Reskilling your workforce: Could it be the key to tackling the skills gap?

Skills gaps have been a major headache for the leadership teams across a broad spectrum of industries for several years now, and for good reason. If a workforce doesn’t have the essential skills needed to keep up with the rapid momentum of modern-day technology and everchanging business models, it can become a serious threat to the organisation’s future growth.

A lack of growth can result in a number of losses for an organisation, ranging from loss in productivity and profitability to losing their most talented employees. In other words, it’s an organisation’s worst nightmare.

According to a recent survey by McKinsey, almost 9 out of 10 executives and managers have admitted that their organisations are facing skill gaps currently or expect them to develop over the next five years. But despite being honest about their concerns, only one-third of these leaders are equipped and prepared to cope with the workforce disruptions caused by market and technology trends, such as AI.

So, with no end to the skills gap in sight and an increased urgency to start reversing its effects, what should organisations be doing to tackle this problem?

Reskilling could be the answer

While hiring contractors and freelancers has been a popular skills gap solution in previous years, many leaders are now considering another option; reskilling. This is the process of retraining your employees and expanding their skillsets to give them the necessary knowledge they need to maintain their current roles or transition into new ones.

Reskilling allows an organisation to maintain the knowledge and skills of their most experienced current employees and combine it with emerging skillsets of their industry, particularly in terms of technology. So should the needs of the organisation change in future and certain departments shut down, the organisation won’t lose their best employees- because their expanded skillset means they can be redistributed elsewhere.

As well as helping organisations to tackle their skill gaps, reskilling has also been found to improve employee retention, boost morale and attract new talent; making it something you can’t afford not to invest in.

Leaders need to kickstart learning initiatives

Studies have found that organisations who participate in early reskilling efforts are better equipped to tackle future changes and disruptions than those who don’t. So, if you haven’t currently got an effective reskilling program in place for your employees, there’s no time like the present to kickstart the process.

Understand which skills you have and need

Before implementing any kind of reskilling process, it’s crucial to assess the skills and capabilities that your current workforces possess against the capabilities you could potentially need in future, rather than what you need right now. The goal of this assessment is to identify the gaps in your team’s knowledge and you can then use this information to determine which specific areas need the most focus and attention.

Be strategic and communicate clearly

Now you know which gaps you’re dealing with, you now need to decide which actions you’ll need to take to address each of them. You might need to consider a mixture of approaches, such as reskilling and hiring to get the best possible result. Also, instead of reskilling everyone in your workforce immediately, be strategic and consider which employees need to be reskilled as a priority.

You should also make it a top priority to prepare your workforce for this change by clearly communicating and explaining your reskilling agenda from the start. If you fail to do this, you can expect confusion and resentment to arise within your team.

Start building training programs

To make your reskilling effort as successful as possible, it’s important for your organisation to create a training program that allows your employees to retain new skills and apply them to their current role. However, there is no one-size-fits-all way to reskill someone. While some might prefer a 1 on 1 style of teaching, others might prefer to learn through a group project.

You might need to consider creating both individual and group training in order to cater to all of your employees learning requirements. To achieve this, you might need to enlist the help of external providers such as online training providers, training schools or universities. The leadership team should also be encouraged to take part and check in on their team's progression to sustain momentum and to lessen the risk of the reskilling investment being abandoned.

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Tilden Lamb

24th February

Career Advice Industry Insight