Research by the US firm Gartner indicates that the number of skills needed for a single job, say in marketing or sales, has increased by 10% per year for the last four years. At the same time, 30% of the skills required for a job four years ago are no longer relevant or required. They are obsolete.
While not every position will require the same number of new capabilities per year, across the workforce we are seeing the need for an incredible amount of new know-how just to stay relevant.
Additionally, 74% of organisations froze hiring during the Covid pandemic. This means new capabilities now must be grown at scale in your existing people, not brought into the organisation. The pandemic has provided a very clear answer to why we need to think differently about development at scale.
My organisation, like many, sadly saw some of our people go during the pandemic. The disruption also meant we had to build many new capabilities immediately. I was very happy to see my staff learn new things and felt sad for them and the business when they struggled to adapt.
However, the simple fact is that the advances we made would not have been possible if enough of my people had not reskilled themselves quickly.
Leaders I have spoken with have been telling me that their pre-Covid people development approaches were no longer fit for purpose. They also need to develop new capabilities for more people, more quickly and more cost-effectively than ever before.
I will share two examples I hope will provide you with an idea of how some organisations are doing it. The first is how we at SEAC managed to develop organically during the crisis. The second is how an organisation can be strategic about it.
At SEAC we had no clear plan for reskilling and upskilling to meet the challenges we were experiencing in 2020-21. We learned as we went along. We discovered that if you look forward, and look at where you are, you can plan to develop capabilities in a better, faster, cheaper and wider-scale way.
We identified the skills gap we suddenly faced. In our business, all in-person training ceased, and we needed an entirely new set of technical and virtual capabilities immediately.
Armed with this insight, we quickly planned how we would build these skills from zero. We focused on accelerating learning to be immediately applicable because traditional approaches would take too long for our customers to wait.
In our case, we identified how we could develop on the job, and which activities would have the most impact in the shortest time. We used cross-discipline teams to identify possible options, tested them, and shared our learning.
Knowing what we needed to know, and how to build it, we moved to development at scale. We identified who needed to develop which capabilities and used what we had learned to accelerate the process. We realised that learning is a team sport, so we needed plenty of supportive unpacking and best-practice sessions to transform how we did things.
The second example is one I became aware of through an article in the Bangkok Post, and it got me curious to know more.
Henkel, the German consumer goods giant, realised its business depended on innovation. To remain competitive, employees need continual upskilling. The company wanted to understand the needs of different employees and build approaches to get them where they needed to be quickly.
Henkel started by asking managers in different disciplines to identify skills needed in the immediate future. It then asked the managers to honestly assess the capabilities of themselves and their teams against the requirements. They started with strategic pilot groups.
The organisation effectively put these managers in control of developing their departments’ future success. They then made it fun using a gamified approach that drew staff to learning and rapid development. This approach made it easy to get involved, and bespoke learning ensured people did not feel they were wasting time. Importantly, staff were provided with approaches that developed knowledge, skills and experience, ensuring an immediate impact.
Henkel also ensured that its Human Resources division upskilled itself to support development at scale. Company leaders realised HR would be essential in shaping their future workforce in new ways.
Finally, they ensured their people knew how to learn. Henkel staff scheduled development and blocked their calendars to ensure it happened. As SEAC did, they helped people learn together (more fun, more efficient, and much stickier). They also asked people to recommend what they learned to others.
I believe companies are now competing on how fast they can help employees develop new skills. Clearly, capability building needs to be part of the everyday experience, the new normal. By rethinking what is possible, like Henkel, you can do this faster, more effectively and more cost-effectively than we would have thought possible pre-Covid.
Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC — Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at email@example.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa. Talk to us about how SEAC can help your business during times of uncertainty at https://forms.gle/wf8upGdmwprxC6Ey9