To upskill or not to upskill staff, that is the question for HR directors

When a football club’s stadium is beginning to show its age and is no longer fit for purpose, the owners have two options: start from scratch with a new arena, or look at their existing building and see where it can be modernized.

Posted jeudi, février 23 2023
To upskill or not to upskill staff, that is the question for HR directors

It’s a similar story for management when confronted with a skills shortage in their workforce. Either they hire someone new with the requisite knowledge and abilities to match the needs of the business, or they can upskill and reskill the staff already working at the firm.

Upskilling gives staff training to improve their performance in their current job or switch to a related post while reskilling - or retraining – lets staff learn the skills they need to exercise a new role within the company.  

On the face of it, training up existing staff would seem like a no-brainer for companies. Yet staff mostly view upskilling and reskilling through the prism of their future employability, not necessarily how it can benefit their existing employer. According to a 2021 study by PwC, 77% of adults would learn new skills now or completely retrain to improve their future employability. To paraphrase Mad Men’s Don Draper, the problem with helping people is you help them, and then they leave.  

Furthermore, for some employers, the up-front cost of providing staff with training, coupled with the need to take time from their working week to partake in a training program, can make this course of action unpalatable. Added to this is the uncertainty of whether a member of staff will learn new skills to the level desired. For these reasons, many managers prefer to fill a skills shortage with a plug-and-play new hire.

The choice of a new generation
Yet even managers going down this route may be unable to avoid retooling their workforce since, according to Forbes, around 90% of millennials, who make up the largest worker segment in the US, prioritize professional development and career growth opportunities when considering a job offer.

The talent shortage currently encountered by companies is a serious threat to companies’ future growth prospects

Companies making a long-term business investment do not do so unless they think the potential benefits outweigh the risk, therefore before making a human capital decision of this nature, companies should conduct a cost benefit analysis to measure the likely return on investment of retraining existing staff vs external hiring.

For those companies deciding to go all-in on upskilling and reskilling, there are a number of things they can do to improve their chances of successfully retraining – and retaining – staff, including ensuring the training programs on offer respond to the needs of staff, as well as those of the company, and providing a roadmap on how upskilling or reskilling will lead to career advancement within the company.  

According to a 2023 study by Cornerstone, a global leader in people development, another solution may lie in baking continual learning into the working life of an employee in a more informal way, via learning experience platforms which can democratize teaching and learning.

“From our findings, it’s clear that in 2023, organizations will continue to harness the power of learning experience platforms (LXPs) to democratize learning, which is even more important in these current times of economic volatility. LXPs bring together experiential learning, content and skill building, transforming learning into a connected engine of growth, agility and mobility. This drives a sense of inclusion and autonomy, fueling satisfaction, retention and growth,” said Vincent Belliveau, Chief International Officer at Cornerstone.

The talent shortage currently encountered by companies, exacerbated by the Great Resignation – when four million quit their jobs in 2021 – is a serious threat to companies’ future growth prospects. And with the pace of change in the world of work only set to accelerate in the coming decades, the need for workers and companies, to keep pace is a growing concern.

Whether they relocate or rebuild, the wise football club owner does as much as they can to future-proof their stadium. A HR director needs to do all they can to ensure their company's workforce is ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow.