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The future of work is rapidly changing. With the vast adoption of AI throughout professional sectors, another wave of upskilling and reskilling is necessary for organizations. While this reality is understood by most, the optimism of upskilling and reskilling workers hasn’t followed. In fact, 71 percent of CEOs anticipated a skills shortage to be their biggest hurdle last year, according to a Fortune study. In following with those business leaders’ views, the World Economic Forum describes a need for half the world’s employees to upskill or reskill by 2025.

This is echoed by a 2018 McKinsey Global Institute study which anticipated that “as many as 375 million workers—or roughly 14 percent of the global workforce—may need to switch occupational categories as digitization, automation, and advances in artificial intelligence disrupt the world of work. The kinds of skills companies require will shift, with profound implications for the career paths individuals will need to pursue.” That was a few years ago, before the current rapid adoption of AI put this transition into hyperdrive.

Human skills are the future

As companies and organizations across industries continue to inject growing technologies into their processes, highly automated tasks are becoming less necessary for workers. Instead, tasks that are highly human in nature, still set apart from current technical limitations, will be in higher and higher demand, even as virtual training and online classrooms increase in popularity.

That same World Economic Forum report found that, while technical and digital skills are important, human skills that are needed to innovate, learn, and manage stress will dominate the top ten skills needed by 2025:

  • Analytical thinking and innovation
  • Active learning and learning strategies
  • Complex problem-solving
  • Critical thinking and analysis
  • Resilience, stress, tolerance, and flexibility
  • Creativity, originality, and initiative
  • Leadership and social influence
  • Reasoning, problem-solving, and ideation
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Technology design and programming

Challenges and benefits to upskilling and reskilling

From a learning and development standpoint, upskilling or reskilling employees takes up a number of resources: money, time, and labor shift. There is also the elephant-in-the-room concern that a company will invest these resources to upskill/reskill an employee only to see that individual leave for a different job elsewhere they are now better qualified for with their new skill sets.

As John Hall notes in his Forbes article about the essential need for upskilling and reskilling, “Many managers believe talent walks out the door because of money. Although they’re not necessarily wrong about that, low pay isn’t the only contributing factor. A lack of career growth is one of the main drivers of turnover in organizations, regardless of industry. Employees don’t want to feel stuck in a dead-end job. They want to be challenged, take on stretch assignments and advance in their careers.”

While these challenges are real, they are also notably a matter of perspective. The amount of money, time, and labor shift resources that will eventually be lost should an organization not upskill or reskill its employees is known to be far greater—even if those losses occur further down the line. Additionally, employees want to be at organizations that increase their professional skill sets so offering these resources not only improves their abilities for your organization, but the act of offering these benefits actually increases the likelihood your team members will stay.

Strategies for successful upskilling and reskilling

Your organization can use several strategies to ensure your upskilling and reskilling efforts are successful, thus making the best use of those limited resources of time and money. Upskilling and reskilling are often associated with job loss or job change, so it’s important to be intentional in creating a culture of professional development.

1. Treat employees as partners

Employees are more likely to participate if they understand why the programs are being implemented.

2. Establish a bridge between skills and competency

Skills are developed at the individual level while competencies are agreed upon by the organization.

3. Build your strategy around tools that support skills

The use of technology should focus on experiences aimed at making the process as frictionless as possible.

4. Design programs from employee points-of-view

Understanding workers’ goals can help your organization ensure efforts not only have active participation, but also successful outcomes.

5. Set clear expectations for leaders and managers

Enable team leads to understand how to assess, coach, and measure skills.

Act now to benefit later

The evidence is clear—organizations must upskill and reskill employees in order to remain relevant, competent, and competitive in an ever-shifting professional landscape. It may feel difficult to invest time, money, and other resources upfront to avoid losses down the road, especially when successful professional learning and development means you’ll never see those losses come to light; however, the alternative is assured. Organizations that choose not to put the work in with their teams now will experience multiple layers of loss as a result: lack of competitiveness in their industry, employee exits (beginning with the most talented), and more.

Are you eager to take the initiative to put your organization in a place to succeed? Looking for ways to do so efficiently and at scale? Reach out to a Class team member today to learn how our platform can transform your virtual training process, as well as data analysis of each step along the way. We’re transforming the future of learning and development and can’t wait to show you how.

Looking for a more digestible version of this article? Check out our “Upskilling and Reskilling for the Future of Work” infographic now!

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About Mike
Mike Lovell is the SVP of Marketing at Class. He has dedicated his career to technology and the applications that can innovate the way people live and learn.