Upskilling is do-or-die, but employees also need a career path

Because we live in an age of “hyper-disruption,” EY consultant Mike Bertolino believes that employers today must offer a career path for ambitious employees, in addition to upskilling. And if employers don’t have the job openings or a career path for upskilled employees, the workers will find jobs elsewhere.

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“It’s hard to believe that the jobs won’t be there. These roles will be empty if they don’t have employees with the skills to do them,” said the global people advisory services leader at Eightfold Cultivate ’22, the company’s annual talent summit, which took place this week in Napa, California.

If, on the rare chance, these job openings do not exist or the compensation is lackluster, Bertolino said, other companies will have job postings that require a skilled workforce and will attract your employees away.

Related: The workforce of the future, according to Top 100 HR Tech Influencers

“It’s the individuals who innovate and activate every piece of technology [inside an organization]. Until computers become synthesized and work on their own, they will always need humans to use them,” Bertolino said in his keynote address “Upskilling the Adaptive Workforce.”

Employers finally are adapting to the new drive for upskilling and learning and development programs after years of not taking it seriously. EY itself had a moment of realization, according to Bertolino. “We were in the learning business but we were doing it all wrong,” he added.

That’s why the firm built its own upskilling program, using Eightfold technology, named EY Skills Foundry. According to a report by Technology Business Research, the foundry “includes three components: a live heat map of skills across an organization, showing both supply and demand and allowing for more rapid decision-making around reskilling investments; a content aggregator EY described as ‘learning intelligence’ designed to add speed and scale to training; and ‘a validated, secure digital record of employees’ skills and experiences,’ which can help clients more rapidly deploy the right person to the right opportunity.”

Shining a light on ambitious employees

Deploying an upskilling program can help the talent recruitment and retention crunch that today’s employers are facing, especially in the healthcare, manufacturing and service industries. However, ignoring employees’ desire for opportunity and career growth is dangerous in the current job market climate, Bertolino said.

Mike Bertolino of EY
Mike Bertolino is EY Global People Advisory Services Leader.

“We live in an age of hyper-disruption and every company must transform or they will die on the vine,” he said. He added that while the interest in upskilling employees isn’t new, “it’s happening at a faster clip today.”

Related: How an HR transformation is molding the new U.S. Steel

Today’s tight job—or rather, “skills”—market is hot and shows no signs of cooling down. “Fewer employees are being hired and a lot more contractors are being hired for [what EY calls] the 5th industrial revolution,” he said.

But new skills do not necessarily stand the test of time, according to Bertolino. “As the speed of disruption gets faster, the half-life of skills is getting shorter,” he warned. 

Bertolino offered a series of stark figures demonstrating why upskilling isn’t going away anytime soon:

  • 375 million people need to be upskilled by 2025.
  • 2030 is the year when in-demand skills will not be widely available. 
  • $8.5 trillion in unrealized revenue due to the skills shortage by 2025.

EY also predicts that by 2025, $500 billion will have been spent on upskilling, or what EY calls “fragmented employee training.”

“Instead of asking, ‘How do I train my people?’ we [need to] ask instead, ‘How can I create an adaptive workforce?’ ” said Bertolino.

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To do that, he recommends that employers promote a less hierarchical culture and shift away from distinct job grading to create more opportunities for L&D.

“Learning is for everybody,” he said. “The talent marketplace is one of the hottest things on the street because it is the door that opens and openness helps move the right people to the right job.” 

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Phil Albinus
Phil Albinus is HR Tech Editor for HRE. He has been covering personal and business technology for 25 years and has served as editor and executive editor for a number of financial services, trading technology and employee benefits titles. He is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz and lives in the Hudson Valley with his audiologist wife and three adult children. He can be reached at palbinus@lrp.com and followed on Twitter @philalbinus.

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