The Importance of Reskilling for Agility and Resiliency

Published On: January 8, 2021Categories: Employee Training

[Editor’s note: Today’s blog post comes from Lindsey Zan, Director of Strategic Consulting at Rival, formerly SilkRoad Technology. Lindsey is a former Chief People Officer and a significant contributor to the best-selling book Emotional Intelligence 2.0.]

Now, more than ever, organizations realize that employees are their greatest asset. Today’s continually changing environment requires organizations to achieve a high level of agility and resiliency to adapt to and endure through change and disruption. Unfortunately, according to Gartner, only 20% of employees have the skills needed for their current and future roles, leaving many organizations unprepared to effectively adapt quickly. To accomplish this, organizations need to deploy the right talent to the right place at the right time at the correct cost. This level of mobility requires organizations to quickly reskill employees so that they can take on new roles; enabling the organization to adopt new digital business models, innovate, and accelerate time-to-market for new products, services or solutions. Reskilling is “learning in service of an outcome, which is usually the successful transition into a new job or the ability to take on new tasks successfully.”

In 2019, the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work stated, “Today’s skills will not match the jobs of tomorrow, and newly acquired skills may quickly become obsolete.” A recent survey conducted by Rival, formerly SilkRoad Technology and Workforce identified that 54% of organizations feel that reskilling the current workforce is needed to meet today’s operational challenges. In the same study, organizations that were mature (those who had already enacted a workforce transformation strategy) were more likely to leverage reskilling or upskilling as a means to support employees throughout the workforce transformation process.

According to McKinsey, to make sure that organizations thrive after a crisis, leaders and their teams can take six steps to build workforce skills now:

  1. Rapidly identify the skills your recovery business model depends on
    When evaluating the organization’s strategy, it’s imperative to identify the key people and valuable roles that are critical to the execution of the strategy. This can be accomplished by establishing strategic job families consisting of groupings of jobs based on themes focused on the organization’s overall strategy, such as operational excellence, innovation and client management. This model allows organizations to focus on the smallest group of job families that will garner the most impactful results.Mature organizations should also take risk management into account. Understanding potential risks to the organization and identifying where potential disruption can occur helps the organization prioritize the organization’s pertinent roles and requirements to achieve resiliency. Risk management and strategy management should happen in parallel.
  2. Build employee skills critical to your new business model
    When risk management and strategy management are leveraged in tandem to mitigate risk, organizations can create strategic risk job families, which helps to prioritize reskilling or development activities. After categorizing critical roles, organizations should identify the skills that are required to fulfill these jobs. Job descriptions for these roles can be used to determine what KSAs (knowledge, skills and abilities) are required. Armed with this information, organizations can create talent pools and plot employees in a 9-box to compare them based on potential, promotability, risk of loss and impact of loss.Organizations can prepare employees to take on new roles by building critical skills through development plans and setting performance goals or expectations aligned to roles or responsibilities that impact strategy and risk mitigation efforts. Enabling employees to acquire new skillsets supports a more agile approach to resiliency.
  3. Tailored learning plans
    Whether employees are being prepared for future roles or employees are entering the organization for the first time, a tailored learning plan helps to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time. This helps align organizational goals and speeds time to productivity or contribution in their current or future roles. A focused, continual and intentional approach to development also serves as a potent retention tool which deters employees from considering external opportunities.
  4. Start now, test rapidly and iterate
    Once organizations have aligned their risk management and strategy management, they can determine their readiness score. The readiness score is determined by dividing the number of available employees with the required skills by the number of roles that need to be filled and monitored every month. The readiness score can change or fluctuate if there’s attrition, there are new hires or if employees have acquired skills to fill gaps.
  5. Act like a small company
    Reskilling an entire organization can seem like a daunting, never-ending task when applied across the whole enterprise. To start, pick the low hanging fruit. It’s best not to try to boil the ocean. Organizations should look to identify where they can make the most significant, immediate impact, which is generally within the strategic job families that they’ve identified. Over time, the organization can consider approaching other employee populations to build continuous relevancy within the workforce.
  6. Link learning budget to overall business strategy
    Achieving true resiliency to change and disruption requires a focused strategy and a prioritized investment in development. In order to ensure that funds are allocated to these efforts, directly align reskilling efforts to your risk mitigation and strategic initiatives. Mature organizations that effectively manage their overall business strategy, will set aside funds for strategic expenditures (StratEx) in their budgets, outside of the typical CapEx and OpEx budgets. Therefore, identifying your reskilling efforts as strategic initiatives means you won’t have to compete for funding that is allocated for keeping the business running.

To learn more, please download the Ultimate Guide to Reskilling.