Employees Eager to Learn New Workplace Technologies

As more job tasks become automated, HR professionals are faced with the critical task of retraining employees to use artificial intelligence, robotics and other advanced tech tools when performing their jobs.

But are workers motivated to upskill? Are they eager to tackle 21st century jobs and responsibilities?

Many companies are betting on it and offering retraining opportunities. A new report by Clutch, a B2B ratings and reviews firm in Washington, D.C., supports that thinking. The firm surveyed 510 full-time U.S. employees this year about their experiences with and attitudes about job development and retraining.

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Seventy percent of respondents say they are likely to participate in an employer-provided job retraining program. Nearly all — 93% — believe it’s important for their employer to help them build skills needed for their job while 73% think it’s very or somewhat important for employers to help them either transition to a new role or find another job. Another 19% wish their company offered tuition assistance for classes or workshops outside their company.

“Employees are open to the idea of retraining,” says Marinus van Driel, associate partner in Aon’s Human Capital Solutions practice in Indialantic, Fla. “A lot are looking at their longevity with their employer and saying they do need to reskill and retool themselves as their organization or industry changes.”

Consider IBM’s New Collar Certificate Program that offers tuition assistance to U.S. workers eager to learn high-tech skills through vocational coding camps, community college courses or the company’s professional certificate program. It has been so successful that it was expanded to France this year.

Last year, AT&T announced it was spending $1 billion to retrain half of its workforce on new technologies. This year, Amazon is promoting its plans to spend $700 million to retrain one-third of its U.S. workforce by 2025 despite worker strikes and protests about inhumane working conditions. Van Driel points to a financial services company that retrained employees last year. He says 52% participated. Of those, 95% either moved into new, agile roles or committed to doing so.

Still, upskilling may not be beneficial for everyone, particularly small or mid-size employers. He says HR must first analyze the business rationale for retraining versus recruiting. Once the “why” is established, identify your starting point retrain individuals, teams or the whole organization. HR must match or personalize training to individual employee needs and help workers understand the payoff or what career paths and jobs will become available to them.

“The role of technology cannot be underestimated,” says van Driel, adding that many companies are also tapping premium courseware providers like Udemy and Coursera for training content. “This type of thinking is bound to explode.”


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Carol Patton
Carol Patton is a contributing editor for HRE who also writes HR articles and columns for business and education magazines. She can be reached at [email protected]