As automation and the pandemic have reduced some roles, companies are redeveloping employees’ skills to meet other business needs.
The COVID-19 crisis has brought to bear an extraordinary labor shift, with global hiring trends volatile and changing weekly. In the US, for example, the unemployment rate swung from 50-year lows to 70-year highs in just three months—a faster rate than two years of the Great Depression. Even though some industries like healthcare and online retail have maintained growth, one in five Americans has filed for unemployment benefits.
As the world of work undergoes rapid transformation, technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning have continued to pick up steam. Before the pandemic, more than four in 10 American workers were at risk of displacement due to automation. Now that risk is becoming reality.
With financially strained companies trying to do more with less, a growing number of frontline jobs that used to require human effort have automated capabilities, either changing those jobs entirely or rendering them obsolete. As a result, HR and talent development leaders are under pressure to redeploy talent to meet new challenges.
However, the very digital technologies that are fueling skills gaps are enabling employers to close them. The same technologies that exacerbate gaps are giving rise to solutions and strategies that employees and learners need to navigate—and master—in an uncertain future. Those technologies are creating new opportunities for upskilling and reskilling.
Reskilling is becoming more of a business mandate than a nice-to-have option. According to LinkedIn Learning’s Leading with Learning: Insights and Advice About the New State of L&D report, two out of every three L&D professionals said that reskilling the workforce to fill skills gaps is a more of a priority now than it was before the pandemic.
And employees are taking the hint: People spent nearly three times more hours learning a new skill on LinkedIn during July 2020 than July 2019.
Here are three examples of organizations in both the public and private sectors that are finding innovative ways to upskill and reskill the workforce amid great uncertainty.
A culture of learning
One silver lining in the wake of the pandemic is that rapid change could beget meaningful transformation for the public sector. The pandemic has underscored to government leaders the value of cultivating cultures of learning at scale and has prompted employees to embrace technology and training in the workplace more than ever.
In Detroit, Michigan, Iris Ware, chief learning officer for the City of Detroit, embraced technology to help the city’s 9,400 employees navigate this crisis, and her strategy to prioritize online learning became even more essential. Taking care to integrate e-learning into employees’ daily life so each day is less isolating, Ware also increased instructor-led offerings to empower individuals to invest in leadership skills and strategic priorities.
What’s more, for employees who can’t perform their typical jobs remotely, Ware asked them to instead spend their time upskilling with online courses. During the first six weeks of repositioning learning to be more personalized, scalable, and accessible, the City of Detroit exceeded the number of employees trained that the city could typically achieve on a quarterly basis.
Mapping employees to new roles
Since the beginning of the year, talent developers have had a heightened focus on talent mobility, with 73 percent of HR and hiring professionals saying that internal recruiting is increasingly important to their company. In the face of economic uncertainty and rapid change, that has become even more of a focus. Given that some professionals are unable to do their traditional, in-person roles, companies’ ability to identify transferable skills and reskill current workers will set them apart.
Verizon’s retail employees possessed impressive and relevant knowledge and skills but were unable to perform their traditional roles and responsibilities when stores closed in response to COVID-19 safety measures. By identifying employees’ transferable skills, company leaders were able to leverage online learning courses to supplement their reskilling efforts with curated courses. They eventually offered this talent pool interim roles in departments like telesales or customer service. They personalized the learning recommendations to close skills gaps.
The importance of taking stock of employees’ skills and offering continued training to keep pace with the ever-shifting labor market can’t be understated. Investing in a strong culture of learning accelerates the leadership succession pipeline for the business and enables organizations to successfully execute their business strategy—all while setting up employees for the future.
Reskilling to drive employees’ career growth
When CDK Global went into lockdown in March, its core value of “stay curious” paved the way for self-learning to skyrocket. The global software company with 9,000 employees saw a 165 percent increase in online course completions compared to February, which continued in the following months. Employees participated in more than 11,000 online learning courses.
The L&D team was able to respond quickly with relevant content to support employees’ real-time needs such as working remotely, managing in uncertain times, supporting well-being, and fostering inclusive environments. The team also partnered with leaders to curate technical skill and role-based learning paths, collections, and blended learning to help employees grow.
Embedding learning into one-on-one discussions with employees and curating relevant content into collections and learning paths to drive career growth ensures learning is a constant, regardless of whether employees are working from home or the office.
Many effective approaches to reskilling can help companies thrive despite challenging circumstances. Regardless of the approach, learning is essential for agility.
Read more from CTDO magazine: Essential talent development content for C-suite leaders.