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ATD Blog

Stepping Into the Future of Work

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

In their blog post, “3 Reasons to Rethink Our Use of the Terms Reskilling and Upskilling,” the talent development executives who make up CTDO Next—brought together in their common goal of wanting to shape the future of the profession—write that upskilling and reskilling aren’t sufficient to describe the work that talent development professionals need to do in today’s world of work. Instead, the group suggests the term future skilling, a term also used by the nonprofit research group, The Conference Board, which states, “A successful future-skilling program is based on a people ecosystem in which talent systems are holistic and integrated instead of siloed and disjointed.”

Future skilling goes well beyond training and development to help individuals thrive in an uncertain world, one in which they’ll need skills in areas not yet identified. Further, it’s not simply about learning and development. It extends to culture and overall employee well-being. Where do we begin?

Business Environment

In my TD at Work guide Future Skill the Workforce, I explain that it’s critical to revisit necessary skills as organizations—their outputs, products and services, technology, and the way they do business—have changed drastically in the past two years.

As a talent development professional, how knowledgeable are you about what makes your company a success? Or what makes it a struggle? Learn more about the business side so that you know where to focus your development efforts. For example:

  • Do you know what business units are most profitable? Do you expect that to continue in the coming year or 18 months? Do those business units have the talent they need to compete with their products and services?
  • Do employees embrace experimentation that allows for innovation? Do employees have a mindset of curiosity? Are colleagues supportive of each other?
  • Are there best practices that the top performers in your industry are adhering to that you can learn from?

It is critical to have the support of senior leadership as you move forward to future skill your workforce. You won’t be able to do it alone, nor will you be able to do it overnight.



As previously mentioned, an organization doesn’t just need talented employees, it needs a culture that supports those employees. Adults seek autonomy and, as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs lays out, we also need to be respected and recognized. Further, we have a desire to become our best selves. Consider:

  • Do managers share with their direct reports what must be done, and by when, but leave the how to their team members?
  • Are leaders transparent about the current state and what organizational changes they plan or expect to come in the months ahead?
  • Do team members understand the contribution that their colleagues make, and do they recognize and celebrate that contribution? Further, do peers support their colleagues’ development, helping with questions and any stumbling that occurs with growth?

Talent development professionals can work with leaders and managers, and set an example themselves, to create a positive and psychologically safe culture. TD teams also can provide development opportunities for leaders at all levels to become more empathic, better listeners, and greater communicators. Provide templates to managers so they have starting points to have development conversations with their teams; as hybrid work continues, suggest managers and their teams have conversations about how they’ll communicate and keep others in the know about their work projects.

Learn From Others

Many organizations are implementing new ways to secure and retain talent. Among these are white-collar apprenticeships; returnships, which bring talent back to the workforce that has stepped away for a while—such as parents tending to their children; and programs taking advantage of clean slate laws, which provide more opportunities for individuals who have paid their debt by serving their time yet often continue to be burdened with stigma.


Coaching, offering development opportunities such as shadowing programs or project-based work with colleagues in other departments, and providing time where employees can choose their own experience through volunteering or learning a new skill are all ways to help employees stay engaged with their role and the organization.

Can’t Turn Back the Clock

The pandemic fast-forwarded many changes that were already occurring in the work world, including those relating to technology, gig work, and remote work. It also brought a heightened need for us to bring our whole selves to what we do.

The way we work will continue to evolve. Are you ready?

About the Author

Patty Gaul is a senior writer/editor for the Association for Talent Development (ATD).

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Great article. Thanks for the insight into future skilling
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Well done, Patty. I especially appreciate the insight into autonomy in the Culture section.
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Thanks for this awesome post! I am in the sponge phase, and soaking in as much as I can!
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