Upskilling, Reskilling and Employee Retention

Today’s workforce environment creates unique challenges for businesses. At a time when they are struggling with external, economic factors, they are also dealing with a new remote workforce and a need for new and different skills. One thing is certain: organizations will not be able to hire their way through this challenging time. The expense of replacing an employee often makes the prospect a non-starter. According to Gallup, the cost of replacing an employee can be anywhere from one-half to two times their salary. And according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall turnover rate in the U.S. is a whopping 57%. To meet the demands of the future, companies must be able to quickly upskill and reskill their existing workforce.

This also presents challenges. Many companies don’t know what skills they currently need now — and the skills they will need in the future. Additionally, most learning functions aren’t structured to meet the rapidly changing demands of the business. They are stuck with traditional content and modalities that lack agility. 

Instead of adhering to a skills taxonomy that is carved in stone, companies must build out a strong foundational set of skills to create a learning environment that allows them to adapt as things change. Rather than trying to look into a crystal ball to divine future skills, they should be positioned to build those skills as the need arises.

Another key concern is how we develop skills. According to Brandon Hall Group’s 2021 State of Learning Practices Study, some of the most effective learning tools are coaching and mentoring, on-the-job exercises, peer-to-peer learning and microlearning. This reflects a shift from traditional, formal learning to a more flow-of-work, continuous learning model.

And here’s the connection between this approach to skills and retention: the same study shows that companies with better employee retention are far more likely to use these kinds of tools and technologies than those where retention is weak.

As organizations look to the future and whatever it may bring, they must have the strategy and the technology to shift the DNA of their workforces to meet those challenges.

David Wentworth, Principal Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

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