Most major organizations recognized the need to reskill employees long before the pandemic. In 2019, the International Labor Organization(ILO) stated,
“Today’s skills will not match the jobs of tomorrow, and newly acquired skills may quickly become obsolete.” The ILO strongly recommended that governments, employers, and workers invest in education and training. They have since adopted the Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work, calling upon its member states to establish lifelong learning systems as a joint responsibility of governments, and employers’ and workers’ organizations.
Today, this need is no longer just a recommendation, but a necessary step to economic recovery. The good news is that investments in reskilling are already clearly in the works. In the past year, many of the world’s largest employers have made pledges to help their workforces build new skills. Amazon announced a $700 million fund to reskill workers. Orange, the French telecom giant, announced a similar initiative. And PwC, the global professional services firm, tops those with an investment pledge of $3B.
Mercer’s 2020 Global Talent Trends Study reveals that current realities and unresolved debates are weighing us down, even as we clearly see a future full of opportunities emerging later in this new decade. The changes we are witnessing, brought about by uncertain times, are not only disrupting our present but will set the “new normal” for how we live, work, operate, and do business.
The report highlights that skill enhancement has been high on the business agenda since technology’s impact on jobs became apparent. This year, executives state an urgent and clear mandate for reskilling to drive transformation. Globally, reskilling is seen as the top talent activity most capable of delivering a return on investment (ROI) in the eyes of executives. This ROI assumption makes good sense, given that 99% of all companies are both embarking on a transformation this year, and at the same time reporting significant skill gaps. Combined with executives’ increasing apprehension around migration this year (up from 4% in 2017 to 38% in 2020), skill supply concerns are rapidly climbing the priority list.
As agility has become the mantra of transformation, reskilling is the practical lens through which to measure progress. When asked what is most important to “being more agile”, only 5% of companies said agile work practices (such as iterative product build and prototype testing) and just 15% said agile organization design. Instead, it was agile teaming—fluid teams that join and disband as needed—and agile workers (30%) that companies said would make them more agile. Concerning, though, is that executives believe only 45% of their current workforce is adaptable to the new world of work. This under-represents the fact that 78% of employees say they are ready to reskill. The question is not who can adapt, but how best to develop and skill an adaptable workforce. After reviewing this article it is clear that human resources leaders, governments, and educators must do a better job of working together to design a shared toolkit with clear definitions for the pressing parameters of reskilling.