Article: Is upskilling the secret weapon to win the war for talent?


Is upskilling the secret weapon to win the war for talent?

A new research shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many workers to reflect on their future, and provides insights into how organisations can harness retraining programs to retain top talent in a market that is undergoing significant change.
Is upskilling the secret weapon to win the war for talent?

The survey of over 1,000 Australians found 63% of respondents were inspired to retrain or upskill because of the COVID-19 pandemic with the top reasons being employment stability (64%), career progression (50%) and increased flexibility (45%). 

This new research illustrates the importance strong graduate programs and upskilling opportunities can play in the attraction and retention of top talent. Continuous learning is an area we are passionate about and encourage other businesses to look to their own programs to provide diverse career opportunities for their teams.

The pandemic has caused a shift in many industries, changing perspectives on the future careers that will be more dominant, and the flexibility that is enabled in many of these. This change in mindset presents an opportunity for businesses to implement retraining and graduate programs for their employees in order to retain top talent that is looking for change. 

More than half of survey respondents (52%) had applied for an on-the-job upskilling program in the last five years and over a third (37%) had applied for a graduate program or internship in the same period.

We know retraining isn’t new, however, it needs to be reconsidered for today’s talent pool. Retraining should be assessed based on the capabilities an employee has, not just their experience. It’s not enough to find a developer a new role as a developer, rather the broader capabilities of this role should be taken into account. For example customer service skills are highly transferable from hospitality and retail into inside sales and telephone support roles across multiple industries, or accounting capabilities can be repurposed into the growing job category of data analytics and business analysts.

We would much rather upskill someone who understands our business and then teach them the technical skills. Some of the people joining our internal programs to become developers are from our internal customer service teams. That is a huge asset, because these employees understand our customer needs better than someone entering our business who may have great technical skills but doesn't have the customer lens. 

Research on the future of work by McKinsey tells us that while technology, automation and AI will gain incredible pace over the coming 10-15 years, the increased need for social and emotional skills will grow in similar proportions. It’s becoming increasingly important that organisations have the ability to translate what the customer needs are into what product can be built. 

So how should you think about building and implementing a graduate or retraining program?

It starts with understanding what your organisation is going to look like in five and ten years time and what roles will be required. A development path can then be developed, based on what those skills will be and be aware that an openness that these skills can come from anywhere. 

Are you investing in talent development?

To really embed these programs in the business and drive outcomes for the organisation in that five and ten year timeframe, businesses need to be prepared to put in financial investment as well as time. A graduate or retraining program can take 18 months to two years to get a cohort ready to start in their new role and be productive. 

It’s also important to keep a growth mindset when building these programs. The success of the cohort needs to evolve as the business needs evolve over time. Providing broad experiences and building the learning agility of those in the cohort will be just as important as the specific technical experience. 

Finally, it’s important to set up those who are going through the graduate or upskilling program for success. Provide them with the right mentors and teachers so they are supported throughout their learning journey.

To keep and attract top talent, businesses need to be open to their employees having a career change within their organisation and look to transferable skills. This is imperative to winning the war for talent from within your organisation as well as outside it. Employees are far less likely to leave an organisation if they know they can have two or three careers within the one business and these training programs will also attract talent who want their career to evolve as their life changes. 

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Topics: Skilling

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