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Navigating the shift: From the Great Resignation to the Great Reskilling

Ashley Kontos, EPAM
Ashley Kontos
Ashley Kontos is Talent Enablement & Transformation Principal Consultant and Instructional Design Discipline Head at EPAM Systems, Inc. She leads award-winning, innovative executive education and integrated talent ecosystem offerings. As an expert in leadership, learning and change management, she consults with executives and senior leaders of top global organizations to align capabilities, processes, and tools to achieve business objectives. Before joining EPAM, Ashley was a learning and change leader in the healthcare and life sciences space and a university lecturer on education and change topics. She is passionate about diversity and inclusion and participates in several initiatives that empower the next generation of women leaders.

As the Great Resignation winds down, the traditional workplace is at a crossroads, faced with the challenge of adapting to a new era of employee expectations. In its 2024 Trends Report, the American Psychological Association found that workers want meaning on the job, and employers must “design roles” and “cultivate work environments” that will successfully retain employees.

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Beyond the paycheck, workers today crave roles that promise purpose and pathways for growth. This pivot to what’s become known as the Great Reskilling is not just a trend but a momentous transformation, calling for a redefined talent strategy and an ecosystem that prioritizes continuous learning and personal development.

What the Great Resignation left behind

Even though the Great Resignation is fading from headlines, the monthly numbers of workers quitting are still high relative to the past two decades. Resignations at the end of 2023 were similar to levels just before the pandemic—around 3.5 million—but that is still elevated compared to the period going back to December 2000, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics started tracking “quits.”

The pandemic reshaped what employees expect from their workplaces, propelling demand for jobs that deliver satisfaction on multiple levels. The Great Resignation also offered a chance to redesign the workforce, with employees more encouraged to acquire skills needed to climb the corporate ladder. On the other hand, organizations eager to fill the recently vacated jobs were offered the chance to train existing employees.

This new dynamic has clarified that companies must balance personal employee fulfillment with professional productivity. As a result, innovative talent-nurturing strategies are imperative to reduce turnover costs and foster a culture of growth and innovation.

Forging ahead with a strategic blueprint

This shift from the Great Resignation to the Great Reskilling demands a strategic blueprint that fosters a culture where personal and organizational growth are deeply interconnected. As such, it should transcend the current landscape of workforce turnover to anticipate and shape the future of work, advocating for a robust, skills-based talent ecosystem primed for the challenges and opportunities ahead.

Organizations can begin integrating a phased continuous learning plan that is harmonious with strategic business objectives by redefining job roles to bridge the gap between individual aspirations and organizational needs. A person’s job role or title should not pigeonhole them into certain organizational tasks. Instead, jobs should be unbundled into a set of skills where employees are matched to an available opportunity based on their abilities or as a starting point for reskilling. Technologies like artificial intelligence can be deployed to synchronize workforce skills with emerging and future opportunities. Organizations can also emphasize the need for targeted development and recognition programs aligned with individual skills and contributions for positive results on employee productivity, loyalty and motivation.

Creating a resilient talent ecosystem

In today’s complex business landscape, any talent strategy blueprint must encapsulate strategic critical approaches for reducing turnover, fostering innovation and maintaining a competitive edge. These include:

Strategic continuous learning: Advocating for the deliberate implementation of continuous learning that encompasses a structured rollout of training programs, mentorship and skill assessments, thus ensuring an agile and competent workforce.

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Dynamic job role evolution: Endorsing a strategy that transitions from static job titles to dynamic skill sets, fostering resilience and syncing with evolving business objectives through a strategic framework for performance management and workload balancing.

Skill-opportunity alignment: Leveraging AI-driven insights and tooling to ensure the workforce can respond to changing project demands and a proactive defense against market unpredictability that promotes internal mobility and growth. Matching individuals to projects based on skills—or using this same data to indicate skill gaps in the workforce, triggering hiring or learning opportunities.

Development and recognition focus: Strategic investment in development programs based on a clear understanding of workforce competencies is crucial. Recognition is employed to bolster employees’ sense of value, while productivity metrics are used to guide digital transformation efforts.

A global program to reskill and evolve tech talent

An American company specializing in software engineering services deployed this blueprint to create a talent ecosystem with a Fortune 100 food services company that would allow them to support their technology-first strategy by attracting, retaining and nurturing technical talent. This partnership led to the development of skill matrices, growth pathways and talent resources for critical roles in software engineering, technology leadership and project management.

After implementation, 1,000 practitioners became actively engaged in taking control of their careers. The talent transformation process took participants from a rigid yet vague career growth structure to an active process that created transparency and control over workforce upskilling. Today’s workforce develops and recognizes a new set of critical competencies to take the company to new heights in its digital transformation initiatives.

The sustainability of the new talent ecosystem included forming a governance body, launching knowledge management tools, creating career development tracks and enabling social networking structures. Such initiatives were pivotal in establishing the organization’s first competency center, which now continues to champion the cultivation of new skills and strategies for hiring, developing and retaining top software engineering talent.

Actionable takeaways

The Great Reskilling is a call to action for HR and technology leaders to advance with strategies that ensure their workforce is equipped, engaged and empowered to navigate future uncertainties. Failing to invest in the reskilling revolution could harm businesses by increasing employee disengagement and turnover, with the best talent leaving. While a portion of this task will ultimately fall on the employee, varying based on skillset and drive to seek improvement on their capabilities, adopting a blueprint to construct a resilient talent strategy will safeguard an organization’s responsiveness to today’s workforce dynamics and prepare the company to tackle tomorrow’s uncertainties.