Reskill Your Workforce
Just like performance reviews and policy management, filling skill gaps is the HR responsibility that never goes away. And as societal, business, or macroeconomic conditions change, HR professionals must reimagine the workforce of the future since the ground is constantly shifting beneath their feet. Today, the speed at which HR must enact upskilling initiatives so the company can be ready for the future of work, whatever it looks like, has only accelerated in a time of crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unfortunately, there’s no repeatable guide or blueprint for successful training, as every company’s needs differ at any given moment. Since March of 2020, e-commerce companies have scrambled to hire and upskill workers to improve performance and meet demand, while entities like utilities were already in the throes of reskilling – giving employees enhanced or more strategic responsibility as smart technology was introduced to do routine, manual tasks that previously commanded too much of workers’ time. Although the specifics and intensity of training efforts have varied from sector to sector, the COVID-19 crisis has forced companies’ hands. Reskilling and upskilling are no longer buzzwords just to talk about; they’re efforts that must be undertaken, and quickly at that.
A host of qualitative and quantitative research shows that companies are waging a talent war, aggressively recruiting candidates with the same or similar skill sets. For some jobs, it might be cheaper, faster, and more effective to train existing employees to perform at a higher level – or in an entirely new role. But it’s not an either-or proposition. It’s essential to couple effective recruitment with a training strategy, since investing in your workforce improves retention, productivity, and innovation.
Today, however, there’s more urgency. Committing to upskilling and reskilling can be the key to businesses surviving the COVID-19 crisis, thriving sooner after it lifts, as well as fueling the long-term stability and growth of an organization. The trick, however, is that now and well into the foreseeable future, HR professionals will be required to strike the right balance between hiring, training, and redundancies – every hour of every day.
Understanding organizational needs and being able to respond to them quickly will be the key not just to HR professionals’ careers, but the entire organizations around them.
The path from remote work to upskilling and reskilling
Stop and think, for just a moment, how much business has changed in only a few months’ time. At the end of 2019, if any CHRO had walked into the CEO’s office and suggested the company immediately start planning for a future with a mostly remote workforce, they’d have been laughed out of the room, if not dismissed on the spot. Yet now, remote working is business as usual. It has even become the background against which other, newer social changes are unfolding.
The key learning, however, is that organizations proved more nimble and responsive than anyone thought. So, if everyone can transition to remote work and still be effective and efficient, surely an organization can train employees with new skills, quickly, to meet evolving business objectives. Delivering those new skills in a remote work environment will be a challenge, but also a necessity. And it’s important to bear in mind that “learning as you go” will be par for the course. Finding a balance isn’t static since adaptation happens faster now – on the fly, even – more than it ever has.
The HR function is seeing the same rapid change. A few decades ago, moving from paper records to computers was a slow grind; today, HR professionals have handed off their more routine work to AI systems or employee-accessed portals, and are now building elearning and workforce modeling strategies. HR needs upskilling along with everyone else, if the function is to align training goals with the needs of the company. A relevant, agile training strategy ready to deploy at any moment is the opportunity HR professionals now have with their seat at the table.
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