The five workplace disruptors: Reskilling your workforce to stay relevant

By Lars Hyland
Illustration showing a woman and a robot talking at the water cooler

Many roles are being phased out as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which harnesses digitalization and increasingly complex, sophisticated technology, takes hold. Coupled with this, industries such as healthcare, technology and manufacturing are experiencing rapidly expanding skills gaps, leaving them without the skilled employees they need to grow. Whether it’s cashiers being replaced by computerized self-checkouts, factory workers being replaced by advanced machinery or travel agents being replaced by the rise of online bookings, it’s clear that technology is, and continues to be, hugely disruptive in many industries.

While these challenges existed long before 2020, the year’s events have certainly accelerated these issues. In the UK alone, almost 25,000 jobs were lost in a single month in mid-2020. For instance, the live entertainment industry and the hospitality and travel industry have particularly felt the impact of a changing world, which has raised two major issues: that workers are now left out of work with skills that are no longer valued, while the very same sectors are now experiencing a massive shortage of workers with the new skills they now need.

This skills gap is rapidly becoming more of a skills chasm, and the consequences of failing to adapt could be catastrophic for certain industries. What will happen to all those cashiers, factory workers and travel agents, and everyone else in a role at risk of automation in the years to come?

The reskilling disruptor

In 2020, the travel industry was hit particularly hard when the tourism industry effectively ceased for months on end. Unfortunately, many jobs were lost, not just in travel, but also hospitality, retail and academia. In stark contrast, the healthcare sector and delivery and logistics firms created thousands of new roles, many of which they struggled to fill quickly.

The result is that millions of workers worldwide are left without jobs. What this requires is mass reskilling - and fast. As much as this is a concern for governments globally, this also presents a major opportunity for organizations looking for specialist skills. Savvy employers will use this as a way to attract talent through comprehensive reskilling programs, ensuring that the people who are keen to get back to work are trained in the most needed skills. 

The healthcare and technology industries are particularly struggling as a result of skills gaps, so now could be the prime time to develop training programs for your future workforce - both in and outside your organization.

Whereas previously, experience was king in the workplace, today’s organizations must prioritize adaptability. This spans all ages, skill sets and tenures, and it reflects an ability to move with the organization’s needs, rather than being resolutely stuck in your ways and unable - or unwilling - to reskill.

How can you ensure your workforce stays relevant?

Join Chief Learning Officer Lars Hyland's webinar on December 3rd to learn more about reskilling your people, along with the rest of our five workplace disruptors.

Solution #1: Implement continuous performance management

As HR professionals, it’s our job to identify skills gaps before they affect performance and put jobs at risk. And then, put measures in place to guide employees towards the right learning content to gain the skills they need. 

HR must work with managers to discover any mismatch between the skills possessed and the skills needed within their teams. This information is then mapped out with a competency framework, which you’ll find in a performance management system such as Totara Perform

This will help you join the dots between what you have right now and the skills you will need in the future, and enable you to help people reskill into new, more needed roles.

Continuous performance management, comprising regular performance check-ins, means you can keep a close eye on progress, and act as quickly as possible when you spot a skills gap emerging. 

You can use this as an opportunity to forewarn workers, direct them towards learning and resources to help them pivot to new skills development and monitor their progress. You can also discuss how this will impact their job role and performance long term - for instance, if a certain process or technology is being phased out, they keep themselves relevant and valuable to your organization by working on the skills you’ll need instead.

Future-proofing your talent will benefit both your organization and your people. Your organization will stay one step ahead of the game, and your people will stay productive with relevant skills. 

Waiting until skills become obsolete before you start the reskilling process means you will always be lagging behind, so help your people help you by helping them develop expertise in multiple areas. 

Solution #2: Create an intentional learning culture

The World Economic Forum recently declared a “reskilling emergency” in light of the fact that over a billion people will need to reskill by 2030. That’s why you should create an “intentional learning culture,” where every moment is intentionally treated as a learning opportunity. 

This means adopting both a growth mindset, with its openness to change and self-improvement, and cultivating curiosity, which sparks inspiration and drives self-directed learning throughout your entire career.

McKinsey highlights five core skills of intentional learners, which will ensure your people develop an optimal mindset for skills enrichment and improvement:

  1. Set small, clear goals
    Tangible goals ensure that curiosity is used as an effective tool rather than a distraction. In particular, adopting a “once-in-a-career” mindset will help you enjoy and learn from every opportunity, as it might be the only time you encounter it in your career.
  2. Remove distractions
    Intentional learners protect time for learning. This often means deliberately building time into their schedules, minimizing distractions in the moment and being flexible.
  3. Actively seek feedback
    Ask, ask, ask for feedback! Prime others to tune into the behaviors and skills you’re working on so they can provide more meaningful feedback, and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or press further. You should also ensure that you accept feedback openly and gracefully to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with you.
  4. Deliberately practice skills
    Very often, practice means learning through failure. Trying over and over again means you can constantly refine your approach. Just make sure that your practice still challenges you, rather than being too simplistic or so difficult that it becomes demotivating.
  5. Reflect regularly
    Reflection is a vital skill in intentional learning. This should take place before, during and after a task. Beforehand, think about what you want to achieve and why. During the task, you can correct any mistakes and make adjustments. Afterwards, think about what went well and what you can improve next time, and what the next challenge might look like.

With intentional learning mindsets, your workforce will find themselves better equipped to learn new skills effectively, as more of a development tool than a box-ticking exercise.

Solution #3: Let “good enough” be good enough

Relying purely on formal learning will slow down the reskilling process. Move faster by empowering your subject matter experts and “super users” to create their own content. 

This could be as quick and simple as checklists, videos of themselves talking to camera or a screen capture showing them carrying out a complex process. When you’re used to slick learning programs comprising professionally built e-learning content, this can feel “scrappy” at first - but in reality, most people care more about what they learn than how they learn it.

Don’t wait to create the “perfect” resource - it doesn’t exist. If you send a subject matter expert to a training course to learn a new skill, it is better for them to share their rough notes the day after than waiting for two months for them to build a beautifully branded e-learning module. 

Facilitating rapid knowledge transfer is crucial when it comes to reskilling your people, and once again, your learning experience platform (LXP) should play a key role in this process. In the right culture, it will quickly become a knowledge bank of “good enough” resources, and other people can always jump in to have their say, clarify points or ask further questions.

Infographic showing the challenges facing organizations dealing with reskilling






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