Recent technological growth has many companies focusing on reskilling. To allow these new skills to be adopted and implemented at the rate of change, leaders must foster mindset shifts. What mindset practices do you need to address in order to make sure reskilling sticks, and how can you implement them within an organization at scale?

Big Picture

When organizations plan on reskilling, they rarely attempt to prepare minds first. When they do, it is not done in a way that boosts cultural coherence and connection. You can avoid this by first designing a program for buy-in from leaders, and subsequently implementing a program for onboarding existing employees. In this way, you grow a transformative mindset culture that feels consistent and rewarding.

Mindset Shifts

In order to learn new skills, the brain needs to be prepared. Teaching new skills in an environment of work overload or tremendous uncertainty requires three important mindset shifts:

  1. Allow for Focused and Unfocused Time

While the brain’s attention and memory regions must be active when learning new information, learning how to apply this information requires unfocused time to activate a network in the brain called the DMN (default mode network), which is responsible for putting puzzle pieces together.

Whether employees are learning how to use a new machine or learning new leadership competencies, providing breaks during the skill acquisition period is critical if you want the learning to stick. You can do this by planning “unfocused” time for 15 minutes every hour, or at least every 90 minutes. Aside from breaks, unfocused learning, such as doodling while listening, can improve memory and retention.

  1. Teach Mindset Competencies to Manage Change

Reskilling efforts will activate the brain’s conflict detector, making a person hold on to old ways of doing things. This can be mitigated if managers teach learners how to manage switch cost — the emotional price that you pay for change. One way to do this is to use a technique called “spreading of alternatives.”

To do this, ask learners to write down all the advantages of the current system and what the new learning will add. Ask them to do this until they truly understand why the new learning is worth it. It also helps to give adult learners a choice about what they want to learn. Autonomy is a key driver of motivation, so where choice is possible, provide it.

  1. Teach Mindset Competencies to Boost Agility

In the workplace, “agility” refers to the ability to reprioritize on a whim, and avoid burnout in the process. Two key methods are “feedback control” and “impedance control.” These involve looking at the system in which you are working to limit the feedback to only what is relevant, and to identify what is slowing things down.

At a systems level, this is key, as up to 29% of people who are highly resilient still experience burnout due to inefficient systems. Allow people to choose when they want to share feedback, opinions and learning, and when they would rather do things alone and in their own time. Being flexible is key to learning, especially in the current hybrid working environment.

Scaling Learning

Technology can help scale this learning in a relatively stress-free environment. Stress blocks new learning as it makes the brain go into habit mode. However, any learning management system can store key steps in implementing the unfocused, change and agile mindsets. Also, you can send out reminders so people remember that learning new skills can be fun, less stressful and adaptive in a world that is constantly changing.