A study commissioned by the McKinsey Global Institute predicts that between now and 2030, nearly 800 million jobs will be lost due to automation. In the short-term too, rapid advances in technology has meant that a lot of jobs that were considered steady and ‘evergreen’ are lost due to changes in the market.
Such rapid changes in the job market can be quite devastating to employees. There are two ways to retain employees in such an environment. Reskilling is a strategy used to train employees with new skills (that may not be related to their original skill) that are still relevant to the industry. Training a factory worker to operate a computer is a good example of reskilling.
Upskilling, on the other hand, is a strategy used to train employees with complementary skill-sets that make them more valuable in the evolving job market. Training a data-entry worker with content writing skills is a good example of upskilling.
While reskilling is essential in the long-term, upskilling is relevant to businesses in the short-term since it helps organizations fill their resources-shortage with existing talent.
Understanding the upskilling timeline
The first step in an upskilling campaign is to identify the specific job roles that are likely to disappear in the near-term. It is a good idea to hire an industry consultant who may advise your organization on the impending changes in the market. The consultant may also be in a position to advise you on the skills that are likely to replace them. In addition to this, you may also need to get a fair idea of the timeframe available with the organization for the upskilling process.
Once you have this information available with you, the next step is to build a list of employees you will need to upskill. At the outset, this is as simple as organizing programming courses to all employees working with the outdated technologies. But this is simpler said than done.
At the organizational level, upskilling programs present the administration with a logistical challenge. In an ideal scenario, you will need a bunch of project managers who have several years of experience under their belt in the new skills. These managers are then responsible for guiding their co-workers on projects involving the new skills.
Drafting an upskilling plan
Your upskill strategy must take into account a couple of factors - the number of years available with you to train your workers and the average churn rate in your organization. If the average employee works for two years with your organization before moving out, it is futile to train workers for a skill that you will need four years later. Employees who get upskilled in such instances are quite likely to switch to a new organization before you need them.
The first part of the plan is to identify employees who are likely to be promoted to the manager position during the skill transformation timeframe. Training these employees first will give your organization the necessary leadership to handle the skill transformation down the line. It is important to treat this as continual learning and not as an one-off event. Once the upskilling is complete, you may also look at staffing these employees on projects involving the modern technologies for them to master these skills.
The second part of the plan is to upskill employees on an ‘as-needed’ basis. This plan involves the training of younger workers who shall work on these new technologies under the leadership of the managers already trained in the first phase. If you are in an industry with high attrition rates, it is a good idea to hold off on this part of the upskilling program till you actually need workers to handle these new projects.
Executing an employee upskill program
Once you have a plan in place, the next step is to prepare a timeline for execution. It is highly recommended that the first part of the upskilling program (described earlier) be executed as early as possible. This provides your organization with your prospective managers to build adequate experience.
The execution of the second part of your upskilling plan is often fluid and happens over time. Technology changes in the workplace is never immediate. The transformation often happens in the form of dwindling demand for the old technology while demand for the new tech picks up. Your upskilling plan for your workers must be timed to fit this fluid transformational period.
Do you have an upskilling program in your workplace? Share your lessons and strategies in the comments
Co-founder and marketing director at Digital Media Group, content marketing and branding agency out of Salt Lake City, UT. Helping small businesses reach their goal by providing useful knowledge and skills.