The advent of digitization has resulted in many changes in the way organizations view themselves and their workforce. Human Resources (HR) and Learning and Development (L&D) teams often face the challenge of aligning their hiring strategies with the constantly changing demands of the digital economy.
The best way to solve any problem is to gather the major players together and bounce off ideas; this is exactly what Simplilearn and People Matters decided to do. In a breakfast roundtable, Ester Martinez (Editor-in-chief, People Matters) and Krishna Kumar (CEO, Simplilearn) had an engaging conversation with close to 30 HR and L&D heads from some of the world’s most prominent organizations, discussing the key challenges of building a digital workforce for enterprises today.
Here is a rundown of the three main reskilling hurdles brought up during the roundtable as well as the innovative strategies that have helped other companies overcome these challenges:
Skill Acquisition vs Talent Acquisition: Promote from Within or Hire Fresh Talent?
When it comes to filling skill gaps, the biggest quandary organizations face today is choosing between skill acquisition and talent acquisition. While recruiting and picking new candidates with the latest technology skills has its appeal, there are some significant benefits in upskilling your existing workforce—which also helps in employee retention, reputation, and profitability of the company.
Organizations across the globe are realizing the possibility of fulfilling their hiring needs with talent from within the organization. However, a pure-play upskilling strategy might mean missing out on engaging with game changing talent in the industry.
The answer is to adopt a healthy mix of skill acquisition and talent acquisition. The core of any company is built on a solid policy of hiring the best talent in the market, but once they’re in place, it’s important to continually upskill that new talent (as well as your other employees) with the latest tools and technologies in the market. These include such skills as digital marketing, cloud computing, big data and analytics, cybersecurity and more.
While skill acquisition from within is a purist policy that supports employees and maintains the identity of the organization, it needs a timely sprinkling of talent acquisition to stay on top of things.
Branching off from this further, skill acquisition by itself presents its own set of unique challenges. Here are the pressing ones:
Scalability and Sustainability
The primary problem of introducing any form of employee training is affordability. On top of that, if the job market favors employees, with a high demand for the skills they have or acquire, there is the risk that they may take those skills elsewhere, and new employees will have to be trained. How do you ensure gradual upskilling of your employees, with emphasis on long term relevance and retention of these skilled personnel within your organization?
Segregating employees into well defined categories helps you identify the precise, relevant training that is likely to be beneficial, rather than inconveniently signing up all your employees to all of the training sessions. This requires and demonstrates a high degree of empathy and nuanced ability to assess the needs of your employees, a ‘zero-distance’ to your employees, if you will. Investing in virtual or online training is a cost-effective solution, which also comes with the advantage of empowering your employees to pick and juggle their hours, ensuring it doesn’t affect their productivity during work hours.
This approach also makes sure your employees end up acquiring skills that will directly provide them a career boost and a step up in roles and responsibilities, criteria very integral to preserving job satisfaction.
Keeping Employees Motivated
The average employee has enough mission-critical work to do to keep going from 9-5 every day of the week and beyond. That leaves little time for training. Expecting eagerness and enthusiasm to learn and develop more skills on top of that requires a certain degree of additional persuasion.
- Make Learning Interesting, Not Intimidating - Although the easiest way to take this up would be to generate a sense of fear and job insecurity among employees in order to convince them to take up extra certifications, by making training mandatory, such negative incentivising actually creates stress and dread of training, which inhibits learning and retention. Instead, motivate your employees first by telling them the reasons why additional learning is needed for them as individuals as well as the entire organization. Also, make the training fun and easy to access. You can make the training even more interesting by including gamification elements and even incentives for completing levels or certifications.
Provide Managerial Visibility and Support - Integrating a Learning Management System (LMS) into your corporate training programs gives managers visibility into the team’s ongoing progress. This continuous oversight not only keeps employees motivated, but also allows managers to step in an offer encouragement or help when they see someone falling behind.
Encourage Competition and Social Support - Using a leaderboard or posting employee progress creates a sense of mutual participation as well as competitiveness that can drive many employees to complete training and achieve certifications faster.
The cream always rises to the top, and true to this logic, the top layer of talent in your organization will always find training useful, take courses and pick up new skills. The ones who resist this, however, will need convincing and incentivizing in order to fall into the reskill cycle.
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To prevent a sense of lackadaisical course engagement and a “going through the motions” routine from interfering with actual skill acquisition, here are some methods to improve training effectiveness, even with reluctant or slow learners:
- Adjacent Training - This method insists on teaching new skills that are similar and closely related to the employee's existing domain of expertise, making it a more straightforward process for them to pick up the skill without any stress or unjustified effort. In the long run, this translates to employees gradually consuming the entire array of skills in time with minimal resistance.
- Structured, Chunked Learning - To provide a more engaging experience, the learners must be able to follow a well charted, structured path that they can follow. Divide your courses into smaller, easy-to-digest sections. Include cleverly spaced out checkpoints for self evaluation and analysis. Interactive course features like quizzes etc are an added bonus.
- Feature Expert Trainers - Courses and webinars hosted by industry experts not only lend a sense of credibility to your offering but also have a positive effect on the learner, who is motivated to work harder and validate his learnings from an actual domain authority.
An active emphasis on innovative skill acquisition strategies complemented by talent acquisition when necessary creates the optimal way for an organization to achieve its goals and realize the fine lines between holistic progress and the collapsible tipping point. Such an approach also encourages a mutually beneficial model, boosting the growth of both the organization and the individual.