opinion piece

BLOG – The Reskilling Revolution: Why skills development is more important than ever

By Sarah Hernon, Principal Consultant Career Management, Right Management & Member of WEC’s Career Management Group

Published on 30th November 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has impacted businesses across the globe. No sector has evaded its reach, and organisations have been forced to accelerate restructures and rethink sales strategies in order to survive. In a constantly changing market, skills agility has never been more important – businesses need a workforce that’s able to perform at speed, to flex and adapt to meet changing demands and to navigate an uncertain landscape with resilience, and individuals need the skills and learnability in order to remain employable in an extremely competitive market.

Prior to the pandemic, skills shortages were already at an all-time high, and recent research highlights that this issue hasn’t gone away. 42% of surveyed businesses are placing greater importance on reskilling and upskilling efforts after the Coronavirus outbreak.

The challenges fuelling this focus

The reality of large-scale redundancy looms over many sectors. A recent survey from the ONS found the UK unemployment rate in the three months to September 2020 to be estimated at 4.8%, 0.9 percentage points higher year-on-year. And with workforce reduction comes the risk of reduced business performance and productivity. Are organisations allowing sufficient time for ‘survivors’ to learn the new skills required to manage their increased workloads? In a world where many are now expected to do more with less, adaptability of skills is key.

McKinsey reports that the pandemic has also increased the need for organisations to digitalise their operations and offerings in order to succeed, with 58% of businesses across the globe reporting an acceleration in digital customer interactions, and 55% reporting an accelerated demand for digital products/services. Consequently, workforces are now required to use more advanced technologies and fill the technological talent gaps that have been created by COVID-19.

The value in learning & development

Investment in learning and development (L&D) creates a workforce that’s designed to meet the strategic needs of the organisation post-pandemic – but it must start with data. Developing a holistic view of the current capability not only helps identify skills gaps, but provides insights into a pipeline of high-potential individuals who have the qualities needed to adapt to and lead in the new world of work. Developing internally creates obvious savings on recruitment costs, but also provides a wider benefit in supporting and engaging a workforce that may be facing burnout: empowering individuals to take career ownership and understand the value they bring. With budgets tightening, many organisations are looking to use their existing workforce to bridge talent gaps internally, with LinkedIn finding internal mobility to be up 20% year-on-year since the start of COVID-19.

LinkedIn’s 2020 Workplace Learning Report also shows that reskilling and upskilling the workforce often results in increased employee loyalty, with 94% of individuals saying they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their L&D. Employees value this investment, perceiving this as reassurance of their value, purpose and place within the business. This sense of belonging supports emotional wellbeing, meaning organisations not only retain the talent they’ve invested in, but can also benefit from a more motivated and productive workforce.

The overarching need for a learning culture

As the focus shifts from external recruitment to internal reskilling, learning is top of the agenda. While offering access to learning management systems (LMS), one-to-one career coaching, and investing in the development of managers and leaders may appear to be ‘luxuries’ during this time of squeezed budgets, organisations that fail to invest in their people will find themselves left behind – with a workforce that’s ill-equipped to meet the demands of the marketplace, and skilled individuals who seek career fulfilment elsewhere.

As career management specialists, Right Management’s sustainable learning culture is a long-term one. We believe that learning is for life, and the ability to identify, market and transfer skills sits at the core of our individual development programmes. Thanks to their integrated way of looking at jobs, skills and business performance with a long-term perspective, career management firms are ideally placed to support enterprises with a proactive approach to strategic workforce planning.

As Mark Whittle, Vice President of advisory in the Gartner HR practice says, “In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, HR leaders are moving away from crisis management toward focusing on what will make their organizations strong, both today and in the future, including having the right skills and competencies, building resilience and having a strong cadre of leaders.” It’s now time for business leaders to start the Reskilling Revolution, and the career management sector stands ready to support them and their employees on this journey.

This post is part of a series of blog contributions by members of the World Employment Confederation’s Career Management group exploring the value added of career management services to people, organisations and society, in particular in a world of work disrupted by the Covid-19 crisis.

WEC’s Career Management group was founded by leading global career management firms LHH, Randstad Risesmart, Right Management and Intoo and keeps expanding to national federations in countries like Belgium and Poland. For more information about WEC’s activities regarding Career Management, visit our dedicated webpage.

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