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The past two years have disrupted workplaces around the world, and employees continue to reel as they find their footing in the new normal. Consequently, data from Boston Consulting Group’s 2021 Decoding Global Reskilling and Career Paths report shows that 68% of workers surveyed are willing to train for totally new positions. A vast majority of them were most interested in transitioning to positions in technology, IT, digitization and automation.
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This presents an exciting possibility for businesses, especially those that have long struggled to bring in new tech talent. Organizations can customize training to fit the exact skill sets they need to fit present and future talent needs. Reskilling current employees can also be more cost-efficient, as it avoids the expenses of recruitment and onboarding. What’s more, if current roles are replaced by automation or become otherwise unnecessary, companies can avoid laying off employees by transitioning them into new roles instead.
But realizing these benefits requires a thorough and thoughtful reskilling strategy. My organization, LaunchCode, partners with other companies to develop and carry out reskilling programs. I’ve seen the best results with initiatives that completely immerse participants in training programs, transitioning them out of former roles to train full-time and compensating them throughout the process.
This kind of program can certainly be challenging for companies, and it’s a significant investment of time and money. But companies who invest fully will see that, in time, the payoffs will far outweigh the challenges.
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Follow these steps for a program that will drive success well into the future:
1. Choose upskilling candidates wisely.
A successful reskilling initiative will begin with finding the right employees to upskill. Applicant drive and passion are foremost. Employees are unlikely to stick with reskilling programs if they aren’t excited for new opportunities in the first place. Work with your company and department leaders to identify candidates who are eager to learn new skills and take on new roles. Any technology role will require an aptitude for problem-solving, as well, so seek out motivated and solutions-focused employees.
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I once found that a member of the LaunchCode team was volunteering as a software development teacher at a middle school in his spare time. He was already serving as part of our education team, but his drive to share knowledge outside of work to benefit his community showed me he was an incredibly motivated learner. We asked whether he’d like to learn additional skills and coding languages, and the reskilling effort that ensued took him from being a member of our education team to leading our development team. He has since moved on to become a software engineer at another company, using his new skills to further his career.
2. Pinpoint which talent gaps to fill with an eye toward the future.
Just as finding the right people to upskill is vital to success, determining the right skills to give them is, too. What talent gaps are most pressing now? Which might arise in the next months or years? Without thoughtful analysis of future needs, you could end up reskilling swaths of employees only to realize you still don’t have the skills you need to lead your company into the future.
Talk with leaders across all company verticals including engineering, business, IT and finance departments. Look especially for needs that overlap between departments, as prioritizing those in reskilling initiatives will deliver the highest value for your company.
Determining the right skills is imperative, but it can be difficult, especially for larger organizations. Fortunately, you can bring in outside experts to help determine your needs. For example, JPMorgan Chase partnered with MIT as part of a $350 million reskilling initiative to predict future talent needs and areas most ripe for development.
3. Determine the best way to build your program.
Company leaders should work together to determine whether to create an internal skilling program or leverage an outside partner. Creating this new infrastructure can be challenging.
For many companies, partnering with a training provider can help. Comcast’s Grows 2 Code program, for example, reskilled 12 frontline employees into software engineers by partnering with LaunchCode to create a full-time, immersive program.
For those who choose to do it internally, you must be able to eliminate or backfill the role of reskilling participants immediately so that they may focus their full attention on training. This also means your company must have adequate trainers who can dedicate significant time and attention to the initiative. Develop a transition plan and be clear about your expectations for program participants, trainers and other team members who might be affected.
The world is on the precipice of a massive movement to create more technically capable employees in every field. Companies that develop thoughtful reskilling programs will take the lead as digital innovators while their competitors remain in place.