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Friday, September 14, 2018

A slight majority of organizations have at least one skilling initiative in place, but effectiveness is lacking.

According to the Association for Talent Development's recent research report, Upskilling and Reskilling: Turning Disruption and Change Into New Capabilities, only 56 percent of organizations provide upskilling, reskilling, or both. Specifically, just over one—third of organizations provide both upskilling and reskilling, while 16 percent provide just upskilling—defined as training designed to augment existing skills with new or significantly enhanced knowledge or skills to enable individuals to continue and succeed in the same profession or field of work. Moreover, just 4 percent provide only reskilling, which is defined as training designed to help individuals gain new knowledge or skills to enable them to perform new jobs or enter new professions.


Underscoring the importance of upskilling and reskilling in today's workplace, Rob Lauber, senior vice president and chief learning officer at McDonald's, explains, "Change happens so quickly now that organizations consistently have to reinvent themselves, their offerings, and their products to remain relevant in the marketplace. That means employees have to reinvent, too, by upgrading their skills and learning new ones. Rapid change causes those new skills to become obsolete quickly, so upskilling and reskilling will continue to be critical strategies—for learning and development and for business survival."

There are many reasons an organization may choose to implement a skilling program. Indeed, participants identified several of the top drivers for their company to adopt skilling initiatives, including talent risk, technology—related change that required employees to learn to use new technology, a shift in customer demands, and a change in organizational focus or mission. Surprisingly, fears of job automation are relatively low. In fact, only one—quarter of participants cited this as a driver for adoption. Though surprising, it may be cost—driven.

"In healthcare, systems using artificial intelligence can automate some tasks, such as reading scans, as well as or better than humans can," says Rebecca Schmale, vice president of learning and organizational development at Atrium Health. "But it's a costly technology, and that expense keeps many healthcare organizations from implementing it. For any company lacking the funds to invest in automation technology, concerns about automating jobs would certainly be less relevant."


Once an organization makes the commitment to implement these skilling initiatives, it will likely see a host of benefits such as improved ability to retain talent, improved overall organizational performance, improved employee engagement, and improved ability to meet changing business needs or objectives. Although there is a plethora of benefits associated with upskilling and reskilling, effectiveness of skilling initiatives is lacking. For example, 25 percent of participants said their company's upskilling efforts are highly effective, while 17 percent said the same of their company's reskilling efforts.

Because there is clearly room for improvement in skilling programs, the report offers several suggestions. For example, talent development professionals should consider using internal mobility programs to help structure upskilling initiatives and their content, leveraging rewards and recognition programs to reinforce reskilling efforts, implementing rotational programs or assignments to upskill employees and leaders, and offering tuition assistance programs to help employees with their own reskilling efforts.

Read more from CTDO magazine: Essential talent development content for C-suite leaders.

About the Author

Megan Cole is a former ATD research analyst. Her primary responsibilities included creating and programming surveys, cleaning and analyzing data, and writing research reports for publication.

She received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Central Florida and earned a doctorate in communication from Arizona State University. 

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