Organizations need them, and people have them. Or do they?
Skills are at the core of all things talent management. We hire skill sets. We manage the level at which skills are performed. We have people learn new skills or develop proficiency in existing ones. Fundamentally, that's all organizations are – a collection of people of various skill sets using those skills in concert with one another to achieve collective goals.
But here's the thing about critical skills – they are constantly shifting. You can look to almost any industry and find significant change that's happened even just over the last 3-5 years, and alongside that change has come a shift in which skills have been considered critical to success.
Take the food service industry for example. Even the highest-end restaurants are shifting to the new reality of UberEats, DoorDash, Caviar, Postmates and whatever other delivery services are operating in their area. They've needed to shift their menus to make more travel-friendly food (french fries do not travel well, but mashed potatoes do!), ensure their front-of-house staff understands whichever delivery ordering system they're using, etc. It's a huge shift for restaurants who, just a couple years ago, would never have dreamed of offering delivery.
And then sometimes, changes happen abruptly. COVID-19 has completely transformed the reality of work in a matter of weeks. Entire organizations are suddenly virtual, introducing a whole set of new challenges involving skills.
We live in uncertain and ever-changing times, and with this in mind, it makes sense to build an apparatus around constantly upskilling and reskilling employees. By "upskilling," I mean leveling up an existing skillset. If you're a software developer, you can upskill by learning a new coding language. By "reskilling," I mean replacing an outgoing skillset with a new one that's more relevant to the new reality. Bank tellers went through a significant reskilling over the last couple decades with the rise of digital payments and online banking. Now, bank tellers spend more time selling new services and providing financial advice than they do processing deposits and withdrawals.
So we can see the importance of keeping upskilling and reskilling in mind – you get to keep up with the pace of change. But what I want to talk about are some of those outside, unexpected benefits. Here are 3 unexpected benefits of making upskilling and reskilling a core part of your learning and development program.
1. Foster adaptability
When you are in a constant state of change, what singular skill is more useful than adaptability? By regularly putting your employees through the upskill and reskill process, you aren't just working on their specific skillset. You're also fostering the ability to acclimate and adjust to change.
This soft skill (or "power skill") is considered to be a key talent attribute in the current economy where digital transformation is a central theme and industries are upended with regularity. And as Josh Bersin puts it, "Hard skills are soft (they change all the time, are constantly being obsoleted, and are relatively easy to learn), and soft skills are hard (they are difficult to build, critical, and take extreme effort to obtain)." Anything you can do to foster these soft skills is a positive for your organization, and if you can achieve that while developing those hard skills, then it's extra beneficial.
2. Increase collaboration and break down barriers
Organizational siloes can exist for a variety of reasons. There may be a lack of communication. There may be tedious red tape to get through. But often, a misunderstanding of who has what skillset can prevent collaborative work from starting in the first place.
By allowing employees to explore different skills that are outside their immediate expertise and role, they can gain empathy and understanding for roles outside of their own, helping boost collaboration. They may even develop their skills by shadowing someone in another role, building a relationship that otherwise would not have been there!
3. Improve your employer brand
Every organization wants to be an employer of choice in their communities, and helping employees grow and develop their skills can play a huge part in boosting your employer brand. Did you know that 91% of millennials reported that career progression opportunity is their top priority when selecting a new employer? And conversely, 53% of them are disappointed in the lack of training opportunities in their current workplace.
By offering employees the ability to learn and develop not only skills that are critical to your organization's success but also those that align with employee aspirations and interests, you demonstrate your investment in their growth and development. Becoming that employer in your community known for developing skillful people will not only help you keep employees longer, but will give you a leg up in sourcing new talent as well!
Leverage skills to support all your talent programs
Making skills a core part of everything your talent program has to offer is not as difficult as it may seem. If you insert skills at every stage of the employee lifecycle, you'll unify your efforts around the engine that really makes your organization move.
We prepared an article on making skills in your talent program a reality, which you can check out here. And if you want to know what to look for in a skills technology vendor, check out our free checklist!