The era of re-skilling

How to create a path of continuous learning

Faceless man in tee shirt paging interesting book
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

In fast-changing times companies have to fight uncertainty and adapt their products and services to satisfy evolving customers’ needs. Companies are working hard to innovate their offers but changing the outcomes is not enough. To remain competitive, companies also need to reevaluate themselves by adapting their workforce with new skills and new knowledge.

The rise of automation and artificial intelligence has increased the speed of change, companies started to integrate new tools and new operations. While technology pushes the boundaries of what is possible, companies need to re-skilling people as fast as possible.

The COVID crisis forced to redefine daily activities almost overnight, many companies moved from in-house to 100% remote in just a few days showing that big changes are possible, even in such tight times that they were previously unimaginable.

Remote working forced employees to learn new skills like using collaborative tools or manage virtual meetings. The remote transition was only the beginning of a huge reskilling path, technology evolutions are dramatically changing how we work.

In the near future, companies will suffer from a huge lack of expertise, there will be a huge demand for technical skills that were conceived only a few years ago like data analysts and machine learning experts. Teams will integrate new methodologies like Design Thinking and Agile Development.

Unfortunately, most companies are not ready, as shown by McKinsey, most leaders don’t know what Design Thinking is and an article by the Harvard Business Review showed that most managers fight against the Agile approach because they are not familiar with it.

Define a re-skilling strategy

Companies need a re-skilling strategy, finding new employees will be not enough, the power of technology evolution will dramatically accelerate the need for new knowledge, companies must integrate new skills into the existing workforce and they need to act immediately.

Creating a re-skilling strategy means to set a long term path of learning with the aim of establishing a continuous learning context. Companies need to identify a set of skills they are depending on and create an ecosystem that allows people to re-skill or up-skill themselves.

Companies (and people) have to embrace a lifelong learning culture.

Define the skillset

Before starting a re-skilling strategy, companies must define all the skills they will need in the next future starting from soft skills to specific technical skills. Employees must be ready to work in a fully digital environment, they need to manage information and assets inside the companies but also while performing remote working. This scenario opens new needs for learning digital tools like collaborative platforms, repositories, and sharing tools.

Furthermore, companies also have to focus on emotional skills related to collaboration and empathy. Employees have to be comfortable out of their comfort zone, they need to change how they collaborate and they have to be prepared to act as a team.

Managers need to acquire new methodologies useful in changing times, they have to become coaches able to manage emotions before skills.

Having a clear understanding of the skillset a company needs is the first step of a reskilling strategy.

Create a learning ecosystem

Companies need to create an ecosystem that allows people to constantly learn something new.

The Chief Learning Officer (CLO) must be the owner of all learning operations, the CLO has to provide several ways to ensure learning at different levels, he must grant personal programs related to technical skills and emotional skills.

The learning ecosystem should be composed of several tools:

  • Academic programs: a collaboration between universities and R&D departments in order to find the best way to let employees stay up to date, to apply it in their field and to test new staff;
  • Personal programs: a learning program created for specific employees, starting from leaders aiming to close specific gaps. Managers have to provide the correct mindset that allows employees to solve problems and find new solutions, managers have to define the best way to collaborate and it does not only relate to managing people but also to provide the correct context in which to operate;
  • Bootcamps: a learning program performed outside the companies. Big improvements can be reached in complete isolation from daily routines;
  • Platforms: a private platform filled with information where employees can upskill themselves, share new ideas and start discussions. Content could also be provided in the form of online tutorials or case studies or any possible tool that could enhance employees’ knowledge;
  • Listening platforms: a system that allows the CLO to understand where to intervene to fill the knowledge of employees at any level of the organization.

Create a path

Companies must create a path that allows people to improve their life, employees have to see a better version of themselves in the future. Best results came from contexts in which people can improve their skills to collaborate and keep growing.

According to McKinsey’s report the best way to implement a culture of learning is to create an environment where people are not afraid to fail, which means to enable a working space where employees can apply their knowledge but failures are also admitted.

D. Hoover author of The Apprentice Patterns shows several ways to allow re-skilling and facilitate career improvements. The book focuses on creating a mindset that helps people be comfortable with feedbacks and failures, and above all that encourages them to move to the next step.

The author reported many patterns for individual improvements. Companies need to set en environment that allows employees to unleash their enthusiasm, allowing them to freely expose their ignorance, with no fear to ask for help and encouraging them to share ideas with other people that experienced the same problem.

Companies must favorite craft over art, let employees be confident with low fidelity works in order to test their solutions before being able to make them to perfection.

Most of all people need to work in a system where they can always share what they learn and create rapid feedback loops.

Scale the rate of learning

The COVID crisis was only the beginning of a huge reskilling path, according to the World Economic Forum jobs will be dramatically transformed by the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, companies will need to reskill more than 1 billion people by 2030.

Yohan Harari in his book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century showed a scary scenario about the future of work, many countries are already fighting to lower the unemployment index. Next, countries and companies will also have to fight with not-employable index. The difference between unemployed people and not-employable people is huge, the first group has no job but is comprised of people that have useful skills while the second group has skills that are not useful for any activity. Automation will cancel many human tasks, a lot of jobs will disappear, while companies will have a lack of skilled people.

This is a big opportunity to create a better future, define a path to let people improve themselves, help them to achieve more, reinvent themselves, and have an impact.

It’s time for a re-skilling revolution.