Can businesses survive the shrinking skills half-life?
The world of work is changing, and not just because of Covid. For years, there has been a longstanding, looming impetus for change hanging over organisations. Digital transformation. The Internet of Things. The advent of the smartphone and its stifling permanence in our world. Automation, AI and machine learning. This brave new world has changed everything and it puts our old ways of working at risk. Because as we adapt to change, skills and knowledge requirements from our people also shift.
So how can organisations ensure their people keep pace with their own rapidly changing landscape?
A growing skills gap looms ahead
It’s not a secret – most organisations already have a skills gap which will continue to grow in coming years. In fact, the World Economic Forum estimates that 50% of employees will need reskilling by 2025, which can be a terrifying task for many.
But filling those looming skills gaps now will only take you so far. In their ‘A New Culture of Learning’ book, John Seely Brown and Prof. Peter Denning cited that the half-life of skills now sits at just five years. This means that much of what was learned ten years ago is obsolete and half of what is learned five years ago is irrelevant.
Suffice it to say, businesses have a real training challenge if they are to keep up with the pace of change. Not only are there a completely diverse and new set of skills needed in the next five years, but the very real scenario is that these skills could well be obsolete in the next five. Clearly, introducing more agile, scalable ways to upskill employees will become an incredibly valuable tool as change remains a constant in business.
Are businesses equipped for change?
Survival of the fittest is a term many key stakeholders in business will be familiar with. These days, pivoting and adapting to changeable tides is a matter of survival. In fact, 90% of CEOs believe their company is facing disruptive change driven by digital technologies. But it’s not enough for business leaders to develop strategies to adjust to change if, when it comes to implementing these strategies, they fail because their employees aren’t equipped to handle this change. And with 70% of CEOs also saying their organisation does not have the necessary skills to adapt, we’ve got a problem.
Clearly, organisations need to develop more robust, adaptive workforces which are able to adjust to change quickly, and continuously optimise performance in the process. Should businesses seek survival, so must they invest further in the knowledge and training of their employees.
Investing in your people, for better ROI and performance
A successful business is the sum of all its parts, and when it comes to developing progressive change management strategies, employees must play a fundamental role. That’s primarily because without our people harnessing the right skills, businesses just cannot successfully navigate the complexities of transformation and change.
In fact, PwC’s 23rd Annual Global CEO Survey shows that organisations focused on expanding their employees’ skills were ahead of their peers in many ways and were more confident of their future. Indeed, that same report also found that those who focused on a clear upskilling programme also recognised further business-wide benefits including:
● Greater business growth
● Improved talent acquisition and retention
● Stronger corporate culture and employee engagement
● Higher workforce productivity
● Greater innovation and accelerated digital transformation
Clearly, an emphasis on improving the skills of our people is highly beneficial to both business and employees, and also ensures future success too. So what can we do?
Empowering employees to grow and learn
Keeping our people aware of looming skills gaps, and indeed how they can start to upskill is no mean feat. Especially with some skills losing their relevance in mere years, it’s not scalable for businesses to always continuously invest in traditional training methods alone. It’s expensive in both time and cost, and is a solution which requires constant revisiting.
As organisations seek to build more transferable, ‘evergreen’ skill sets in their employees, a wider emphasis must be put onto how our people acquire and apply these skills to ensure knowledge transference and ultimately, impact their performance over time. Whilst the likes of digital learning could well be complementary to wider programmes, we believe in this connected world, mentorship takes on new importance and meaning.
Mentoring as part of your upskilling programmes
The reality is, ensuring your employees gain and hone skills in complex, new skills such as critical thinking, resilience, reasoning, leadership and even creativity is going to require a lot more than just some elearning. Or some classroom training.
Organisations must implement more sophisticated training blends and programmes, of which technology should play a role. But the bigger picture requires employees to gain context for their understanding, collectively sharing knowledge to progress together. And for that, mentoring is unparalleled.
That’s because mentoring provides both mentor and mentee with incredible opportunities to reflect, remain curious and constantly challenge their learning in real-world contexts. Of course, further to our point above, mentoring alone will not solve your skills gaps problems. But it could well solidify the knowledge your people are acquiring and give them opportunities to apply that knowledge in a safe, supported space.
In order to truly realise the benefits of an upskilling programme, organisations and HR departments must begin to define what skills are needed and indeed the best ways to ensure their people harness these skills. Rather than looking at siloed training interventions, HR and L&D should instead consider how they can holistically provide more long-term, scalable learning experiences which develop business-critical skills over time.
Rather than immediately heading to the classroom or a LMS for the solution, consider what other aspects of knowledge sharing you could leverage. Chances are, you have some incredible skills in-house already; let mentoring unlock the capabilities of your people and see your business continuously succeed, in spite of the uncertain times ahead.