3 reskilling mistakes that will hinder employee development

How to avoid the skills pitfalls that hold career development back

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By Nicole Schreiber-Shearer, Future of Work Specialist at Gloat

June 23, 2022

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It’s no secret that skills are under a spotlight. Building critical competencies ranks number one on HR’s list of priorities for the coming year. As knowledge gaps widen and a global labor shortage threatens to slow output levels to a halt, most executives recognize that their organization’s future success hinges on their ability to craft an impactful skills strategy.

Yet, developing a robust reskilling initiative is far from simple. Employee development isn’t a one-size-fits-all process; instead, training must align with each team member’s background and aspirations, as well as your business’s needs.

Since juggling these disparate priorities is challenging, even some of the most comprehensive reskilling schemes end up missing the mark. Rather than relying on the same set of training materials and development practices, leaders must embrace new skill-building frameworks underpinned by disruptive technology to launch reskilling initiatives that get results.

What is reskilling and why does it matter now?

While upskilling and reskilling are often used interchangeably, the terms don’t mean the same thing. Upskilling is about enabling employees to accelerate their progression up traditional career paths, while reskilling is for workers who are interested in switching lanes. The goal is to empower people to answer the question, “What skills do I need to transition from one department to another?”

The best skill-building initiatives provide both upskilling and reskilling opportunities so employees can take advantage of learning and development strategies that align with their career goals. However, reskilling is going to be particularly important now that an economic downturn is on the horizon.

Market uncertainty puts business priorities in flux; some employees may feel overstretched while their colleagues in other departments suddenly have more capacity since projects they were working on are now on hold. The right reskilling scheme will create opportunities for these employees to develop new competencies so they can continue to serve their organization, even as markets shift and business needs change.

The benefits of reskilling during an economic downturn

Traditionally, employee development and training resources have been slashed during periods of market uncertainty. This strategy often proves dangerous in the long run, as companies won’t have the skills they need to kick their post-recession recovery strategy into overdrive.

Many businesses experienced this exact challenge in the aftermath of the Great Recession in 2009. During the financial crisis, training budgets were reduced and overall efforts to enhance the employee value proposition took a hit at most organizations. Once the market began to rebound, these businesses struggled to attract and engage the talent they needed to turn things around.

Rather than struggling to rebuild talent pools from the ground up, a comprehensive reskilling initiative ensures that your workforce has critical competencies, even as business needs shift. The most impactful strategies don’t approach skills as an inventory challenge; instead, these initiatives are underpinned by an agile approach that recognizes that enterprise-wide priorities and employee aspirations will continue to change over time.

3 reskilling mistakes leaders need to avoid

Here are a few skill-building hurdles to watch out for (and tips on what you should do instead):

#1. Leaving out experiential learning
Even the most compelling L&D curriculum won’t be enough for employees to fully master new concepts. If you want to empower your people to shift gears and learn new competencies, this content needs to be paired with hands-on experiences like projects and gigs.

Experiential learning gives employees the chance to put their lessons into practice and develop the confidence needed to take ownership of related tasks. Many leaders are leveraging workforce agility platforms to match employees to hands-on opportunities that align with their career ambitions and the skills they wish to hone.

#2. Losing sight of your business needs
While it’s never a good idea to have your people build skills that aren’t relevant to your business, during an economic downturn it’s downright irresponsible. Employees should be learning competencies that are in high demand to strengthen their contribution to the future of the company.

Consequently, the best reskilling strategies must align enterprise-wide objectives with personal goals. This is where career pathing emerges as an essential tool. Employees can explore new directions that their careers can take and even identify skill-building opportunities that will help them bridge crucial knowledge gaps.

#3. Limiting the size and scope
There’s no doubt that reskilling will be more of a priority for employees whose projects and tasks have been put on hold. But that doesn’t mean that learning and training opportunities should only be available to certain segments of your workforce.

Rather than restricting the scope of your skill-building opportunities, take advantage of a workforce agility platform to empower everyone to get involved. The technology democratizes access to opportunities and ensures your entire workforce has an equal chance to participate in projects, gigs, mentoring, and shadowing.

While the impending economic downturn will cause leaders to shift gears, the focus on skills is going to remain a constant in the new world of work

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