You’re the CEO of a large manufacturing company. During your weekly executive team meeting, your VP of supply chain announces that a third of your overseas suppliers are going offline next quarter. Once you pick your jaw up off the floor, you correctly view this development as an existential threat to your business.
A far-fetched example? Maybe. But according to multiple surveys and current research, a majority of your employees are disengaged, and up to a third are actively looking for new jobs.
You’ll hear the current situation around employee engagement, recruiting, and retention challenges referred to as a phase, a blip, or a “challenging labor cycle.”
Instead, we’ll call it what it is: an existential threat to your business.
And to right the ship, business and HR leaders can turn to their most valuable existing resource, their employees, for the answer. By investing in your employees’ growth, knowledge, and professional development, you’ll improve both retention and engagement AND make it easier to recruit when you have to look outside for talent.
Reskill Your Way Out of This Crisis
Sounds great, but it’s easier said than done. Let’s start with what’s gotten us to this point.
First, we are seeing a rapidly changing workplace landscape. Automation is eliminating jobs, as well as changing them. Many current jobs won’t exist in 10 years. According to the 2020 WEF Future of Jobs report, 40% of core skills will change over the next 5 years, and 50% of workers will need to be reskilled in some capacity.
Second, recent layoffs in the news notwithstanding, many employers are trying to recruit their way out of the current talent conundrum but are finding this approach to be tough sledding. Seventy percent of CEOs are rightly concerned about finding enough skilled workers (PwC). With good reason, leaders are asking, “Where’s the talent?”
Several significant factors are affecting the current confusing labor situation:
- Record-low unemployment
- Low birth rates
- Baby boomers retiring at a big clip
- Women leaving the workforce during the pandemic
- 1 million+ deaths due to COVID-19, plus many out due to long COVID
These factors were only accelerated by the many drivers of the Great Resignation: the prioritization of work/life balance, the exodus from stressful careers and/or high-risk industries, and the pivot to remote work—the perfect storm.
What Can You Do?
By leaning into a culture of learning and development (L&D), you can build your way out. Create your own talent structure, solving for both skills you need now and skills you’re going to need down the road to remain viable and competitive.
But you can’t just “offer some training.” You have to promote your training offerings, make them accessible, and encourage your employees to take advantage of them. Here are five ways to put upskilling and reskilling opportunities at eye level for your employees:
- Include learning requirements in job postings and all job descriptions, regardless of level. Promote your company’s culture of learning at the earliest-possible touch points. Make it clear that ongoing learning opportunities are something that all employees will be expected to complete and be able to access easily and often.
- Likewise, emphasize L&D culture and resources in your onboarding process. For each new employee, devote and set aside a time block to outline your L&D offerings and how to access them. Even if you don’t have a robust learning management system (LMS), make it clear what training is offered and in what frequency and modality.
- Make L&D a regular part of check-ins. We are big proponents of huddles and check-ins. Our research shows that retention and engagement improve when these are done on a regular but informal basis. What better way to make very productive use of this time than by discussing L&D in the context of not only “what do you need to do your job better now” but also “what do you need to grow into the person you want to become?”
- Promote your training programs via QR codes. I see everything being promoted via QR codes; if this isn’t commonplace in promoting your LMS and/or other training opportunities, it should be.
- Incentivize learning uptake with contests, drawings, or a “points system” similar to wellness programs. This may take some creativity, but it will be worth it. If you have mandates or learning requirements (some would say this is the way to go, but it’s perfectly OK to “nudge” instead), provide a mix of modalities to keep the learning interesting and engaging.
- (OK, I know I said five, but here’s a bonus.) After assessing what jobs or roles might be more relevant down the road, hold a future-oriented “career fair” to discuss how your enterprise is changing and how that could manifest in new or different jobs. Then, figure out how to help your existing employees get there.
To Recap, Don’t Panic
Figure out what skills your workers are going to need to meet the challenges presented by workplace change. Think in “builder” mode. You can’t solely recruit (“buy”) your way out; it will be better in the long run—and more cost effective—to create an agile talent mobility structure that’s right for your company. Get creative! Examples might include science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses; apprenticeships; rotations; or pairing new skills with existing competencies (e.g., tech training for sales or customer-facing roles).
And just start. “Good/now” is a lot better than “perfect/future.”
We are in the age of the 50-year career. Employees are going to work where they feel they can be developed and made sharper, more relevant, and more marketable.
Will you meet them there? You can if you invest in reskilling your people.
Michael Bruno is Strategy & Growth Leader at PerformancePoint LLC.