Don’t Reskill for Tomorrow Using Yesterday’s Tools

The hot topic among Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs) of large organizations these days is the upskilling and reskilling of the workforce.

By upskilling I mean teaching employees new competencies to stay in their current role or prepare for career progression. By reskilling I mean learning new competencies to transition to a completely new role.

Even before the pandemic, about 87% of executives saw or expected workforce skill gaps, according to McKinsey. Less than 50% said they knew how to deal with the problem, according to the same study.

With companies leaping into new technologies as a way to deal with the pandemic, the question of upskilling and reskilling has become more pressing than ever.

Do you know what skills you have?

I’m always interested in learning about leadership during times of tumultuous change, so I’ve done quite a bit of research on preparing the workforce of the future.

I was surprised that the literature often did not mention what I think is critical in a retraining plan: the need to have an accurate skills inventory.

How else could you start a massive retraining initiative if you don’t have an accurate inventory your employees’ skills and their proficiency levels?

True, most companies keep that type of information in personnel files and training records.

But records aren’t always updated when employees get additional training, particularly when done privately. Also, most likely they don’t list the employee’s proficiency level, which is critical to know when you are staffing a new team or project.

How quickly can you find out how many of your 10,000-plus employees know Python, machine learning, AI, or 5G? Who are those individuals and what are their proficiency levels? Do you need individuals with average or expert skills?

Yesterday’s tools, like spreadsheets and databases, aren’t enough in order to prepare the workforce for the jobs of the future.

Technology to the rescue

Oddly enough, it turns out that the same technologies that are disrupting businesses also give us a new way to help upskill and reskill the employees who might be displaced.

One company that has figured that out is EmPath.*

This young technology startup has created a solution that gives large companies an extremely accurate inventory of their employees’ skills.

It analyzes the employee’s internal digital footprint, which may include training records, performance reviews, project experience, feedback from co-workers, etc.Then, using machine learning, it accurately determines the employee’s true skill and proficiency level. The inventory can be tailored to include a range of other competencies, such as technical, soft, and leadership skills.

Once an accurate inventory is developed, EmPath enables companies to develop a personalized learning journey for each employee. This is done by matching the employee’s skills to their current and future roles, and recommending coursework or experiences to close skill gaps.

EmPath’s solution does all that quickly, cost effectively, and most importantly, without bias.

Retraining makes sense

Reskilling makes economic sense when you consider that the cost of retraining a single employee ($24,800, according to The World Economic Forum) is in many cases far lower than that of severing an employee and hiring a new one with the skills you need.

And when you consider the existing war for talent you can appreciate why upskilling and reskilling is more cost effective.

EmPath’s solution allows the employee and the company to work together to improve the skills of that individual so they can compete for the jobs they want in the future, which can lead to higher levels of  employee satisfaction.

EmPath was founded by Felix Ortiz III, a young entrepreneur who serves as the company’s CEO. He brought in Adam Blum, an expert in learning technologies and automated machine learning, to serve as CTO. EmPath also counts on the leadership of its chairman, Carlos Gutierrez, whose lifelong learning journey led him to an illustrious career which includes serving as the former CEO of the Kellogg Company and as the former U.S. Secretary of Commerce from 2005 to 2009.

Tools for the future

The upskilling and reskilling of the workforce is a top agenda item in most companies today.

Fortunately, now there are tools that can help CHROs and other Human Resources executives lead change so their organizations can succeed in a technologically advanced, post-pandemic environment.

If you’re not taking advantage of them you may end up attempting to train tomorrow’s workforce with yesterday’s tools.

Earlier I mentioned my extensive reading on this topic. I want to share a quote that I believe summarizes the current quandary quite well.  It’s from from the report “Work for a Brighter Future,” by The International Labour Organization’s Global Commission on the Future of Work and it says:

“Today’s skills will not match the jobs of tomorrow, and newly acquired skills may quickly become obsolete.”

I see a bright future for those companies that use the very latest tools to provide their employees with lifelong learning journeys so that they, too, can also succeed in this technologically advanced, post-pandemic world.

(*) Full disclosure: I’m an investor in and an advisor to EmPath.

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