Here’s what employers, employees think about upskilling

There is little doubt that, as today’s work is becoming increasingly digital and automated, this new environment requires updated skills. Yet, employers and employees alike detect a sizable skills deficit to meeting that trend, according to a recent report.

Bottom line, when it comes to addressing future talent and skills needs, America is running at a an ongoing deficit, a view that this latest bit of research confirms.

In the survey, “The Upskilling Crisis: Effectively Enabling and Retraining Employees for the Future” from West Monroe Partners, a business and technology consultancy, more than half (56%) of organizations believe they have a moderate to severe skills gap today, and 60% of employees believe that, to some extent, their current skill set will become outdated in the next three to five years.

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“The urgency for upskilling comes at a time when emerging  skill sets are scarce, and the talent market is tight–making it prudent to keep people even if they don’t have the right skills right now,” says Michael Hughes, managing director and leader of West Monroe’s Operations Excellence practice. “It’s often cheaper to retrain current employees than find and hire new ones, as the consequences of turnover can be felt at the bottom line.”

According to Hughes, in the past year, 70% of employers have introduced at least one new technology designed to increase employee productivity. Employers and employees agree these employee-enablement tools create value. Among employers, for instance, 78% say that type of technology makes the organization more efficient, and 71% say it increases productivity. Conversely, 61% of employees believe technology helps them deliver a higher quality of work output, while 56% agree that it allows them to work more efficiently and frees time for additional tasks.

Of those who will need reskilling by 2022, 35% will need training that could take up to six months, while 10% will require training that could take more than a year. Yet, 33% of employees say they were never trained on new tech they were tasked with using.

West Monroe surveyed more than 430 people at the manager level and above across various industries, while 1,000 people participated in the employee survey, representing a wide range of industries and job levels nationwide.

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Another finding was that enabling managers may well be critical to addressing technology adoption, disruption and upskilling challenges. Unfortunately, many organizations are not on that track, with 63% reporting they have not yet equipped managers with upskilling resources. Also, 65% of participants feel the people responsible for leading the way during change–managers and senior leaders–need upskilling and reskilling themselves. Finally, 43% believe managers don’t know how to upskill and/or reskill employees, and another 39% feel they don’t have the time to do so.

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“The survey results strongly support the need for significant investment in manager development and enablement if organizations are to realize the impact of digital transformation on the bottom line,” Hughes says, adding that the results also point to the importance of human-centered design in their approach to upskilling.

“Before implementing any sort of enablement technology, employers need to consider the employee journey and how the selected tool[s] will add value–but only 16% of those surveyed do so consistently,” he says.


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Tom Starner
Tom Starner is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia who has been covering the human resource space and all of its component processes for over two decades. He can be reached at [email protected].