Thrive Blog

Upskilling in the Modern Workplace

Post by
Connor McGee
Upskilling in the Modern Workplace

The Rapid Evolution of Skills

The average half-life of skills is now less than five years, and in some tech sectors, it's as low as two and a half years. This rapid evolution of technological skills presents a critical challenge for organizations: to continuously upskill their workforce or risk obsolescence. While many companies recognize the importance of upskilling, the real challenge lies not just in implementing these programs but in engaging employees effectively to participate and benefit from them. The OECD reports that only a very small fraction of workers typically take part in standard training programs, and those who do are often the ones who need them the least.

The Crucial Gap: Employee Engagement in Upskilling

Despite significant investment in upskilling initiatives, with some organizations dedicating as much as 1.5% of their total budgets, the success of these programs hinges entirely on employee engagement. Leaders often overlook the necessity of aligning upskilling efforts with clear career pathways, measurable outcomes, and personal development needs, leading to significant hurdles and a perceived waste of resources.

Understanding the Upskilling Landscape

According to a recent BCG report, only 24% of polled companies make a clear connection between corporate strategy and reskilling efforts. That’s because responsibility for the design and implementation of the program is often siloed within HR, and its failure or success is measured very narrowly—in terms of the number of trainings delivered, the cost per learner, and similar training-specific metrics. This approach is creating an upskilling landscape that may not be conducive to growth and organizational outcomes since it’s missing a critical piece: input from employees.

This affects companies in a number of ways:

  • Skill Gaps and Operational Inefficiencies: Unaddressed skill gaps can lead to reduced productivity and operational inefficiencies.
  • Increased Recruitment Costs: Failing to upskill existing employees may result in higher costs associated with external recruitment to fill skill gaps.
  • Reduced Market Competitiveness: An outdated workforce skill set can diminish an organization's innovation and competitive edge.
  • Employee Disengagement and Turnover: A lack of development opportunities can foster employee disengagement, leading to higher turnover and associated costs.

Turning Challenges into Opportunities

Fortunately, there's a silver lining. Data from Boston Consulting Group reveals that 68% of workers are open to reskilling. The key lies in creating programs that are engaging and aligned with employees' career aspirations. Companies like Amazon, CVS, Vodafone, and Bosch exemplify successful upskilling strategies by covering costs, providing clear career pathways, and dedicating time (and even days) for learning.

The Impact of Effective Upskilling Programs

  • Enhanced Employee Engagement and Retention: Upskilling is valued by employees, leading to increased job satisfaction and loyalty. McKinsey & Company research supports this by showing that effective "learning organizations" have higher levels of talent retention. These top-tier organizations provide about 75 hours of training per employee annually and promote and retain their employees at higher rates than others. Conversely, a lack of career development and advancement opportunities is cited as a top reason for employees quitting their jobs
  • Future-Proofing the Workforce: Preparing employees for future technological shifts keeps the organization agile and competitive. An additional 12 million occupational transitions may be needed by 2030. As people leave shrinking occupations, the economy could reweight toward higher-wage jobs. Workers in lower-wage jobs are up to 14 times more likely to need to change occupations than those in highest-wage positions, and most will need additional skills to do so successfully.
  • Driving Organizational Outcomes: Upskilled employees contribute significantly to improved productivity and innovation. According to BCG, effectively upskilled employees can better utilize disruptive technologies like GenAI, contributing to enhanced productivity and business process reimagination.
  • Attracting Top Talent: Companies committed to employee development are more appealing to high-caliber professionals. McKinsey’s research reveals that career development and advancement potential are now as important as compensation for attracting talent, particularly in the digital space. This holds true across multiple job roles and critical decision-making junctures, such as staying in or leaving a job. It highlights that for today's digital talent, career development means working in organizations that embed learning into their culture and encourage employees to invest in their development

Bridging Education and Career Development

To effectively engage employees in upskilling, it’s crucial to connect upskilling programs to career advancement. This requires clear communication and investment in resources and time.

  1. Understanding Skill Supply and Demand: Develop a skill taxonomy to identify and bridge gaps between current skills and future needs. This helps in creating targeted enrollment policies and facilitates smoother skill transitions.
  2. Develop New Systems: Involve managers in designing and implementing upskilling programs. Senior leaders should exemplify support for upskilling. Additionally, give employees the necessary time and space for intensive learning.
  3. Align employees with new roles: Clearly define the roles targeted in upskilling programs to boost employee interest and make the training more relevant. Minimize the risk and effort for participants by offering clear, achievable outcomes, making the investment in upskilling more appealing and effective.
  4. Leverage collaborative efforts: Recognize that upskilling an organization requires an ecosystem of partners that should extend beyond the organization. A collaborative approach can alleviate challenges and offer employees broader future opportunities.

Thrive's Role in Upskilling

As a specialist in career wellness, Thrive offers a unique tripod approach to help organizations navigate these challenges. 

Our tripod methodology comprises Thrive, the manager and the individual learner to foster a cohesive learning ecosystem. Thrive initiates targeted conversations with managers and users to tailor the upskilling experience. Managers articulate organizational objectives to learners and provide essential feedback to Thrive, ensuring the program’s relevance and impact. Meanwhile, learners receive a customized development path that aligns with both their career goals and organizational needs.

Our triangulated approach not only maximizes employee engagement and skill acquisition, but also positions your workforce to navigate the challenges of the future of work. 

  • Outcome-Focused Methodology: Ensuring the alignment of upskilling programs with organizational goals. Our team works individually with each employee to help customize their learning experience
  • Expertise in Career Management: Providing tailored solutions for workforce development.
  • Increased Usage and Engagement: Utilizing strategies to boost employee participation and maximize ROI.
  • Support in Organizational Change Management: Assisting in the complexities of career transition and development.

The Future of Upskilling: Learning for Tomorrow

The future of business demands a workforce that is not only equipped to handle upcoming challenges but excels in them. Most organizations have an intuitive understanding of the importance of upskilling to succeed in the future, and many have already made tremendous investments into career management programs.

However, these efforts are hampered by low employee engagement and a lack of clear connection to organizational outcomes. The path to successful upskilling is multi-faceted, requiring strategic planning and a deep understanding of employee needs and aspirations. By focusing on engagement, alignment with career goals, and robust support systems, organizations can turn the challenge of rapid skill obsolescence into a strategic opportunity for growth and innovation.

Thrive commits to guiding organizations through this transformative journey, ensuring your workforce remains at the forefront of industry developments.Together, we can shape the future of work and build an environment where continuous learning and development are woven into the very fabric of your organization’s culture.

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