Published in May/June 2021
Upskilling and reskilling the workforce has been a long time coming. The impact of artificial intelligence (AI), automation and robotics, as well as the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, on employment has accelerated this need as the world of work continues to evolve. In fact, according to the L&D Global Sentiment Survey, reskilling and upskilling was cited as the overwhelming response to the question “How will your L&D work change in 2021 as a result of COVID-19?”
With the increased workload and rapid change in both technology and economy, how can we better support upskilling and reskilling efforts? To start, we should consider the following:
Provide a Comprehensive and Individualized Training Plan
Each person’s need for upskilling and reskilling is different. In addition to a skill gap analysis, take your target learners’ context into consideration. Gather people analytics and learning analytics, review their current situations, credentials, skills, interests, career goals and life experiences. An effective upskill and reskill plan needs to be employee-centered, context-specific and personalized. It needs to be based on the balance between the learners’ professional goals and the employers’ needs. Leverage learning technologies that support personalized and adaptive learning, and build on the learners’ existing technical, transferable skills and experiences.
Provide “Just-in-time” Performance Support Resources
During the pandemic, many of us have been shifting our work and interaction from in-person to virtual. As a result, people need to adjust work practices and adopt new technologies rapidly without much guidance. To successfully work with remote teams, participate in projects using different tools and techniques, and to serve customers virtually, people need to learn in the flow of work. “Just-in-time” performance support means that we are focusing on the learners’ needs as they arise and provide resources accordingly, as opposed to offering pre-scheduled, topical training events. We need to leverage existing digital platforms and apps that people already have installed on their phones. For example, make use of instant messaging apps to quickly guide people through a new process or coach people through a particularly challenging set of tasks.
Knowledge Sharing Goes a Long Way
Set up your digital platforms to encourage knowledge sharing at all levels of the workforce. As people transition into new roles and tasks, not only do they need access to job-relevant information, but they can also contribute to the lessons learned and add their own insights and tips to the platforms. In this time of change, people need to be empowered to develop a community of knowledge and best practices. Many learning management systems (LMSs), social networking platforms, and company intranets already have components that can be used as a collaborative knowledge base. Use these tools as a starting point and focus on building up content, making it accessible to individuals and fostering a culture of sharing.
Collaborate With Employers to Gain Insights
If you are an in-house L&D unit, collaborate with business units to formulate a reskill and upskill plan for the employees of the organization. The business units will be able to identify specific skills needed and share which business processes have changed. If you are an external or independent learning professional, find opportunities to consult with employers. Employers will be able to provide insights on current employment trends that you can incorporate into your training design.
As the need for upskilling and reskilling continues, L&D can lead the change in enhancing people’s employability, improving their capabilities, transitioning people into new roles and being responsive to changing industry demands.