Many companies are desperately looking for candidates to fill their increasing job vacancies. Meanwhile hundreds of millions of unemployed, overqualified or under-skilled workers do not, or no longer, have the relevant skill sets required to fulfil specific roles. This lost workforce represents an incredible loss in growth and economic prosperity.
To date, most research projects and policies aiming at reducing unemployment revolve around a knowledge creation approach that centers on higher education. Very few countries have designed and implemented a truly holistic national skills strategy that aligns with the new needs that the massive corporate investment in technology is producing.
Currently, companies are on a race to stand out both locally and globally. Adopting new technology and hiring, retraining and keeping a workforce capable of dealing with the latest tech developments is crucial. By anticipating this complex workforce transformation, it is possible to reduce the negative impacts and views on technology and automation.
The reality shows a growing skills gap and the lack of the right set of competencies (technical, soft and digital) needed in a dynamic job market. Educational systems aren’t working fast enough to adapt to the constant changes of market demands and digital developments.
To bridge talent to the job market of the future, upskilling looks promising. Many studies, including the PwC CEO Survey 2019, consider upskilling initiatives as a solution for employability and, therefore, job retention.
To upskill, several requirements (or factors) and players must come together. We call it the upskilling ecosystem. This article introduces and describes the model presented in the book “Upskill”, and the six steps businesses want to consider to make upskilling happen. We have also included to-do lists of the main actors involved in this type of initiatives.
The Government’s pivotal role to upskill
When getting digitally fit, companies tend to devote resources to acquiring technology and to the transformation of processes, activities and – ideally – models. Investing in the development of their teams’ digital skills, however, doesn’t top the list. In cases when a company bets on upskilling, it quickly realises the project wingspan, and acknowledges all the factors that are required to carry it out.
We all know companies’ ultimate goal is sustainable growth, and a well-prepared, up-to-date workforce is an unmissable asset. “Upskilling” shouldn’t be seen as a race to catch up with automation, but a necessary action to make businesses more agile, resilient and people-centric.
Luxembourg’s Skills Bridge initiative and other programmes following the upskilling approach, benefit from an active government involvement. Based on our experience, we realised that companies are keener on embracing upskilling when the local government backs up the initiative.
The magnitude of the investment that upskilling initiatives need raises business training costs considerably. However, considering upskilling as a medium-to-long-term investment rather than a standard course listed in the HR’s department training offering, is the mindset businesses need to adopt.
What does an Upskilling ecosystem look like?
Upskilling initiatives are applicable to all industries and activity sectors but they don’t work when actors are disconnected. Indeed, it is about several stakeholders working together to design sustainable job opportunities and to secure industries’ continuity and competitiveness. Each stakeholder must take steps to align strategically with each other and ensure a full use of all the resources available.
For a business, assembling an upskilling initiative goes far beyond a siloed design and a single department that plans the execution and monitoring. As any major business project, upskilling calls for the commitment and engagement of the leadership. How, otherwise, to guarantee the resources and long-term support it requires?
A fit company solution offering is highly influenced by the leadership support. By “fit” we mean a set of jobs and career opportunities that guarantee the employees transformation but also cover the business needs.
Other key factor of the upskilling ecosystem is communication, or how to mobilise employees or even entire teams to give themselves the chance to participate in an upskilling initiative.
There are two underlying factors to complete the ecosystem that Laurent Probst and Christian Scharff presented in the “Upskill” book: technology and competency providers. While the typology of the first influences training and recruitment solutions the company offers, the second supports the learning management (the training in itself, logistics, monitoring, etc).
Below we present a to-do list of the main actors involved in an upskilling initiative.
Upskilling requires governments, businesses and individual workers to question their habits and think differently. It isn’t an easy exercise, but it is necessary.
How to successfully upskill in six steps
Once the ecosystem is built and geared, it’s time for the team responsible for the upskilling initiative, to put together a framework that drives action, and translates into an execution strategy. We recommend the team to be diverse. Professionals from different company areas such as human resources, IT, innovation, finance and operations may ideally take part in the upskilling team.
The framework is a sort of treasure map with simple but actionable principles, outlining key activities and milestones throughout the upskilling “journey”.
At PwC Luxembourg, we’ve adopted the 6-steps roadmap presented above, build on simple principles that anyone who has organisational development or change management exposure will recognise and embrace. That’s likely you! Let’s go through them.
1. Analyse and define upskilling initiative
First things first: planning. This is where you put together the first building blocks of your upskilling initiative.
Regardless the role you play – head of HR, employment agency officer, etc. – you need to be really precise in this part, and that includes scope, budget and details on the resources you need, implementation and stakeholder engagement plans. Does it sound overwhelming?
You might want to consider design thinking as the way to go. Stakeholders have the freedom to imagine, co-create and prototype new business models, products and strategies, while building deeper insights on user group requirements.
Think of the potential stakeholders’ engagement and the likelihood of an enabling environment to assess the feasibility of the initiative. At the same time, this preparatory stage serves to guide the execution and determines the success measures of the upskilling programme.
2. Design corporate workforce skills plan
Before, companies used historical data such as staff turnover, new job creations and reductions to forecast the number of full time employees (FTEs). This approach no longer works to qualify and quantify new activities and jobs and the types of competencies needed for those jobs. The correct approach is the “how and where” methodology for competency acquisition. Human resources can use several planning tools to help forecast future needs based on a solid strategy, digital upgrades and the jobs to become obsolete.
As companies take part in research studies to identify gaps in their workforce, the main finding is that companies focus only on the digital transformation in general but not on upgrading or investing in their people’s skills. Companies need to focus more on their employees and provide a smooth transition to new ways of working through a streamlined upskilling process.
3. Perform individual assessment and advice
After taking the two first steps, you carry out a profile alignment. Through individual assessments, you can measure career achievements, personal and professional aspirations but also motivation levels and suitability for future jobs. Also, by including an analysis of soft and digital skills, taking in into account personal interests and knowledge in other domains, you end up with a fairly detailed assessment of potential. By taking a human approach with your employees, you establish trust and with that, they are more likely to accept the career change.
4. Match jobs and engage workers
You’ve qualified and quantified the jobs your business needs or will need in the future. Now, it’s time to match jobs to their portfolios. And this is where AI comes in. New job matching tools use AI to make real-time job recommendations that best fit each profile. Not only do these platforms and softwares allow HR to remain on top of possible developments or new job requirements, but also to be assured the best candidates are being considered.
5. Select training and providers
A success factor in every upskilling initiative is ensuring the high quality of trainings. Employees need to be fully prepared to occupy new job positions and perform different actions. The more prepared they are, the higher their employability, generating massive savings for the State and for companies. Higher employability also motivates workers and has a direct influence on their outlook and motivation.
Additionally, by using an upskilling solution, you create a shift in the traditional vocational training markets. How? By moving from a supply-based model to a market driven one, focusing on the real needs of a company and its people. You create a solid learning foundation, one that’s called life-long learning.
If companies work together with the local government, it ensures the required skills are properly analysed and explained so training providers can easily design and adapt their content to the business needs. The better and more detailed the training is, the better workers will be adept to upskill and apply for a new internal job opening or ultimately return to the job market.
6. Monitor, evaluate and improve policy
Monitoring and continuous improvement improves communication on a deeper level. There’s a need to provide real-time information to governments, HR executives and employees. Digital technology is very helpful in this case too. Using a platform with the main performance indicators of the five previous steps, is key to an effective communication strategy. From workforce planning tools, individual skills assessment modules, job-matching tools to individual development plans and training records, you can provide the latest data and statistics in every step of your upskilling journey.
What we think
There’s currently a great acceleration of technologies coming into companies, disrupting business models and changing the way we’re producing and consuming. These changes have a direct impact on people and on how we work. New technologies are constantly being created, upgraded and integrated in different levels of industries. As companies invest in digital, they need to upskill people too. It’s crucial for our future to tackle the growing skills gap now, training people to match their competencies to the job market of today and tomorrow.
Upskilling is about taking things to a different level, with new competencies and possibly new jobs. It’s a win-win solution for companies and people.”
There’s a paradigm shift happening. Globally, the skills gap is growing and the levels of employability are going down because companies and governments don’t see the bigger picture. The time for governments, companies and business to work together is now. Upskilling is the solution that provides sustainable jobs, competitiveness and growth. And on the contrary of common belief, there’s a high return of investment.