Ok, we’ve spent the previous edition in this series getting super nerdy about skills.
Find those here:
- The 5 Skills That Matter For The Future of Work And How To Build Them
- The Skills To Thrive For The Next 5 Years
Now it’s time to get really tactical.
That means taking action people. We’re going to shift gears to unpack how you can close the skills gap not only in your company but in your skillset too. What a fabulous 2-for-1 offer!
We know from our exploration so far that skills are the biggest barrier to business transformation for many companies. The same goes for each of us with our career opportunities.
If we don’t have the right skills, we don’t have access to the best opportunities.
Data from the World Economic Forum, Future of Jobs report in 2023 tells us that companies are focusing on the below practices to bridge skills gaps.
Let’s unpack the top 3:
→ Improve progression and promotion processes
→ Offer more money
→ Provide effective reskilling and upskilling
Only one of these is an L&D thing. I’ll let you guess which one.
Progression and promotion processes
This can be a very fickle conversation.
If you want a quick way to scare any line manager and HR partner at one time, ask about progression and promotion processes.
They’re almost like a secret central intelligence file that no one can view.
They exist, but how one navigates these is a mystery in most businesses. However, the pressure these days to be more transparent on just how the hell does one move from here to here has never been bigger.
In reality, we have a really easy fix here.
Just make it very clear and transparent on how all this works. As much as you can of course (calm down HR managers, I’m still looking out for you).
You’ll most likely solve 70% of issues here.
It’s never going to be straightforward but a bit of clear structure will go far.
Money, money, money
Let me be straight with you – I don’t have the answer to this.
I’ve been in the HR and L&D space for over 16 years. There’s never an easy answer to this.
It’s contextual to each person, company and moment.
I’ll leave it at that because this isn’t my zone of expertise.
Effective upskilling and reskilling
Finally, something we can get our teeth into.
We know how important this is for every human on this spinning blue rock to survive. So, forgive me for not covering this like many of the fluff pieces do.
Instead, we’re getting right into the components of a killer upskilling or reskilling programme.
How to build high-quality and effective skilling programmes
I see too much junk on this topic online.
Too much focus on the how, aka the delivery of using ‘x’ tool to do this, and not enough on the what and why behind this.
You can’t have the former without the latter.
Here’s the basic principles to consider:
1/ Identify real business performance enhancers
Get clear on specific skills gaps within your organisations.
It doesn’t matter how you do it, just do it. This data is the bedrock from which you ensure your efforts are focused on the right things. Ignore the assumptions and biased opinions behind closed doors.
→ Engage with department heads and conduct surveys or focus groups with employees to gain insights.
2/ Understand employee aspirations
You don’t want to build stuff no one wants.
People often don’t know what they should focus on. Yet, you should still have your finger on the pulse of what the voice of the business is saying about the skills they value.
Employee surveys are useful data mines for this.
If you don’t have this, get out into your company to run mini-focus groups and surveys. You’ll be surprised what comes back.
Your goal is to align business and employees as much as possible.
3/ Establish clear objectives and outcomes
This should be obvious.
Yet, it seems to get lost in the excitement of the ‘how’.
Always know your measure of success. Without this, nothing else is worth much. You’re essentially throwing stuff on the wall to see what sticks.
→ Work with key stakeholders to define and review these. It’s a team effort after all.
4/ Practical application
Every learning experience should have this.
It’s the measure of value with any experience. We all need a safe environment and an opportunity to put what we’ve absorbed into practice.
This could take many forms including:
- Stretch projects
- Digital and real-life simulations
- One-time scenarios and events
Whatever it is, you want to work with teams across your organisation to create something that best fits the culture and context of the work people need to do.
5/ Create a supportive environment
This is where leveraging line managers works well.
Often, I find, managers don’t take enough accountability for the development of their team. Too many are confused about their job. It’s not about the doing, it’s all focused on the people.
We can only be successful based on the environment we create and that others do too.
It doesn’t matter how much ‘learning’ or training’ a company provides. Without this practical application, it’s money down the drain.
Ideas for this include:
- Line manager coaching and mentoring
- External mentoring
- Group Slack and/or Teams communities, or go rogue and do a real-life group session
6/ Evaluate and improve
Setting goals that you don’t track is dumb.
Sorry. It’s true.
I see this all the time. The common situation is to track none of the agreed metrics through an experience, only to wait until it’s complete and realise none of them was achieved 🤦.
Feedback and/or retro loops in every meeting are useful to combat this.
This doesn’t need to be heavy.
Spare 5 minutes at the end of every update meeting to evaluate where you are today, and how everything is performing and review if anything needs to be adapted.
Those 5 minutes could save you months of work and lots of money!
7/ Building Partnerships to cement success
This is all about social proof.
Nothing sells and cements the reputation of an experience more than endorsements.
Here, I suggest leveraging your senior leaders and well-respected team members to become part of your endorsement campaign. Imagine it like a political race without all the crazy backstabbing.
Case studies and personal stories work well here.
Speaking of case studies. Keep scrolling for inspiration from some of the world’s largest retailers.
Two case studies to inspire you
🛒 IKEA: Upskilling 8,500 employees to boost sales by $1.4 billion
This is the most popular case study on the blog.
You can read the full piece here. Get the TL;DR below:
→ 8,500 call centre workers were transformed into interior design advisors.
→ Billie, the AI bot, effectively managed 47% of customer inquiries.
→ Sales through remote interior design consultations amounted to 1.3 billion euros(~$1.4 billion).
🥐 Carrefour: Upskilling 320,00 employees for the Digital World
This French Grocery retailer is on a mission to future-proof its employees for the evolving digital world.
Get the full case study here. TL;DR below:
→ Carrefour aims for a digital-first retail model by 2026.
→ The ‘Tous digital!’ initiative equips all employees, notably frontline staff, with essential digital skills.
→ In 3 weeks they upskilled 60,000 employees, aligning with EU’s 2023 Year of Skills.
→ Future plans include an exploration of emerging tech like Generative AI.
Steal this framework for easy skill-building conversations
I’ve shared this before and I’m doing it again because the drum beat needs to keep going.
I find we never do enough skill health checks.
They’re the objects that grant us the power to improve our earnings and freedom, yet we don’t tend to them like you would a garden. Your skills need constant attention in the form of watering and pruning ya know.
Every quarter I recommend you do this:
- Open a doc or grab a notebook
- Create a 3-column table
- Place these 3 headers – ‘expiring’, ‘evolving’ and ‘emerging’ in one of the column headers
- Now, the good stuff. Reflect on your current skills and place each of them in the best column.
The power of this exercise enables you to:
- Chuck out the skills which no longer serve you and the world
- Double down on the skills that can give you a performance advantage
- Identify advantageous skills to add to separate you from the crowd
Be human skills-focused
As I say nearly every week, I’m all in for a human-powered future. Digital technology is a beautiful enabler, but it is nothing without humanness.
Your biggest advantage in this world is your human skills.
Technical skills are incredibly important, but your human capabilities are what makes the difference. I’m hoping this has come through in all the data and insights we’ve explored across November.
→ Unlock human capabilities at the heart of everything you build.
The Skills Trilogy: Today, Tomorrow and Always
Ok, we’ve reached the end of the first trilogy in the series.
Fret not, we have much more to come on the future of skills for 2024 before the year is out.
For now, feed your brain with the previous instalments.
- Today’s Skills: The 5 skills that matter most
- Tomorrow’s Skills: The skills we need to build to succeed for the next 5 years
- Always: How to build effective skill strategies (you’re reading it)
- The art of AI delegation: Stop ignoring this essential future skill
- The human advantage in the game of skills
Before you go… 👋
If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.
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