The new workplace make-or-break: upskilling

Take skill-building to the next level with workforce intelligence

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

When it comes to talent management and HR innovation, “skills” is on track to become the word of the year in 2023. Most organizations recognize that they need to prioritize skill-building initiatives to ensure their workforce is equipped with the knowledge needed to respond to emerging challenges.

As talent shortages continue and the half-life of skills shrinks, upskilling programs can no longer be considered something nice to have; instead, they’re necessary to thrive in the new world of work. While businesses may have been able to rely on external hiring in the past, today’s hyper-competitive talent landscape means that every organization must keep developing its workforce internally.

Thankfully, upskilling’s rise in importance coincides with the emergence of workforce intelligence platforms designed to give leaders a full picture of the capabilities their workforce has and the competencies that should be prioritized next.

What is upskilling and what are its benefits?

Upskilling is focused on helping employees become more knowledgeable and developing new competencies that build on the skills they’ve accumulated. It describes any process that helps someone answer the following question: “What additional skills do I need to progress in my current career?”

There are a few different advantages that an impactful upskilling initiative has to offer, including:

From priority to necessity: why upskilling has become essential

While upskilling has always been important, the stakes are higher now that we’re in what’s often called the Fourth Industrial Revolution—a time in which advances in AI and automation are revolutionizing the way we work. Due to the high levels of innovation this age brings, the World Economic Forum predicts that 50% of all employees will need to learn new skills by 2025.

Metlife’s Chief Human Resources Officer Susan Podlogar further breaks down the findings and what they mean for today’s skills revolution, noting, “The World Economic Forum put out some stats a few years ago. They asked, ‘How are you going to access new skills?’ Over 70% of respondents said they were going to buy them, but there’s no way. We can’t buy these skills, there’s not enough. So how do you actually build? How do you create your own ecosystem rather than trying to fight everyone else for the same limited talent pool?”.

Unfortunately, the challenges associated with buying talent are only going to get more severe due to low fertility rates and a shrinking population, as Josh Bersin explains. “If you look at the data in the World Bank, they have curves when the population is going to peak. And in most developed economies, it has already peaked. So this issue of hiring and developing and locating the right people is going to continue and even get worse.”

To add another layer of complexity to the equation, college enrollment rates are declining, meaning that incoming talent may not have the educational background their peers from previous generations had. As a result,  skill-building initiatives will be even more important, as employees may need to develop knowledge that was once learned in academic coursework.

4 way leaders can optimize upskilling initiatives with workforce intelligence

Fortunately, while the importance of upskilling has reached a new level, so have the tools and technologies that are designed to support it. Here are a few steps leaders can take to upgrade their skill-building initiatives by harnessing workforce intelligence.

#1. See your people for their skills and potential

All too often, leaders don’t have the chance to get a full picture of the skills their workforce has. They might know the competencies their employees have that directly relate to their role, but be totally unaware of the additional skills their direct reports bring to the table.

By offering full transparency into all workforce skills, workforce intelligence makes it easy for leaders to identify team members who have the knowledge needed to take on a new challenge or step into a more senior role.

#2. Identify knowledge gaps to prioritize 

Skill-building is always beneficial but it will be most impactful if employees are learning competencies that both strengthen their career potential and align with business needs. In the past, it was often challenging to identify emerging knowledge gaps before they snowballed into major problems. However, workforce intelligence shines a spotlight on any missing competencies that are rising in importance so that business leaders can prioritize key upskilling initiatives accordingly.

#3. Make smart decisions about internal development versus external hiring

Given that two out of three employees say they would leave their jobs if internal mobility wasn’t offered, it’s easy to understand why developing talent within should be the priority. However, there will be times when bringing in someone new makes the most sense and other occasions when there’s already a qualified candidate within your business.

By providing skills insights and AI recommendations, workforce intelligence helps leaders decide when it’s time to hire externally and when it would be best to prioritize upskilling an internal candidate.

#4. Understand how your skills stack up

Many organizations are racing to build new skills to keep up with evolving demands in the new world of work. While some businesses may think their upskilling initiatives are going well, most haven’t been able to see how their organization’s capabilities stack up.

However, workforce intelligence can change that by breaking down the market value of a job, indicating whether a skill is on the rise or decline, and even offering insight into how your competition is positioning their job openings.

To learn more about what you can do to upgrade your upskilling initiatives, find out how workforce agility platforms help businesses become skills-based organizations.

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