Learning & Development

On the road to change: 3 steps to reskill and upskill employees

Important takeaways from this blog:

  • How to do reskilling and upskilling?
  • What are the obstacles and how to overcome them?
  • How to cope with employee motivation?

In the labor market, there is less and less workforce with appropriate skills.

According to the World Economic Forum report, 1 billion people have to be reskilled by 2030, and by 2022, 42% of core skills are expected to change to carry out activities in various sectors.

According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, “By 2030, as many as 375 million workers-or roughly 14 percent of the global workforce-may need to switch occupational categories.”

The reskilling and upskilling of the workforce have become inevitable as many job roles are becoming obsolete and newer roles are getting created. Many companies have chosen reskilling and upskilling as the number one possibility to solve the skills gap.

Let’s dive into the reskilling and upskilling process.

First, let’s meet up with terms.

Reskilling: New skills → new role, new career path

It is the process of learning new sets of skills for a completely different position in the company. The employee attends training and gains new skills and experiences to be able to perform a new job in the company. Reskilling is a good option when a current role is going to be eliminated, and organizations want to retain good talent by educating them on a new career path.

Upskilling: New skills → the same role, upgrade

On the other hand, upskilling is the process of learning new and relevant skills in order to improve work performance. The employee needs to develop to a higher level with new skills and capabilities to be able to do his work. Upskilling is a good opportunity for talent development and personal and career growth.

How to reskill and upskill?
What are the obstacles and how to overcome them?
Where to begin?

Everything begins with a plan and strategy and setting the SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound.

On the road to successfully reskilling and upskilling, organizations can follow these 3 steps:

First step: What skills are needed?

When it comes to planning, it is good to keep in mind that it is simply impossible to reskill an entire company at once. A good strategy includes identifying and ranking the skills that are most necessary for the continued success of the business. It is also important to identify employees with transferable skills. Those are employees with the relevant background knowledge that are quick learners and can easily make a transition to new roles. In order to identify them some data needs to be collected. The starting point will be conducting skills gap analysis, creating and tracking employees` career paths, and monitoring KPIs.

Next step: Find appropriate forms of learning

Depending on the skills that are missing, the learning style of the employees as well as the current budget capability of the company, there are some possible learning options:

Peer-to-peer

It’s considered one of the best ways of learning because it covers all four stages of the learning loop: gaining knowledge, practicing through the application of that knowledge, getting feedback and reflecting on what has been learned.

Learning and experience are transferred between employees, creating a culture of learning and making it strong. These also provide support, learning with mistakes, a 360-degree feedback and ensure that the company has safe institutional knowledge even with the departure of employees. It is also an excellent way to learn soft skills such as leadership, active listening, effective feedback, etc. Peer-to-peer learning can be done in pairs (two colleagues) or in groups.

Mentoring

It’s a form of learning that has many benefits.

Mentors share their experience, skills, knowledge with mentees, and in that process they both grow personally and professionally. It is also beneficial for organizations because it increases motivation levels, attracts talent, and reduces attrition.

Job rotation

For employees to learn new skills and potentially prepare for a new role, job rotation is a good form of learning and gaining new experience. Employees rotate between different jobs at the same organization and  those jobs are mostly on the same level. That can be an excellent way to transfer specific skills, knowledge, and competencies.

Online learning

Everything is a click away from you. A lot of learning materials, lessons, lectures, webinars, and videos can be provided online. Learning Management System (LMS) and Digital Adoption Platform (DAP) are cooperative ways of online learning that allow the creation of engaging training modules, track employee engagement, analyze performance and gather feedback.

Job Shadowing

It’s a type of on-job learning that is good for gaining insight into the roles and responsibilities of other members of the team or other departments. Job shadowing is a good start for interns or employees who acquire new skills for a new career path. 

Blended learning

A combination of traditional learning with an instructor-led classroom and technology and digital media is a good way to increase engagement, learning and retention. With blended learning, different people learn different things in different ways.

In developing reskilling and upskilling programs for your workforce, consider grouping learners into categories. For example, by:

  • Department (Marketing, Sales, Engineers)
  • Role (executives, managers, customer service)
  • Work modality (non-desk, office setting, hybrid)
  • Time at the company (new employees, 5+ years employees).

Final step: Track, Measure, Evaluate

The final goal is not accomplished just by choosing the right learning program for employees and making it accessible to them. It’s not like cooking: mix the right ingredients, and expect a delicious cake. Learning is a process and needs to be tracked, measured and evaluated.

Is the program effective or are there some changes to be made? Are employees applying the new skills? Are they able to transition into new roles?

To answer those questions it’s necessary to collect data from various sources like 1:1 discussions, surveys, questionnaires, post-training quizzes, assessments and examinations. An easy and one of the most frequently used evaluation models is Kirkpatrick’s Four-level Training Evaluation Model (Reaction, Learning, Behavior, Results).

Obstacles

It all seems easy – there are only three steps that need to be followed. But what are the possible obstacles on that road of change? There are a lot of decisions to be made and a lot of questions to answer.

What program will do a good job in a short amount of time?
What learning program is going to suit my employees better?
Is it better to design an in-house training program or outsource an external training vendor?

All these questions relate to issues of money and cost, time invested, employee motivation and coping with changes.

Does it pay off?

When people are making a big purchase, they usually ask themselves: What do I get for that money or is it worth it? The question of worth is the question of benefits. Which benefits does a company get by buying the learning program for their employees?

Investment in employees is an investment in business success on multiple levels.

The benefits are:

  •  Avoiding layoffs and rehiring
  •  Cost-saving compared with hiring new employees
  •  Reduce employee turnover
  •  Drives new talent to your organization
  •  Enhance customer satisfaction
  •  Boost morale.

By investing in employee career development, the company shows its appreciation and employees love to feel appreciated. It makes them feel valued, happy and satisfied. It boosts morale, increases employee engagement and keeps them motivated. They become the company’s best advocates, and it’s more likely that they recommend a company to their friends, ex-colleagues etc.

Happy and skilled employees lead to happy customers and enhance customer satisfaction. With employee engagement, employee retention rate also comes and people are more willing to stay at the company. With reskilling and upskilling, companies avoid layoffs which can negatively impact employee morale and have a chance to retain good talents. They also avoid rehiring that comes with the cost of money and time.

Coping with changes and employee motivation 

Every change comes with different challenges and carries a certain amount of stress. Different people react differently to change and it is necessary to combine different adaptation approaches. The learning process is a process of change, and change requires adjustments.

To help your employees through the process of change it’s necessary to have open, clear and transparent communication, a good team, support, empathy and acquire work equipment.

It is important to communicate with employees and keep them informed about crucial information in order to reduce anxiety.

For example: Why does the company need to change and why does it need to be now? What are the pros and cons? Explain why it is important for them to learn new skills. Point out what is the goal in terms of outcomes, not tasks. 

It is necessary to take an honest, positive and compelling narrative for the changes before any anxiety, confusion or rumor takes root. On the road to change, transparency is a crucial way to demonstrate your respect for your team. Leaders and managers play an important role in establishing a supportive environment that maintains engagement and interest. 

Giving them timely feedback and praising small steps of progress is a good way to empower your team in the process of learning. 

The path of change is a process that requires time, patience, being focused on the goal and staying positive.

The organization should send a supporting message to their employees: Together we’re dealing with challenges and together we win.

Author: Branka Vuletić

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