The Challenges of Reskilling – And Why it’s So Critical

Tired of watching valuable employees quit because they craved a career change and couldn’t make it work at your organization? Or perhaps you’ve seen far too many workers grow frustrated and unproductive as technology and other modern advances have changed the way your company conducts business.

No matter what your company’s retention or workforce worries are, reskilling may be the answer to some of your company’s hiring woes.

What is Reskilling?

Reskilling, which has become quite the corporate buzzword, is defined as the process of learning new skills to succeed in a different job.

Reskilling is a common solution in what is clearly a job-seeker’s market. Organizations that are struggling to find new talent through hiring can reskill their in-house workforce to meet their ever-changing needs.

One example of reskilling: teaching customer service representatives to communicate with customers primarily over chat as opposed to over the phone, which requires typing skills and general proficiency with technology.

Why Does Reskilling Matter?

Reskilling is vital to both employees and employers because automation, artificial intelligence, and other technological advances are rapidly reshaping just about every workplace, whether at a warehouse or on Wall Street.

These advances don’t just take some work off employees’ to-do lists, but change the very nature of their jobs. After all, someone must manage, troubleshoot, and audit all this technology. Whether you call it the Fourth Industrial Revolution or just modern times, machines are changing our workplaces rapidly.

Reskilling allows your company to keep talent that knows the ins and outs of your business, while reshaping their skill sets and knowledge bases to better match your company’s current needs.

Which Employees Require Reskilling?

The Harvard Business Review offers some insight into our workforces. It asserts that there are some workers who will need to learn a handful of new skills and some new technology to move into new jobs within their company. There are others who will need significant reskilling.

And, unfortunately, there are some people for whom there is no next job for which to even reskill. HBR offers cashiers as an example. Retailers simply don’t need as many cashiers once they invest in self-checkout technology.

Which Companies Are Buying Into Reskilling?

Big-name businesses like Amazon, Walmart, AT&T, and JPMorgan Chase are all rolling out exceptionally robust plans to reskill their workforces.

For many employees, reskilling is not an if, but a when. Some research indicates that more than half of all employees will require some form of reskilling by 2022.

How Should Companies Reskill?

Of course, reskilling is easier said than done. It requires major infrastructural changes. In order to properly reskill, according to the Harvard Business Review, companies must do at least these three things:

First, employers must create true classrooms where learning actually happens. Amazon has done this at its fulfillment centers, encouraging warehouse workers to get certifications as data technicians. CVS has built regional schools that feature classrooms and even a mock pharmacy.

Second, the reskilling program itself needs to be good. If you can come up with a reskilling curriculum before your lunch break, it’s probably not going to succeed. You will want your training to be both theoretical and practical, and you will want all of it to be validated and effective. Some companies are working with universities and technical schools to create top-notch reskilling programs, including tailor-mode certifications and even degrees.

Third, the Harvard Business Review recommends companies that are serious about reskilling create a new, chief-level executive who oversees reskilling. It’s that important. The suggested job title: chief skills and learning officer, or CSLO.

Why is Reskilling Failing?

Unfortunately, many companies struggle with reskilling—with some downright failing at it.

McKinsey suggests that many reskilling efforts are unsuccessful because they are not practical. There’s just no real connection from the expensive training to the new job, and the teaching is far too theoretical.

Another theory is that companies still don’t know how to understand their workers’ current skills, articulate the skills they’ll need in the future, and figure out how to connect the dots between the two.

That’s not to say that companies aren’t trying. It’s extremely difficult to ascertain what your workers already know and what they need to know to succeed in an entirely different job.

By the time companies figure out how to reskill, it’s often too expensive or too late to transform their workforce. The result? Expensive, painful layoffs and buyouts… and then a long and resource-draining recruitment, hiring, training, and retaining campaign.

What Your Organization Can Do to Reskill

The road to reskilling is different for every company, but there are definitely some common denominators.

First and foremost, you need to identify what skills your workforce needs. Once that’s clear, you need to determine whether there are employees within your organization who are right for this type of reskilling.

If the connection is there, you’ll need outstanding curriculum to turn your current employees into a reskilled workforce. Some theorize that one-on-one training is highly effective. Although it’s expensive, it’s likely worth it, because even those who struggle to learn the skill can receive individualized tutoring to ensure they succeed.

You also will probably need to hire the right people to oversee your reskilling operations.

Reskilling is a challenge, but it’s also a necessity. After all, your business has already invested so much time and money into its employees. Why not help them help you?