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Piecing together the talent puzzle: How to bring a redeployment or skilling program to life

These four steps can increase the likelihood of success for a redeployment, upskilling, or reskilling program.
Matt Fenton

Advises organizations on talent, operating model, and culture topics, helping build strategies to accelerate impact and drive sustained business performance

Emily Field

Shapes organizational strategies to establish talent management as a distinctive advantage, preparing leaders to manage the workforce of tomorrow and create business value

Marino Mugayar-Baldocchi

Partners with organizations to provide research-backed expertise on leadership, talent management, learning and development, and future of work topics

In a recent McKinsey survey, 53 percent of leaders indicated that building skills was the best way to close their company’s capability gaps in the next year. In fact, they cited reskilling as the preferred strategy more than twice as often as hiring. It’s no secret organizations see the value of skill building and are acting quickly—over 33 percent of leaders indicated that investment in building capabilities has increased since 2020.

While these statistics are compelling, the myth still lingers that hiring is always more cost-effective. A better understanding of how to evaluate an organization’s unique situation and implement a successful reskilling program can help fully dispel that myth.

Previously, we differentiated among three talent levers—redeployment, upskilling, and reskilling—and shared situations in which each is best used. As a next step, organizations must understand why each is important and how to successfully bring them to life.

A four-step approach to success

While there is no “one size fits all” approach, these four steps greatly increase the likelihood of success.

  1. Evaluate. First, identify skill gaps. Consider the business strategy and skills critical to success, then assess current skills. Digital tools can accelerate building this fact base by integrating internal and external data to rapidly identify likely skills and skill adjacencies. Evaluation is a critical place to embed equity into the process—evaluating everyone’s skills in a specific skill pool instead of the “usual suspects.” Once the current skill pool has been assessed, then compare the skills of the present workforce to current gaps and future needs—including type and volume.

  2. Plan. Planning is a crucial step that many organizations tend to skip or undershoot because there is urgency to solve the felt need. This often results in change management missteps. By taking stock of likely scenarios, the right tactics can be embedded into plans to embrace employees through the change.

    Consider what lever is best suited to address gaps. When there is considerable overlap between gaps and existing skills, reskilling and upskilling are often most effective. Take this a step further by creating transparency among business, HR, and finance functions. Collaborate around talent needs and design reskilling journeys to close any gaps through digital tools by creating one-stop “transition hubs.”

  3. Act. Once a plan is in place, it is time for action. If reskilling or upskilling, a mix of on-the-job learning and formal instruction often yields the best results. Bite-sized, multi-modal learning designed for how adults learn is key, so transitioning employees can build new skills while applying them in real time, both in simulated environments and in their new role.
  4. Refresh. It is essential to continuously refine the approach through thoughtful experimentation. Consider investing in the creation of an ongoing skills inventory and using data from your performance management system to update it. Data can help track efficacy and adjust—getting the right people with the right skills in the right roles at the right time.

For example, a technology company adopting a new cloud-based product strategy found that 30 percent of its workforce had skill mismatches and needed to reskill. HR and product organizations worked closely to design and deploy a learning journey grounded in adult learning principles with real-time measurement to track effectiveness. In two years, they successfully reskilled more than 6,000 employees to new roles and upskilled over 20,000 employees in their current roles.

Why it matters

Investing in redeployment, upskilling, and reskilling shows employees that they are valued and vital to the organization’s mission. Learning new skills is a powerful source of motivation, inspiring commitment and increasing productivity. In fact, 94 percent of employees say they would stay longer at a company that invested in their development.

COVID-19 has accelerated the digitization and automation of many workplaces. The future of work has arrived, and there is an ongoing battle for the most valuable asset: talent. Companies that combat this challenge through thoughtful redeployment, upskilling, and reskilling will better position themselves for future success.

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