91 Percent of HR Pros Say Reskilling Employees Need Support

Reskilling is on the rise. More than 90 percent of the thousands of employees and HR pros surveyed said that the skilling initiatives would be more effective with expert guidance. But what does expert guidance mean?

Reskilling is on the rise. The accelerated digital transformation caused by the pandemic and a new jobs crunch forces businesses to look inward for the new skills needed to succeed. It should come as no surprise that, according to Randstad Risesmart’s 2021 Survey of Skills report, 72 percent of businesses offer reskilling programs.

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Good but Not Great

That’s good news for employees and employers alike. Hiring new workers is far more expensive and risky than training trusted workers, and getting new skills on the job helps those workers advance their careers. 

But the report also noted something that seems, in hindsight, laughably obvious. More than 90 percent of the thousands of employees and HR pros surveyed said that the skilling initiatives would be more effective with expert guidance.

Sounds obvious.

Dropping Workers in the Deep End

Digital transformation is not incremental in nature. The change is so deep and wide that it has been called the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Industry 4.0. Businesses will need skills that haven’t been invented yet—handing employees credentials to an LMS and asking them to learn new skills is akin to throwing them in the deep end of the pool to teach them to swim.

Keep in mind that these are HR pros telling us that workers need more help. They are the ones that launched reskilling initiatives and could very well pat themselves on the back for having jumped ahead of the curve. But they’re the ones saying their programs are not good enough.

Guidance for the Journey

What does “expert guidance” mean? “When HR professionals were asked what would have helped employees make better choices about which courses to take or which on-the-job experiential learning opportunities to seek, top responses included:

  • Assessments of skills, career interests, and possible career paths
  • Access to a broad view of learning opportunities, including courses, certifications, academic degrees, and experiential learning 
  • Guidance with selecting the best-fit skilling options 
  • Insights into in-demand skills

“The workforce is saturated with employees who have mastered their jobs in the Industry 3.0 world,” according to Forbes. “To successfully transition to the next industrial iteration, these same employees must, as Alvin Toffler presciently noted, ‘learn, unlearn and relearn.’” How do workers grasp what they must learn, unlearn and relearn and embark on the journey?

Reaching any new destination, especially one you haven’t ever visited, will be far more successful and rewarding with guidance–before and during the trip. An LMS may be great for one stage of the journey, but the personalized assessment, gap analysis, review of courses, and most importantly, identifying the skills needed are critical. Leaving it up to employees to chart their journeys is as unreasonable as undesirable by employees and HR leaders alike.

Don’t Forget Support

In addition to guidance, reskilling employees need support. “As employees learn new technologies and adapt to changing workplace practices during their upskilling training, it’s important that employers provide a support system to help alleviate any fears or doubts their workers may have,” said HR consultant Susan Heathfield. Heathfield’s notion of support includes:

  • Learning in cohorts for peer support
  • Scheduled check-ins from HR 
  • Onboarding for the new roll
  • Management and performance feedback
  • Appropriate rewards and recognition 

Unwise and Unjust

Self-directed reskilling isn’t just unwise. It’s unjust. Reskilling often favors populations with cultural expectations for advancement, and resources like discretionary time and income, leaving out groups most at risk of displacement. Randstad’s survey also found that 39 percent of the businesses offered skilling and training opportunities to select employees. “Team leads and managers were most likely to receive or be required to take skills training (65 percent), followed by individual contributors and high-potential employees (44 percent) and leaders (42 percent).”

Meeting the Challenge

“To be future-proof and avoid being wiped out by the Industry 4.0 wave, organizations must generate multiple levels of learning agility to inspire people to learn a different job — not just how to do their current job a little differently,” Forbes said. 

Meeting the reskilling challenge will require an ecosystem of people and technology to deliver the right content and experiences to the right employee at the right time. Learning is shifting from an event to a process that requires ongoing guidance and support. Leaving it up to the employees is not enough. HR managers know this, and organizations need to raise their reskilling games. 


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