Is the Business World Really Serious About Upskilling?

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Is the Business World Really Serious About Upskilling?

and what does that even mean?

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We live in peculiar times whereby organizations frequently grumble about skills shortages, individuals struggle to adapt to the changing needs of the labor market, and policymakers fret about people being left behind by the pace of technological change. It’s an environment in which one would imagine investment in upskilling would be booming, and yet with employee tenure slumping, the opposite appears to be the case, especially for small to medium-size enterprises (SME) that make up the bulk of the workforce.Image title

A blank page to sharpen new skills.

A recent from Adecco set out to get a better understanding of the skills landscape and explore how society can get better at helping people to get the skills they need to thrive, especially if they work in the SME sector.

The report quizzed several hundred managers and directors from SMEs to understand their perspectives on upskilling, and the data revealed that whilst most managers knew too well that skills are vital to their business, they struggled to provide employees with opportunities to develop them because of the immediate productivity demands of the business.

This environment prompted a short-term approach to upskilling that sees employees given a degree of support in developing the skills they need right now, but precious little support in developing the skills required for the medium to long-term.

The data highlighted clear divergence in how various layers of the business view upskilling, with senior executives placing more emphasis on technology than skills, whereas those on the frontline had understandable concerns about their future career path. These front line employees expressed clear discontent with the amount of training provided to them.

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Productivity Gap

There has been a longstanding productivity gap between big and small companies, but whilst many commentators attribute this to a lackluster investment in new technology, the Adecco paper argues instead that it’s a lack of investment in skills that is the primary culprit.

“SMEs don’t have the budgets and workforces of their larger competitors: but these are problems that will become self-perpetuating,” the authors say. “If companies don’t invest in training then they will be left with even less of a skilled workforce, as employees leave in pursuit of better opportunities.”

This is compounded by the emergence of new technologies that the vast majority of managers believe will increase productivity in their businesses. They also concede however that it will require new skills to make the most of the technology.

“This change is ever accelerating, with some employees needing fresh skills every few years to keep up,” the authors explain. “Unless companies want to face the disruption and damaged morale of near-constant staff turnover, they’re going to need to retrain their employees on a regular basis.”

A Competitive Advantage

Adecco believes that the ability to successfully upskill the workforce will be a key factor in determining the success or failure of the business as those who do so well will benefit exponentially from the productivity, efficiency, and flexibility of the latest technologies promise to provide businesses.

It can be easy to be sucked into short-term thinking and view training in terms of the time spent away from day-to-day work, and even though the lens of the reduced productivity of workers learning new ways of operating. Adecco is adamant however that this is the wrong approach, and that increases the speed with which organizations learn will be a real competitive advantage.

In a world that is increasingly determined by the talent at your disposal, robust investment in training and development not only helps to ensure existing employees have the right skills, but it acts as a tangible pull to the highest quality talent in the wider marketplace.

“Any employee with a decent degree of motivation is going to be interested in how the company can help them and their career,” the authors explain. “If you can offer an upskilling programme that fits their aims, then you immediately become a more appealing place to work.”

With just 44% of SMEs planning to invest in upskilling in the next few years, there is a real opportunity for the more forward-thinking among them to steal a march on their peers. Whether it’s investing in technical training or the softer skills that are so often vital to sit alongside them, the return on training investment is considerable and will help to position your workforce with the skills they need to thrive.

Skills Benchmarking

Online training was one of the most popular methods cited by respondents, so it’s perhaps a good start to partner with MOOC platform Coursera, who last year released a Skills Benchmarking tool that they believe will help managers measure not only the skills they have in their workforce but how those skills compare with peers in their industry. It will provide managers with access to a full dataset on the competencies within their business, and by comparing them with others, help to identify where gaps are.

The new benchmarking tool is built on top of the skills graph provided by Coursera to map the skills honed by the courses available on the platform. The graph also maps these skills to careers, companies, and industries that require them.

The benchmarking tool then utilizes machine learning algorithms that have been trained using learning and assessment performance data from the Coursera ‘student body’ to construct an aggregate view of the core capabilities of any employer, together with how they compare to their peers.

“As advancing technologies continue to change the way businesses operate, organizations need to assess and benchmark their talent continuously in order to compete,” Coursera says. “We’re thrilled to equip businesses across industries with top quality learning content to drive deep reskilling, and organizations can now leverage actionable data to improve their strategic workforce transformation agenda.”

By helping SMEs not only the skills they have and how these compare with their peers, but also to provide affordable ways of providing training in those areas, it’s perhaps a good way for small businesses that don’t have huge resources to proceed. Time will tell whether they choose to do so or not.

Further Reading

What a Self-Organizing Team Is (Not)

How Does Leadership Fit Into Self-Organizing Teams?

agile, competitive advantage, productivity gap, skills benchmarking

Published at DZone with permission of Adi Gaskell , DZone MVB. See the original article here.

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