Strategies To Upskill Your Workforce

Strategies To Upskill Your Workforce
Automation will be one of the key impact components that will reshape the roles and future skills of the workforce. WEF studies predict that 42% of business tasks will be automated by 2027.

We are globally in a phase where we are seeing a sea shift in technology applications. The increasing focus on Quantum Computing, Metaverse, Augmented Reality, Gen AI, and Robotics advancements amongst others are redefining the way we live, work, and interact. Here are strategies to Upskill your workforce.

The average half-life of skills is now less than five years, and in some tech fields, it’s as low as two and a half years. This sea shift clearly indicates the fast-changing nature of SKILLs. Let’s look at what data around the current job and skill landscape indicates before charting out the strategy to upskill and reskill our workforce.

WEF report estimates that more than half of all employees around the world need to upskill or reskill by 2025 to embrace the changing nature of jobs. At the same time, many of our current workers are in roles that are slowly becoming obsolete due to automation. Organizations grapple with too many unproductive middle managers, and digitally unskilled frontline workers being not prepared for the changing world ahead.

Automation will be one of the key impact components that will reshape the roles and future skills of the workforce. WEF studies predict that 42% of business tasks will be automated by 2027. (source: WEF report)

The study forecasts the changing nature of roles/jobs. We will see fast growth in technology-related roles. Roles like AI and Machine Learning Specialists, Sustainability Specialists, Business Intelligence Analysts and Information Security Analysts, Renewable Energy Engineers, and Solar Energy Installation and System Engineers will be more in demand. We could see a decline in clerical, secretarial roles, and operational roles. 

One of the key aspects of the report indicates that 6 in 10 workers will need training and reskilling by 2027.  So clearly reskilling for success is a CXO-level priority in all organizations as organizations prepare to Rethink, Reshape, and Rearrange themselves. The 3 Rs become the foundation of your upskilling strategy. 

Strategies To Upskills and Reskill: Rethink-Reshape-Rearrange

Skilling has been going on for many years now, yet it does not create the impact it should. As we move towards a more agile and fast-changing scenario, we need to rethink the basics of reskilling.

What Does Not Get Measured, Gets Forgotten

The majority of skilling efforts fail because they are set up to optimize learning and development (L&D) costs instead of driving real business impact. Globally, more than $300 billion is spent on corporate learning each year, according to an estimate from Allied Market Research. However, the majority of corporate education and learning initiatives demonstrate limited measurable impact.

So it’s very important for L&D professionals to design skilling initiatives that have a direct business impact.  It’s simply back to basics, understand what your business wants today and for the future and then cocurate the right programs that will deliver the value the business is looking for. Setting measurable goals for the critical skill sets employees want to learn and apply will help you with setting your upskilling direction and the impact it will/should deliver to business. 

At the same time, leaders should treat skilling as a business investment — an asset that will help produce profits over several years, with clearly defined business, people, and learning KPIs as a starting point for the program design.

No One Size Fits All

Today’s skilling model needs to be very agile, immediate and personalized. The standard menu will not serve the purpose. We need to mix the requirements (like functional, digital, leadership, or soft skills) well and link this back to the specific context of the business need. 

Let’s look at a hypothetical example. Say we need to help mid-level managers reskill, upskill, and move from traditional jobs to more data and digital-savvy roles.

In such scenarios, we need to have a smooth blend of hard skills (problem-solving, analysis, data representation, presentation) and soft skills (customer/stakeholder management, communication, interpersonal skills, etc.). Traditionally most of our L&D catalogues will have all of these being delivered stand-alone.

We need to change this to a more mix-and-serve mode program approach where all these skills need to be applied in tandem to deliver success. All this could be delivered in various learning modes viz gamified, podcast, webinars, etc. Making it more personalized for the learner will be key to achieving successful outcomes. 

Research indicates that org that use this type of approach to reskilling see a clear increase in rapid learning curve and thus it becomes easy to move people from traditional roles faster into newer roles and achieve results for the business.

How You Deliver Matters

As learning experience designers, we need to focus on both learners and learning. As a learner, one should feel motivated and enthused to learn and more importantly should enjoy the process and not get stressed out. It’s like taking a joy ride in a theme park and then coming back and telling your friends “You have to experience this”.

When your people start saying the same for your learning programs you have achieved your benchmark as a learning designer. So what does this look like? We could start looking at reimagining our existing learning process, tools, and methodology. Instead of running innovation or creative thinking sessions, we could make people go through a structured design thinking framework where the learners end up creating actual prototypes while applying the above skills.

A leading Big 4 firm uses video shooting for managers to analyze their own self-videos to help build executive presence and presentation skills. This helps learners to be more aware of themselves and how they communicate compared to the standard mode of facilitator feedback.  You could build scenario-based games that help executives learn the art of strategy, change, project management, or business management.

You could ask learners to actually visit customers face to face and understand their inert needs and ways to improve customer satisfaction, this could help learners to learn through action and experimentation. As Adam Grant puts it in his book Think Again, this helps them move to a scientist mindset from a fixed mindset.

By changing the mindset of learners towards learning you make the learning more action and growth oriented. It’s now value-driven and fun at the same time. Most organizations today have a dedicated L&D platform.

If you still don’t have one, well that’s the place to start right now. Make use of the innovations that many of these platforms provide to rearrange the way you deliver your skilling initiatives. 


Employees want to be in control of their careers and growth. You should empower your employees with the right tools, flexible resources, and supportive context to own their personal reskilling journeys. Employees should be able to chart their journey and should be in command.

We can then safely move away from employers saying “this is a need” approach to employees saying “I want this” approach. As we empower employees let’s also not forget that recognition is an integral part of human motivation. Maslow’s needs theory clearly indicates this. It’s very important for us to recognize learning.

Weave your recognition systems with skilling initiatives, reward and recognize people who display the right behaviors to learn and adapt.  Use storytelling or case presentation competitions and/or campaigns as an organizational tool to promote the impact of the initiative and how it has impacted both the employee and business.

This creates a motivation to learn new skills. However, this alone is not enough today, we live in a huge ‘atmosphere’ where attention spans are very low, so you need to ensure you are constantly nudging employees to keep pace sharing the need for and importance of skilling for self and organizational growth.

So, a reward-nudge mechanism can encourage more participation and uptake for your skilling initiatives.

Budgets Matter

As we chart out our skilling strategy we also need to be cognizant of the budgets. While traditionally learning and skilling have been looked at as a cost function, the fast-changing scenario demands that organizations rethink their budgets around learning and skilling.

Growth-oriented organizations consider these as an investment to stay competitive and relevant as an employee value proposition and a strategic means of balancing workforce supply and demand. Plan early and plan for the future. Invest in the best learning resources for your people and ensure to keep them constantly updated and relevant. 

Upskilling the workforce will be a key discussion point in the board and HR+L&D professionals will be playing a key accountability role to ensure this is delivered.

Effective reskilling initiatives are critical because they allow companies to build competitive advantage quickly by developing talent that is not readily available in the market and filling skills gaps that are instrumental to achieving their strategic objectives. It’s up to you to ensure your organization delivers the best and better every time and stays competitive.   

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