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Essential guide to upskilling workforces post-pandemic

Niki Turner-Harding, Senior Vice President - Adecco UK and Ireland

As we continue moving towards the new era of work, futureproofing workforces needs to be at the top of agendas for businesses throughout the UK and Ireland. More and more companies are recognising the need to train their employees to adapt, but research has shown that 47% of employees haven’t leant any new skills since the first lockdown began in March 2020, and a quarter would have liked to have been granted access to training courses by their employers. So, how can organisations work towards closing the skills gap and ensuring their workforce is equipped to succeed in an increasingly digitised labour market.

Identify business needs
Before embarking on implementing upskilling programmes, organisations must identify where the skills gaps are. It can feel like a big task, but the key is to break it down into manageable steps. List the functions of the business and try to create a picture of the roles and departments that need the most focus. Estimate the number of people affected and then conduct skill assessments with employees to get a clearer understanding of your needs.

It’s also important not to apply a one size fits all approach. Instead, consider the type of training that needs to be taught and how it will fit with existing work commitments for colleagues. Should it be instructor-led or self-paced and should programmes be short and intensive or long-term and more casual? The answer is most likely all of these, as people learn best in different ways, so identify what methods will resonate with your workforce and ensure they’re able to fully utilise the opportunity to upskill.

Focus on digital and data
The speed of change in the current digital landscape is such that companies and their employees must embrace the need for lifelong learning. Building transformation strategies for longevity is integral as the world of work continues to be redefined by automation, digital and data.

Digital skills and data literacy are in huge demand across the globe, particularly as the pandemic has accelerated the need for businesses to embark on digital transformation journeys. However, demand for these skills far outstrips supply, evidenced by the shortage of data scientists in 2020, which was estimated at 250,000.

In order to help close the digital skills gap, organisations and the government must work together to upskill workforces and teach them how to utilise the data they have to solve problems, and produce insights through automating analytical processes.

However, organisations that are considering automating must ensure employees are fully engaged with their strategy. PwC found that 60% of workers are worried that automation is putting jobs at risk, so it’s important that companies spend time retraining staff to work effectively alongside it. This in turn will help to increase productivity and improve talent and retention strategies.

Upksill the younger generation
The younger generation has faced continued uncertainty throughout COVID-19, with people aged under 35 accounting for 635,000 payroll jobs lost since March 2020.

As a result, research has shown that more young people (18-44) have pursued additional training since the coronavirus outbreak, in order to improve their employability prospects. They also understand that to remain in the jobs market without becoming redundant, upskilling and reskilling are crucial to staying on the cusp of ever-evolving trends.

Therefore, companies that invest in enhancing the skillsets of employees will not only help to futureproof their workforce as a whole, but also place the organisation in a stronger position against competitors when it comes to growth.

On-the-job learning is also invaluable for developing soft skills such as communication and time management, which can’t usually be taught through training programmes alone.

Key take outs
We’ve officially entered the era of upskilling and reskilling, with employers realising just how beneficial to business it can be, and employees choosing to work for organisations that have clearly defined strategies for career progression and development.

The need to upskill employees is only set to become more pertinent, given how quickly technology is evolving. As a result, business leaders who can increase and accelerate their planning and cultivate talent will be the ones who gain the edge on the competition.

By ensuring workforces are fully engaged with automation strategies, and through providing workforces with the opportunity to develop their skillsets, this will improve talent attraction and retention levels and ensure organisations remain agile and resilient as the new era of work continues to evolve.

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