You’re on Board With Reskilling Your Workers. Now What?

Just a few decades ago, technological skills were limited to information technology departments. In today’s tech-saturated world, however, these skills are necessary for virtually all employees. To fill internal skill gaps and ensure employees are up to speed on ever changing technical knowledge, forward-thinking CEOs look toward continuous reskilling and training programs.

Automation and digitization continue to advance rapidly, and in 2018, 62% of executives said they believed they would need to retrain or replace more than a quarter of their workforce by 2023. Another 66% considered this issue a top-10 priority. Given the high cost of turnover—$15,000 per person for a worker earning a median annual salary of $45,000 — reskilling is a particularly cost-effective way to overcome knowledge gaps.

Reskilling also increases employee morale and productivity. Employees (and millennials, in particular) tend to prioritize professional development in their career paths and aren’t afraid to switch jobs in pursuit of advancement opportunities.

Reskilling Is Good in Theory. What About in Practice?

A reskilling program can be a tremendous way to fill in skill gaps among employees and sustain a business’s ongoing growth, but it comes with certain risks.

Reskilling is never a one-size-fits-all approach. From the beginning, it’s critical for companies to recognize that reskilling won’t be effective for every employee. Antiquated human resources practices, unclear communication, differing learning styles, and a lack of buy-in for resources can seriously complicate or even halt implementation.

A properly executed reskilling program requires the investment of time, care, and resources. If you’re an executive looking to create or utilize a highly dependable reskilling program, keep these considerations top of mind.

1. Scale strategically.Organizations often run small-scale reskilling programs that limit the number of people allowed. Yet they expect near-perfect success rates. Instead of running a five- to 10-person full-time program, for instance, a 50- to 100-person part-time program might be more appropriate. It could allow for more access and give organizations a much higher chance of identifying the true gemswho naturally excel in new roles.

2. Manage expectations and communicate effectively.The threat of automation and the displacement of global workers is a concern for many modern employees. For this reason, companies implementing a reskilling program should be intentional about how they communicate with employees. It’s difficult to get employee buy-in for a program if employees are worried that their jobs are on the line.

3. Weigh strengths and weaknesses, and partner with an expert. In most cases, businesses are very good at what they do. Apple is skilled at crafting new technologies with sleek, modern designs, and Coca-Cola excels at making soda and other beverages. Training and reskilling employees, though, isn’t a core strength of those two companies.

One of the best things a business can do is find a training and reskilling organization to partner with as it takes on this task. Experts can help identify the inputs, activities, and outcomes necessary to meet a business’s individual goals. In turn, both parties can work together to create and deploy curriculums that pave the way toward overarching business goals.

Reskilling remains a popular (and necessary) approach for CEOs to consider, but it’s too important of an initiative to implement carelessly. A holistic strategy, clear communication, and intelligent approach to partnership can avoid any pitfalls and pave the way for a successful reskilling initiative.

Read more: CEOs Who Embrace Emerging Tech Must Prepare for Reskilling workers

Jeff Mazur
Jeff Mazur is the executive director for LaunchCode, a nonprofit organization aiming to fill the gap in tech talent by matching companies with trained individuals. As one of the winners of the 2017 MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge, LaunchCode has been recognized for expanding “the tech workforce by providing free coding education to disadvantaged job seekers.” Jeff lives in St. Louis with his wife and twin girls.