Reskilling Solutions Lie in Approach More than Tech, Report Says

Dynamic Skills

Talk of reskilling has been going on for years as employers sought to drive workforce efficiency and employees aimed to make themselves more attractive as candidates for promotion or new jobs. 

Setting the tone for this was the changing dynamics of work and how it gets done. According to Gartner, the number of skills in the workplace has been increasing by a rate of 10% annually. At the same time, a third of the skills that were considered necessary three years ago are no longer relevant, the firm said.

Employers are better off when they dynamically manage reskilling, rather than rely on predictive approaches. @Gartner_Inc #HR #HRTech #Learning Click To Tweet

But for all the attention reskilling gets, and all the money employers have invested in reskilling solutions, workers apply just 54% of the new skills they learn, Gartner says. And the landscape has become so unsettled that nearly two-thirds of HR leaders find themselves taking reactive, rather than proactive, approaches to addressing their organization’s skills needs.

It doesn’t help that organizations often talk better than they walk when it comes to investing time, as well as money, in their learning efforts. Earlier this year, Randstad Sourceright said that just 22% of companies take responsibility for reskilling employees when necessary, even though 92% of HR leaders believe that’s what their company should do.

Meanwhile, LinkedIn found 37% of L&D professionals expect to their budgets increase. The company also said learning teams see the great majority of executives, 83%, as supporting their company’s learning efforts. However, just 27% considered their CEOs to be active champions of learning. “It’s one thing to buy into a strategy and quite another to champion it across the organization,” observed LinkedIn’s  2020 Workplace Learning Report.

Interestingly, 60% of HR leaders feel pressure from their CEOs to make sure their workforce will be ready for the skills needed in the future, Gartner said. It also found a notable jump in the number of employees who want their companies to train them for future roles.

Dynamic Reskilling for the Future

To Gartner, ensuring the workforce is properly skilled is less about learning technology and more about method. Most companies rely on a predictive approach when they’re trying to anticipate what L&D efforts are needed to keep the workforce’s skills in sync with the company’s needs. However, predictive approaches only work when HR can identify the skills that will be required in the future.

Not only that, but relying on predictions can make skills gaps worse, Gartner found. When HR tries to forecast which skills will be needed down the road, employees use only 37% of the new skills they learn.

Companies are better off when they take what Gartner calls “a dynamic skills approach” to skills-management. This, the firm says, allows organizations to more deftly respond to changes impacting the skills they require and support.

Essentially, the approach structures HR and the wider organization—meaning people, systems and strategies—in a way that helps HR monitor trends and develop skills at the time they’re needed. At the same time, it allows employees to make better decisions about what training they need.

The value of this approach is three-fold, Gartner says:

  • First, it helps organizations anticipate shifts in required skills in something like real time. As a result, they can adjust in an “iterative, course-corrective way.” To pick up on changing skills, the firm suggests creating organization-wide networks that are sensitive to various domain areas, and empowered to plug skills gaps as they occur.
  • Following on that, organizations can look for ways to accelerate skills development by leveraging existing resources such as content and people, and by taking advantage of knowledge in place for adjacent skills.
  • Finally, a dynamic skills approach requires transparency between the employer, with its need for certain skills, and employees, who possess specific skills and interests. An open conversation between both sides helps HR make better matches between the organization’s needs and the workers’ goals, interests and knowledge.

The payoff occurs when employees put more of their new skills to use. Sari Wilde, managing vice president in Gartner’s HR practice, said the dynamic approach leads employees to spend more time learning and applying the right skills. Specifically, they apply 75% of their new knowledge to their jobs, as opposed to 54%. In addition, companies can see a 24% improvement in employee performance when they follow this path, Gartner said.

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