Major disruption is nothing new. For those of you who read my articles regularly, you will have heard me say this many times. This digital revolution that we are currently going through is in fact the fourth time humanity has experienced what could be termed the future of work. There is a common theme throughout each shift brought about by technological change. The only losers are those that refuse to change. 200+ years ago in the USA 90% of workers worked on a farm. Today roughly 2% do. Despite this, at no point were 88% of Americans unemployed. This is a familiar story the world over. Technological change frees up capacity for workers to learn new skills. Now, as businesses aim to survive this major disruption for the fourth time, the roadmap to doing so, should not only be obvious, but they can also greatly improve employee experience while doing it. The way to achieve this is simple, to retrain existing employees and provide them with new skills.
The key to successfully retraining staff, is to identify both relevant and obsolete skills upfront. This is often easier said than done, and why so many employee re-skilling programs fail. The aim of reskilling should be to prevent your existing employees from becoming obsolete. To do this, you do not need to teach your entire organisation how to use Artificial Intelligence today. Instead, you need to take a step back, assess the current workforce in terms of where business practices and ways of working in your organisation today. Then compare this first to where it should be, and then where it needs to be in 5-10 years’ time.
For example, if your team of accountants are still manually preparing all financial reports and the most advanced system they use is Microsoft Excel, you need to first retrain the team to work in a way more aligned with today, than 1998. Only once that is done, should you then also teach them the new future skills. Otherwise, you are basically handing the keys of a Ferrari over to a person who does not know how to drive. I’m sure it looks great, but it serves no purpose and is never going to be used. So, your starting point should be to benchmark what good looks like, map existing capability to that, then design a future roadmap where it needs to go from there.
Once you have a clear idea where the team are in terms of capability, you then need to identify which employees you are going to retrain. Another reason reskilling program’s often fail to deliver the required ROI is because employees fail to embrace the ideas. This is where you discover whether your employees are of a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. You may know that your entire customer service team will eventually be replaced by chatbots, so you plan to upskill the entire team to be able to do customer analytics and customer experience work instead. Great! But do the employees have the mindset to embrace change?
I have always found the easiest way to do this is to simply make the re-skilling process voluntary. Let every employee in the team know there is an opportunity to be re-trained and give them a deadline to apply to join the course. The uptake will tell you all you need to know. Do not waste resources on any employee that does not want to be on the program. If there is a lack of employees who volunteer, open it up to others outside of the department, after all if you are reskilling employees, you can also reskill employees not in the existing team. If you still do not get enough internal volunteers, this is a time to look outside, as there are millions of people globally who will jump at a career opportunity to learn new skills.
The final part is straight forward, you run training for them and teach the employees new skills. The most important thing to remember is to provide opportunities to put what has been learned in to practice immediately. It is why the mapping of where the capability of the team currently sits is so important. As research shows employees forget 75% of what they are taught inside of 6 days if it is not put in practice in that time. By doing this, employees feel more fulfilled as they have new skills which adds a new dimension to their job increasing engagement levels and the organisation become future proof from digital disruption. Everyone wins.