Learning & Development, Recruiting

How Upskilling and Reskilling Workers Went from a ‘Good Idea’ to a Necessity

The Great Resignation is alive and well. In November of last year, a record 4.5 million U.S. workers left their jobs, and the trend isn’t slowing down. One report asserts that “three out of four full-time employees are planning to quit their job this year.”

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While the pandemic is partly to blame for mass resignations, it’s a problem that has been brewing for some time. Before COVID, the workforce and the workplace had been changing at a similar rate. But the abrupt switch to remote work, in addition to the quick adoption of new technologies, has thrown a wrench in the way employees work.

This rapid change to the workplace, coupled with a declining population, and other factors—like burnout—have created a critical talent shortage.

The Race for Productivity

For years, there’s been an increasing correlation between workers’ output capabilities and the impact on their quality of life. With more work being offloaded to machines, employees in many industries have been under increasing pressure to do more and move quicker to keep up.

This race to become more productive is the perfect recipe for burnout. In a report from Deloitte, 77% of workers said they’ve experienced burnout at their job, and 91% noted that stress or frustration was impacting the quality of their work. Many people are “opting out” of working amid the expectation of more work crammed into fewer hours and spread out among fewer workers.

Add to this the fact that employees are staring at screens and are more sedentary than ever before. Companies’ expectations are at an all-time high, and nearly every moment of every day is scheduled—workers are expected to start earlier; finish later; and, in some cases, take their work home with them.

Another factor contributing to this disruption in the workforce is the high number of people with college degrees combined with a massive increase in demand for jobs that don’t require a degree. Industries like retail, health care, and manufacturing are struggling to find workers. In fact, it’s projected that 2.1 million jobs in manufacturing could go unfilled by 2030.

Organizations need to get creative and find a way to adapt. Those that can’t will continue to lose workers at an unprecedented rate and will have to pay higher wages (sometimes up to 30% more) to fill jobs, which can hurt profitability.

Companies essentially have two options: Pay more for new employees, or invest in the workers they already have through upskilling (teaching them additional skills) or reskilling (teaching them a completely new skill).

But upskilling and reskilling are about much more than just profitability. They’re about investing in employees, creating new opportunities, and showing workers they are valued. When it comes down to it, every company should be thinking about ways to enrich the lives and careers of its employees.

Should a company choose to reskill or upskill its workers, the onus is on the organization to make sure it’s done right. Requiring someone to learn a completely new skill, or additional skills, is no small ask. The “old way” of doing things—via company trainings, for example—isn’t going to cut it. Businesses need an agile way to train their employees that meets them wherever they are.

Curriculum providers like Degreed, Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning offer a flexible way to help workers learn new skills like coding or data science. In the past, companies might’ve sent employees to classes to learn these skills, but they now need on-demand, personalized training that addresses people’s specific needs. These flexible solutions empower employees by letting them work at their own pace and convenience.

But that’s just one piece of the puzzle; it’s critical that any curriculum also be paired with ongoing support and mentorship. Education marketplaces designed for single-student learning are great, but curriculum on its own isn’t the answer. If it were, reskilling and upskilling would be a breeze, and every company would be doing it.

Picking up a new skill isn’t as simple as just watching a video, so coaching and ongoing, personalized support are essential for successfully implementing new skills in the workplace. In the same way that learning must be flexible and personalized, so must coaching and mentorship.

One-on-one support needs to be available on demand and designed with employees’ convenience and learning in mind. These resources should be available to workers whenever needed so they can work through any challenges or questions in real time.

The Bottom Line

People aren’t fungible, and organizations would be wise to take upskilling and reskilling seriously. Every employee will need personalized support on his or her journey to learning a new skill, and it’s up to companies to ensure workers feel equipped to succeed.

The businesses that will make it out on the other side of the labor shortage are the ones that provide state-of-the-art education and support for workers; they are the companies that recognize the tremendous value in investing in the talent they already have.

Ravi Swaminathan is the founder and CEO of TaskHuman.