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Mind the Gap

PART I – Significance of the Sigh

The skills that workers need to make our companies competitive are changing very quickly, and as a result, the skills gap is widening. The following two data points support this:

  1. According to the World Economic Forum, by 2022 54% of employees will need upskilling or reskilling.

  2. The Deloitte Future of Work 2021 report states that executives have identified “the ability of their people to adapt, reskill and assume new roles” as the top-ranked item to navigate future disruptions.

As finding talent with the new skills we need will only become harder, how do we go about reskilling and upskilling our people?

For starters, the best way to avoid a significant reskilling is to continuously upskill. In 2020 we have seen how time saved by not commuting has been invested by employees in online learning.

However, if we dig deeper, we realize that many online learning programmes focus purely on transmission of knowledge which, no matter how interesting the content might be, does not necessarily equal better capabilities.

How could businesses approach constant upskilling? Here are a few ways to engage in generating useful and applicable learning:

  1. Make it part of everyday work, by inserting it into the work processes and platforms. Having the need to know something in order to perform, is a powerful trigger for interest. This means creating bite-sized training pills, based on concrete needs and immediately applicable. Learning that translates into instant action will surely stick. A common challenge of training programmes is that people do not retain what they learn.

  2. Design the learning with new behaviours in mind, since learning is about change. This includes changing old ways of doing something for new ones, and whenever possible, following up the learning programmes with coaching to help employees apply what they have learned, thus translating learning into action in the workplace as quickly as possible.

  3. Provide people with new opportunities such as new projects, tasks or roles. Learning happens when we are on the edge of our comfort zone. Opening new possibilities and supporting people to succeed through frequent conversations aimed at giving them feedback and helping them reflect on the experiences will drive new insights and accelerate learning.

Finally, we need to take a couple of thoughts into account:

  1. Upskilling must have a strong focus on digital skills. Some are specific (e.g. analytics, agile methodologies, etc.), but some apply largely across the board, such as online team collaboration tools and remote leadership training for all people managers. These skills are beneficial in most jobs and across many industries.

  2. Traditional KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) such as the number of hours of training per employee do not measure effective learning. Instead, we need to find ways to measure business impact such as efficiency, productivity or outcomes (e.g. less time to complete a process, new projects, etc).

In order to narrow the skills gap, constant and effective learning needs to be driven by both organizations and employees. Moreover, the sort of talent that makes a business successful is likely to gravitate towards companies that offer the best skills development and growth opportunities. Making this a fundamental part of your Employee Value Proposition will not only make your organization future-ready, but it will also make your best talent want to stay.


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