How to Reskill for the Workplace of the Future

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It’s no secret that today’s jobs are quickly evolving and that in the near future jobs will be created that never existed before. According to research by the World Economic Forum (WEF), the arrival of Globalization 4.0 means that 75 million jobs are expected to be displaced by 2022 in 20 major economies.

In this new reality, people will have to reskill, as not only will it be challenging to hire new talent fast enough to fill the gaps, but HR doesn’t yet know how to recruit for these new roles.

This means that upskilling or reskilling the current workforce is actually a cost-effective way of dealing with these changes, all while ensuring people don’t have to be made redundant.

In this context, what role has HR – and more specifically HR tech – got to play?

The digital transformation of business

While digital transformation has been happening for decades, some companies have not yet fully completed the process, while others are only just getting started. For example, by upgrading websites they created in the 90s into ones that are responsive, not to mention considering including something like e-commerce.

For a lot of companies, digital transformation is scary, and rightly so.

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It involves turning the way we’ve thought about business on its head. It also means introducing technology into business processes where previously technology had never been considered relevant.

At the most basic level, when it comes to marketing, for instance, having an online presence implies that companies are potentially opening themselves up to public criticism and the possibility of being hacked, not to mention the responsibility of sensibly handling the data they will inevitably collect.

But at the same time, digital transformation has brought countless new opportunities and has helped drive innovation; think for example of autonomous cars or 3D printing machines. 

How does this affect the workforce?

As much as digital transformation has affected companies, it has also affected employees. Starting with the obvious: learning how to use email or social media, evolving into the more complicated: learning how to use digital platforms. Not to mention, employees having to learn new skills in order to adapt to new roles that appeared over time.

So then, how does this affect HR?

And while many companies have been dreading the business implications of going digital, the same thing goes for HR digital transformation and its impact on the employee experience.

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Understandably, HR departments have been hesitant to bring tech into the employee journey. Because, in addition to the impact on the employee experience, it requires effort to ensure proper adoption, and thereby deliver results. Besides, how do you justify the purchase of HR tech if you can’t show a return on investment?

This is compounded by the fact that, in the past, HR has sometimes made the mistake of purchasing tech tools to support HR processes for the wrong reasons. Looking at it from an HR perspective, tech has often been used as a “band-aid” or as a way to upgrade manual processes, rather than from a “value-first” thinking for employees.

This has added to quite a negative experience: people were being asked to use tools without understanding why or without understanding how it would help them in their day-to-day. Was it supposed to improve a process? Well, it didn’t really… So you can see where the disconnect is.

Back to the era of globalization 4.0 now.

If done properly, HR and HR tech have a role to play in supporting this digital transformation. For starters, HR tech should be viewed as part of the digital employee experience making it a holistic approach. Next, HR can put technology at the service of the people to help them stay relevant, and become their partner through this transformation.6 stages of digital transformation

‘The Six Stages of Digital Transformation’ by Brian Solis, Altimeter.

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Where HR can help people reskill

First up, there are some important facts and figures to bear in mind. According to research by Accenture, nearly half of business leaders think traditional job descriptions are obsolete. While 54% of employers in the survey acknowledge that getting human-machine collaboration right is critical to achieving their goals, few companies have worked out how to unlock the value that lies at the intersection of humans and machines.

Meanwhile, research by Gartner shows that 70% [of people surveyed] said they haven’t mastered the skills they need for their jobs today. 80% said they lack both the skills they need for their current role as well as those for their future career.

Rather than despairing and considering a career switch, this is a fantastic opportunity for HR to become a strong partner by supporting people’s career development.

Here are a couple of areas HR can leverage:

  • The performance management process. The approach is shifting and today, the goal of performance management is “growth and development” – helping people perform better in their role and grow their career. Rather than being stuck in the traditional annual review process, HR can support employees to become better aligned with company goals, and create more opportunities for recognition.

This can be done, for example, by increasing the frequency of reviews or introducing 360-degree feedback in addition to the manager-employee review. Support the performance management process with a strong culture of feedback, and people will have many more opportunities to know how they’re doing.

  • Professional development opportunities & career growth. As a direct result of changing the performance management process, HR can help employees to better identify their top skills, weaknesses, and what direction they want to go in. An annual process often left employees somewhat in the dark and unsure about their opportunities for professional development.

Increased opportunities for employees to check-in on progress and talk about their professional development, however, will allow HR to identify those who are willing to retrain, learn a new skill, or even who might have a side project or passion in line with the skills the organization needs.

From their perspective, employees have increased opportunities to understand in which direction the company is heading and what will be required of them in the future, allowing them to set their own goals. For this to happen, managers should be encouraged to hold regular 1-on-1s with their direct reports and receive the appropriate training for their role.

  • Learning and development. Once employees know what new skills they need to develop, learning and development will be at the center of HR’s ability to help them reskill. HR should create ample opportunities for training, be it through employee to employee learning programs, online courses, in-house training, or partnering with external institutions that can teach employees new skills.

Creating opportunities isn’t enough though; organizations need to ensure that all employees know what training is available to them, and how they can request training. Time and budget should be made readily available so people feel supported rather than under pressure.

Digital recruitment challenges

  A strong human-machine collaboration will be critical for
organizations to achieve their goals in the workplace of the future.

What about tech in all of this?

Simply put, there already are a lot of HR tech solutions to support HR endeavors in all three areas.

  • The performance management process and career growth. There are multiple platforms that allow you to run the entire process all in one place. From 360 reviews to peer-to-peer feedback, goal setting, check-ins and engagement surveys or even self-assessments, everything is possible. These platforms are designed to help employees take ownership of their careers, and help you better understand what’s happening within the organization.
  • Learning & development. There’s also a large number of e-learning platforms, be it third party ones such as LinkedIn learning, or ones you can integrate into your tech stack and that allow you to develop your own courses. The reality is that with an increasing number of remote workers and globalized teams, online learning is a simple and effective way to ensure your employees continue to develop their skills. It’s also more cost and time effective: employees don’t always have the time or the possibility to travel and attend in-person training (though these shouldn’t be discounted).

There are even some platforms that allow you to do both learning and performance management in one place.

In other words: the HR tech tools out there today enable HR to support the workforce transition through globalization 4.0 and to be better equipped for the workplace of the future.

But remember, adoption will be key for this to succeed.

HR tech shouldn’t be considered only as a way to simplify HR’s job though; it’s something that needs to bring HR and employees much closer together as they work as one during this time of change. This means that each piece of tech you adopt should be closely viewed through the lens of:

  • value – what does this bring for my people;
  • ease of use – will it be easy enough to use so that employees will use it regularly;
  • training – will there be training materials and support available when it comes to implementing the solution.

When you’re selecting your HR tech, remember that you’re just as much picking a partner as well as the software.

Conclusion

While globalization 4.0 might seem like a scary prospect for many, it actually is a great opportunity for HR to step out of its silo and become more strategic; to help companies and employees during this age of transformation. HR should try and make the most of its tech stack to understand the key challenges their organization is facing, and use the data they gather overtime to make informed decisions about processes.

That data will support HR as they explain the challenges the organization is facing to the C-suite. It will also help HR make the case to invest in training or reskilling programs. In parallel, this will create an environment in which people can thrive, and where they feel supported in their career ambitions rather than scared of losing their jobs. HR truly has an opportunity to shape the workplace of the future here! 

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