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Why Reskilling the Workforce Matters Now More Than Ever

The challenges of 2020 have forced most organizations to rethink everything from their technology to their business processes to their organizational structure. While the changes have been various and, for some, far-reaching, they all result in one constant: the need for new skills. By making reskilling the workforce a priority, organizations can not only adapt to change but also provide them with greater long-term stability.

Why Reskilling the Workforce Matters

As pointed out by the Harvard Business Review, the onset of the coronavirus in early 2020 resulted in a massive shift in the global workforce, as the need for some positions shrank dramatically while other positions saw a jump in demand. Some countries even launched initiatives to train recently unemployed workers to fill these new, critical positions.

These types of initiatives aren’t just important at a national level – reskilling is important for organizations in just about every industry. Reskilling initiatives have been growing in importance for years, but, like other trends, have been accelerated as a result of the pandemic.

Here are a few of the reasons why organizations should build out comprehensive reskilling initiatives.

Reskilling Addresses Skill Gaps

Many in leadership positions struggled to address skill gaps before the COVID-19 pandemic, as their modernization efforts created new roles and changed or eliminated old ones. After the pandemic, we expect to see these modernization initiatives being prioritized. This will, in turn, lead to even greater skill gaps, which may not be easily filled with external hires, given the high demand and smaller pool of potential applicants.

To address these skill gaps, organizations can reskill existing employees and move them into new roles. This saves the organization the time and money it would take to source a new employee while allowing it to retain high-performing talent whose original role would be reduced or eliminated as part of the organization's transformation initiatives.

Reskilling Ensures Business Continuity When a Key Employee Can’t Work

Here is a hypothetical situation: an organization’s only web designer suddenly falls ill and goes on sick leave for what could be weeks, just when the organization is about to launch a new offering and needs a variety of changes to its website to go along with the release. However, the organization’s social media specialist, who has expressed an interest in web design, recently underwent several web design classes (paid for by the organization) and is able to make the necessary changes to the site. A situation that could have been a disaster was easily mitigated by having someone with the right skills “waiting in the wings” to step in and resolve the situation.

Put another way - reskilling employees helps ensure business continuity should the unexpected happen. Since many critical positions tend to sit higher within an organization, it can pay to upskill employees looking to eventually move into those roles.

Reskilling Creates More Organizational Flexibility

The greater the depth of skills within a workforce, the easier it is to reallocate employees to certain roles as needed. If there is one thing that the coronavirus pandemic has taught us, it is that flexibility improves organizational resiliency. This is especially important in today’s rapidly changing climate, which may force sudden shifts in strategy and the subsequent redeployment of resources.

But greater organizational flexibility isn’t just important when it comes to reacting to a crisis like COVID-19. Increased flexibility also allows organizations to be more proactive, making it easier to move personal to short-term, high-value initiatives.

Reskilling Sources Better Candidates (Internally and Externally)

Reskilling initiatives are an investment in your most powerful resource – your employees. This commitment to employee success greatly improves your organization’s work brand, which in turn makes your organization more attractive to top-level talent. In addition to attracting better applicants, investing in reskilling initiatives helps to build employee loyalty, as employees often stay with organizations that are committed to employee success.

In addition to attracting better external applicants, reskilling can help source from internally, especially when it comes to succession planning. If a high-performing employee has expressed an interest in a role but lacks some of the necessary skills for the position, then reskilling would be an effective way to prepare the employee to eventually assume that role.

The Challenges of Reskilling the Workforce

While organizations may understand the need for reskilling, that does not mean they are all ready to make reskilling a part of their overall business strategy. In order to maximize the ROI from this initiative, organizations need to be able to:

  • Determine what skills are needed to help achieve its goals
  • Identify skill gaps
  • Inventory employees’ existing skills
  • Determine how learnings should be disseminated
  • Make training easily available

Utilizing a cloud-based Human Capital Management (HCM) system can help give an organization a clear idea of its employee’s existing skills, thus making it simple to identify existing skill gaps. Combining a cloud-based HCM with a Learning Management System (LMS) simplifies the process even further. The LMS can allow some training to be available on-demand and push the results back to the HCM when completed.

Reskilling gives organizations a greater depth of skills without necessarily having to hire more employees and, at the same time, improves its overall level of talent within the organization. In addition, these initiatives spur greater organizational agility, making it easier to react to unexpected challenges while also supporting short-term and long-term strategies. Ultimately, reskilling is a win-win for both the organization and the employee.

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