Modern businesses are operating in an environment of constant and accelerating change. This was the case before COVID-19, but the pandemic certainly played a large part in fuelling the ongoing transformation in how companies function and how people do their jobs. Some have argued that the consequences of COVID-19 will change business and the world of work forever.

To keep up with rapidly evolving challenges and make the most of new opportunities when they arise, your organization and its employees must be comfortable with change and ready to adapt to it.

A key part of this is committing to ongoing skills development. Various studies have suggested this could be a crucial differentiator between the companies that thrive and those that get left behind in the coming years.

HR is committed to upskilling and reskilling

The importance of being open to change and ready to embrace it, rather than resist it, is becoming increasingly difficult for all businesses to deny, regardless of your size, industry, region or any other factor. Our latest research has suggested that most employers are fully aware of the need for adaptability and agility, and ready to invest in developing their workforce so they can be better prepared for what the future holds.

Skilling Today, a Randstad Risesmart global survey of 1,099 human resources professionals and 1,142 employees conducted in Q4 2020, found that almost 70% of HR respondents asked or required their staff to upskill or reskill to meet the changing needs of their organization. Six out of ten (61%) said they took a company-wide approach to development, with training opportunities being made available to the entire workforce.

Of the larger corporations taking part in the study (those with 10,000 employees or more), 80% agreed that being able to adapt and meet new challenges was a 'must-have' in the modern corporate landscape.

stepping up from words to action

Voicing your commitment to investing in the ongoing development of your workforce is a good start, but you have to go much further than this to nurture the abilities and attitudes you'll need to meet your biggest challenges in the years and decades to come. Taking the step from acknowledging the importance of constantly renewing your skills base to actually putting a plan into action is something many employers appear to be struggling with.

In Deloitte's 2020 Global Human Capital Trends Report, 74% of companies said reskilling their workforce would be an important or very important factor in their success in the next 12 to 18 months. However, only 10% said they felt very ready to address this trend.

More than half (53%) of respondents said between half and all of their workforce will need to change their capabilities in the next three years. This is a serious undertaking, particularly for larger corporations, so it's vital to form a clear idea of what you want to achieve in this area and the steps that will help you reach these goals.

from 'nice to have' to 'need to have'

A World Economic Forum (WEF) report published in October 2020 concluded that the impact of automation on the world of work is growing more quickly than expected. It predicted that automated processes will displace 85 million jobs in the next five years.

However, it also projected that the 'robot revolution' will create 97 million new jobs, but businesses will need to invest in reskilling and upskilling their employees to make the most of these opportunities.

WEF managing director Saadia Zahidi said: "Businesses, governments and workers must plan to urgently work together to implement a new vision for the global workforce."

This aligned with separate research by LinkedIn. In its 2021 Workplace Learning Report, the professional networking platform highlighted the views of 1,260 learning and development (L&D) professionals, 64% of whom felt that workplace L&D will shift from a 'nice to have' to a 'need to have' for employers in 2021. Two-thirds (66%) agreed that the focus of L&D this year will be on rebuilding and reshaping organizations.

taking advantage of new technologies

In light of the immeasurable impact technological advancement has already had on life and work in the 21st century, there's little doubt that ongoing tech innovation and evolution will continue to transform businesses and industries throughout the 2020s and beyond.

For your business to succeed, you need to make sure you're reaping the benefits of change and passing these advantages on to your workforce and your customers. However, this will be difficult to achieve if you're facing severe skills shortages and you don't have an effective plan to address them.

More than half (55%) of the business leaders surveyed for the WEF's Future of Jobs Survey 2020 cited skills gaps in the local labor market as their biggest barrier to adopting new technologies. This was followed by the inability to attract specialized talent (47%) and skills gaps at leadership level (41%).

Prioritizing skilling, reskilling and upskilling your workforce will help you stay on the right side of change in key areas like cloud computing, big data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence.

how companies are approaching reskilling

Skills shortages are a significant issue for organizations all over the world, and there are various approaches you can take to address this problem. The most common tactic is hiring, which is used by more than two-thirds of businesses in North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and India to plug skills gaps.

This is according to research by McKinsey, which also showed that 67% of Indian employers and 61% of those in Europe focus on building skills within their workforce. Nearly six out of ten organizations in North America (57%) and Asia-Pacific markets (56%) commonly rely on freelancers or contract workers to supply hard-to-find capabilities, while 53% of respondents in India said they focus on redeployment.

Looking to the future, McKinsey noted it will become increasingly important for employers to support skills development as more tasks are automated and roles are redesigned to encompass different responsibilities and activities.

soft skills a priority

Rapidly evolving technologies, and the technical capabilities required to use and derive value from them, will undoubtedly prove crucial in the coming years. However, employers shouldn't overlook soft skills, which help to ensure organizations run smoothly and maintain positive relationships with their customers and partners.

According to the 2019 US L&D Report from Find Courses, companies with highly engaged employees are 1.5 times more likely to prioritize soft skills development. While less than one in ten organizations (9%) said their L&D program was set up to prioritize hard skills, 45% were focused on soft skills.

The Skilling Today report from Randstad Risesmart also underlined this point, with 67% of HR respondents saying their employees had taken courses in soft skills and personal development.

Supporting people's growth in areas like communication, collaboration and leadership will be just as important for your long-term success as acquiring and nurturing hard skills.

employee benefits

One of the most compelling reasons to invest in skilling, reskilling and upskilling is that it can prove just as beneficial for your employees as for your business. Individuals who are given the time and opportunity to develop their skill sets and learn new things will get a greater sense of fulfillment from their jobs. They will also increase their value to the company, putting them in a stronger position to receive higher pay, and boost their future employability.

Our Skilling Today survey findings showed that 44% of organizations provide skills programs in response to employee demand. More than half (55%) of workers said they upskilled or reskilled to learn new things or refresh existing capabilities, while 75% said the courses they had taken had been very useful.

It's clear there are universal advantages to be gained from investing in skilling, reskilling and upskilling. The sooner you act, the more you can expect to benefit.

ready to learn the critical impacts upskilling and reskilling can have on your business? check out our guide today.

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