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Reskilling today for tomorrow's success

Updated: Apr 14, 2021

Agility. Flexibility. Transformation. Acceleration. Innovation. These are the buzzwords of business today, but they reveal an essential truth. Only organisations that are reskilling now for future needs will be able to take advantage of the opportunities of tomorrow. The ways of working and skills of the past will not enable organisations to thrive. Change is not only desirable it is essential for success.

Most organisations are aware that they lack the skills they need for the future. A study of senior HR and business leaders at global organisations highlights that 71 percent regard their current leaders as incapable of leading their organisation successfully into the future.

Even before the pandemic the need for new skills was clear. A recent Chartered Management Institute (CMI) report quotes research from before the crisis that estimated that by 2030, 7 million additional workers could be under-skilled for their job requirements. That equates to 20% of the workforce. The CMI believes the need for new skills has only been heightened by the recent pandemic. Robert Baker, Talupp’s Investor Director and a Companion of the CMI comments

“It is clear from the work we did at the CMI that the pandemic has accelerated the already significant impact of technology, automation and AI on business. There has never been a greater need for organisations to upskill and develop their leadership, management and talent to implement the new business models required for future success."

The need for change may be clear but knowing what future skills need to be developed now and then reskilling to secure those skills can be a challenge. The following 5 steps will enable organisations to ready themselves and their talent for the challenges of tomorrow.

Step 1: Conduct a training needs analysis Often a training needs analysis focuses solely on hard skills but be sure to include 360-degree feedback data on soft skills too.

You may not have a crystal ball, but many decades of high-quality workforce research have given us a strong indication of what skills are important right now. Here are the key leadership skills for future-oriented skills development: Emotional intelligence – mature and emotionally aware leaders who are able to show vulnerability will be more effective at engaging others towards a common goal. Openness to ambiguity – being ready to embrace uncertainty would appear to be a prerequisite of life today. Leaders who are flexible and willing to go outside their comfort zone are able to turn uncertainties into opportunities.

Curiosity – knowledge moves fast and when leaders stay curious, they are open to how changes may help or hinder the success of their organisation. Reflective learning – curiosity about the outside world must be mirrored by a leader’s desire to learn about themselves. Successful leaders are constantly learning and growing and are encouraging their teams to do the same. Collaboration – leaders can create environments where people can collaborate effectively and that means accepting failure as the price for innovation. Furthermore, collaboration necessitates a less directive, more inclusive style of leadership.

Accountability – leaders must be able to take responsibility for both failure and success. The markets expect it and it builds trust in teams.

Step 2: Offer effective development solutions A training needs analysis is only a starting point and finding a light-touch and easy to implement way to conduct it will ensure that enough budget, time and motivation are left to focus on the important part: development. Follow the 3Es (Experience: Exposure: Education) to guide your development approach. This will ensure that development does not stop with e-learning content (education) which, if not applied, is quickly forgotten. Structured e-learning content will benefit greatly from opportunities to learn from others (exposure) and to apply newly gained knowledge in the real world (experience) so that it can be turned into effective skills.

Step 3: Establish a self-directed learning culture and infrastructure Although leadership skills are the clear focus in Step 1, there is no doubt that upskilling, reskilling and skills development transcends rank and experience. It is very likely today that the whole organisation needs to have the skills for the challenges of tomorrow. That may seem like an overwhelming task but combining a culture of self-directed learning in which everyone takes responsibility for their own skills development, with an infrastructure to support that happening in practice will reap rewards. An effective support infrastructure is not a nice to have but essential to enable self-directed learning. Smart, AI-powered systems that can nudge and guide can be particularly effective.

Step 4: Make skills development collaborative Too often training is done in isolation. Individual needs are assessed and then people go off and complete a training course to address any skills gap. The most effective development must be seen as a learning journey that brings in the line manager either through one-to-one conversations or a technology solution. Ensuring that line managers and HR are involved in the process provides critical visibility of development.

Step 5: Track and measure skills development Finally, it is essential for any skills development interventions to be tracked and analysed. Ideally, we want to have real-time, skills development statistics that show clear linkages to organisational objectives. With budgets tighter than ever before, having sight of return on investment and knowing whether skills development has worked or not will be a key consideration in 2021.

There really has never been a better time to get to grips with reskilling a workforce for your organisation’s future needs. New technological solutions are enabling effective reskilling and upskilling to happen at pace and cost-effectively. Furthermore, skills development works. CMI research found that firms who invest in management and leadership development programmes see on average a 23% increase in organisational performance, and a 32% increase in people performance.


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