says. “There should be a variety of venues to get to knowledge. The user experience is a high priority. So the goal is to provide learning in the context of performance. Sales professionals can learn through more formal methods like an on-demand training course, or through informal weekly Zoom webinars, company presentations, or product brochures.” Assessments are built into the platform, so everything is in one place.

There is a knowledge-management element to this learning approach. Employees can submit knowledge content directly to Prime, the content platform, and make it available to everyone. “We have a formal governance model to make sure it’s not the Wild West,” Fern says. “If it is something worth assessing, contributors work with my team to develop the material into a sanctioned offering.” This approach demonstrates a blending of knowledge and learning management, including the knowledge-management cycle of creating, capturing, storing, sharing, and applying knowledge.

  1. Offering Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships offer organizations a diverse pool of nontraditional hires who become dedicated employees with customized skills.

“Apprenticeships combine paid on-the-job training with classroom instruction to prepare workers for highly skilled careers,” according to the Department of Labor. “Workers benefit from apprenticeships by receiving a skills-based education that prepares them for good-paying jobs. Apprenticeship programs help employers recruit, build, and retain a highly skilled workforce.”

At global consulting firm Accenture, apprenticeships are “real jobs, with real-world experience at a sustainable wage, most of the time on client-facing work,” says Pallavi Verma, Senior Managing Director of Quality and Risk, North America. One recent Accenture apprentice, Verma says, was a former food-truck operator who was retrained in a technical field.

One business benefit of apprenticeships is that the individuals who come through the apprenticeship program are more loyal and have a low attrition rate. “The appeal is ‘sticky,’” Verma says. “In other words, people stay.”

  1. Partnering with Schools

Another emerging strategy to hire workers with in-demand skills is through business/education/student partnerships.

Business and education have a synergistic relationship. Educational institutions prepare students with life skills, so when educational institutions partner with businesses for student employment, the relationship prepares students to be productive future employees.

At the Johns Hopkins University Experiential Learning Center, Nickolas Lantz, Executive Director of Experiential Learning, strives to offer students work experiences that enhance their resumes and portfolios while they earn payment. Lantz oversaw development of SMILE, a platform that connects students with work opportunities with employers within or outside the university. SMILE provides equal access for all students, establishes employment eligibility, displays paid projects, and allows for onboarding with the organizations.

These four strategies for upskilling and reskilling focus on skills rather than on job descriptions, technology-enabled continuous learning, alternative labor sources, an emphasis on the future workforce, and social responsibility. For your organization, these strategies may offer avenues to success today while readying you for the future.

Learn how the SHRM Executive Network can help your HR leaders prepare for the challenges of tomorrow.

Deborah Waddill, Ed.D., is President of Restek Consulting LLC and author of Digital HR and The e-HR Advantage.


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