EventsRoundtableRoundtable ReportHRD Roundtable Report: How do we get the most out of upskilling and reskilling?

HRD Roundtable Report: How do we get the most out of upskilling and reskilling?

How do we get the most out of upskilling and reskilling?

With an estimated 133 million new roles to be created by 2025, upskilling and reskilling is a pre-requisite for the success of any business. But how do we ensure that upskilling and reskilling happen in the right areas of an organisation? How do we ensure the skills being addressed are indeed the skills that will help an organisation most moving forward? How do we know when it is time to upskill, reskill, or hire someone new?

On Thursday 17th November 2022, HRD Connect hosted a group of senior HR and people leaders to discuss these questions in a virtual roundtable that was led by Simon Gibson, Global Head of Learning & Development, M&S and supported by Christopher de Rusett, Large Enterprise Account Director, Workday Peakon. The group discussed how both upskilling and reskilling provide an organisation with an opportunity to retain its top talent and use them where they are most needed. The session was conducted under Chatham House rules so while this write-up will highlight key discussion points and takeaways, all participants are anonymised.

Identifying upskilling and reskilling requirements 

The starting point here for one participant was to look to the future to understand where their industry is heading. For instance, in the construction industry, they’re asking themselves how we’ll be constructing buildings in the future. The construction industry itself has a large demographic of employees who have been at the company for 20-30 years. Therefore, there is the need to take them on a journey to see where the future of the company is heading, whilst creating a vision for them, and making the prospect attractive even when their jobs might be changing.

The group agreed that often conversations around future capabilities are too vague, meaning more practical guidance is required to understand what skills the business has, what roles they have, and how that relates to the roles of the future. This is a particular challenge for bigger companies as things often move at a slower pace. This challenge shows up when creating new company-wide career job architectures as they require a huge amount of work but are integral to understanding what roles and skills a business has. One of the biggest challenges for a participant from a company of 70,000+ employees was creating a common job and skills architecture. They shared that it’s been a huge administrative exercise but necessary from a hygiene perspective and has unlocked a huge number of practical conversations internally.

What challenges are getting in the way of the upskilling and reskilling debate? 

Often, it’s the fact that HR and people leaders are operating in an industry that hasn’t experienced change for a long time. So, the prospect of asking someone to put a VR headset on can feel incomprehensible. It requires the leadership of an organisation to show the employees the benefit that would be felt by the employee and the value to the business. People are triggered by the fear of the unknown, especially when things feel new, so the uncertainty regarding the impact of technology is huge.

Simon explained how fragmented the workforce demographic is. Some do the 9-5, in highly repeatable, high-volume roles that hold little variance. Then there are new entrants, who are hungry to learn, and fall into slightly newer roles such are data scientists. Both must be approached differently.

The discussion then shifted to the importance of looking at your customer base when discussing upskilling and reskilling. The pandemic has made us all look at our customers differently, as they’ve evolved into new personas. One participant shared they did a big reskill during the pandemic as their customers liked coming into their stores and looking at their products. As a result of not being able to during multiple lockdowns, they had to train their employees to engage with customers digitally, and on a whole host of products.

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This participant shared that the fear of robots and AI isn’t felt in all companies, within this organisation they embrace it, whilst they struggle in other areas e.g., excellent customer service, soft skills, etc. Others feel immensely concerned about their people’s response to digital skills. In addition to that, whilst still very early days, people leaders are concerned about upskilling digitally and the salary increases which fuel hesitation for what it means for future costs.

As this segment ended, the group agreed that often upskilling and reskilling get overshadowed by the learning part, and the experience and development side of things gets overlooked. One individual shared that this has been a particular challenge for them, and that job shadowing has allowed them to see big improvements.

How to understand your skills and capability wants for tomorrow – what’s your gap and how do you validate it?

Understanding what your skills gap is, and how to validate that gap isn’t easy. Getting people leaders to agree on what we mean by a ‘skill’ is hard enough as often everyone in the business has a different interpretation of the word. The group divulged that often, once a people leadership group agrees on a buzzword, they get relaxed when really, they should start getting more concerned.

Key questions the group raised, that should be tackled here were:

  • How do we close the gap?
  • How do we have to buy, beg, or borrow skills?
  • What can we make available online in terms of remote learning offerings?
  • How do create learning platforms that employees understand are important?
  • How to provide good content on them?
  • How to integrate the day-to-day into an online learning platform?

For many, the focus is around bringing in a skills taxonomy. One participant is on that journey and currently moving to a second version which is market driven. Does it make the skills gap clearer? The answer is no, given the varying levels of depths and descriptions, manual mapping is required.

The group agreed that their organisations were good at telling the HR and people function the way the business is moving, for example, we need to be more data-savvy or data literate. But at a skills level, it’s hard to quantify further, other than I don’t have the skills I need. Simon asked the rhetorical question ‘can we afford to upskill or reskill people?’ The answer is no, we must because most organisations can’t afford the skills within the market as they’re so expensive. Upskilling and reskilling will always win in terms of costs.

Bringing in employees into the conversation directly will help on a couple of key areas; aligning to strategic initiatives by finding where the skills already exist within your organisation, and more detailed employee sentiment around desire for upskilling or areas for development.

There could be hidden skill areas within your existing employee base that you don’t know exists but align to existing or future gaps that you need to plug.

Research consistently shows that attrition rates increase when L&D isn’t a company priority. Understanding from your employees directly about drivers for development help to build useful growth initiatives that align to what they actually want.

Simon also highlighted the importance of understanding that technology wasn’t designed for people who sit at a desk e.g., drivers in retail don’t have a laptop, a desk, or a work phone. So, understanding, and being open to how people want to be upskilled is a must. A blanket rule approach to all upskilling must be digital, simply won’t work for all.

On the discussion of technology, the roundtable discussion came to a natural close around the use of tech in upskilling and reskilling. There are still a huge number of free resources, that are downloadable, and even great skills taxonomy resources are available. There are AI companies that can support here, that weren’t around a few years ago, and that are doing disruptive and innovative things.

Simon closed the conversation by highlighting his key takeaways:

  • There is a great opportunity for the HR and people function to go hard on upskilling and reskilling.
  • Our customers have changed, and if we don’t understand them like we used to, then we should review our L&D requirements as they need to change.
  • Can we afford to upskill and reskill our people? You can’t afford not to as all businesses are after the same talent and it’s your value proposition that will define whether you secure them.
  • Many of us are focusing on learning and forgetting about development.
  • Part of upskilling and reskilling is a leap of faith, driven by building brilliant business cases and finding someone who will support you.

For more information on workday peakon visit: Workday Peakon Employee Voice | Workday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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