A holistic approach towards massive workforce upskilling and reskilling

By the 5 July 2021

Why do we talk so much about upskilling and reskilling? On one side, because the business models have gone through deep transformation in the last years. On the other, because the speed of job evolution and change has dramatically increased. The skills needed to perform today are definitely not the same as 10 or 20 years ago. In addition, the systems, infrastructure and tools have been forced to take to quantum leap these last months.

We all need to learn, unlearn and relearn. We’re witnessing how the Learning & Development function is taking a more active and central role. The results that they are asked to provide are directly linked today to the companies’ sustainability and competitivity.

At the same time, companies need to make brave decisions (and investments) to upskill and reskill their populations. Indeed, it covers a very wide spectrum of domains: from resilience, flexibility and agility, to change management & leadership (among several other key human skills), and evidently the IT skills, technological awareness and digital savvy.

A new skillset needed

Furthermore, the needed skillsets are not necessarily accessible through smart recruiting and resourcing anymore. On the other hand, certain industries have headcount with a set of competencies that need to change dramatically in the next few years. This is due to technological evolution, conversion or replacement (e.g. the case of the Automotive industry with the journey from combustion engines towards electric drive).

In the current state of continuous transformation, we cannot dissociate the need to (re)learn about the systems and tools and the need to (re)learn the skills and behaviours. First, the update or replacement of technology enables the digital transformation through systems and tools. Then, we the workers need to update our skillset, mindset, culture and behaviours to support and secure an effective transformation. Many companies have been paying more attention to one side than the other in the recent years (I’m afraid to say… it depends on their view of what comes first, chicken or egg). In fact, there’s hard evidence of efficiency and synergies when considering these 2 sides of the coin as a whole and not separately.

Not long ago, objectives for the learning function were different

From an L&D perspective, we understand why sometimes these two seem to be “different worlds”. In fact, the way we’ve been learning in these fields has been very different, at least in the last 2 decades. Not long ago, the learning function of organisations was divided / clustered:

  • To develop the technical skills (the skills needed to perform the jobs), companies would rely on each division or area. They might source external training and might as well rely on the L&D department for support.
  • To develop the IT skills (systems, tools, applications), companies would rely either on the sourcing department (get the skills from the market through employment), the IT department (enhance the skills through applied practice) or some external training hired directly.
  • To develop the human skills, companies were already relying mainly on the L&D department. But still today some large organisations have so much offering, that it becomes complex for them to ensure there is no gap or overlap among the catalogue training they’ve presented to the different areas.

Finding a holistic approach towards massive workforce upskilling and reskilling

So, let’s get back to the title of this post: we need to find a holistic approach towards massive workforce upskilling and reskilling. Key words decrypted:

  • We’ve decoded upskilling and reskilling in a previous post, so I won’t dig into those concepts this time.
  • Massive: we can’t afford to say today that the up/reskilling need is focused on any specific target population. Moreover, IT skills are clearly still at the top of the need and demand across the whole organisation. Given the speed of change, it can’t be based on isolated “one-time” every X-years initiative…
  • Holistic: when everything is changing, it’s smart to take a high-level view and restart; e.g. if my ERP is changing, my suite of applications is being updated, my job description has evolved, my clients have different needs, my peers come with different requests and deliverables, the competitors are changing the rules of the game… I can’t break this into pieces and tackle one at a time, it’s better to connect them smartly.

When we address IT skills and soft skills learning “simultaneously”, there’s plenty of synergies. Especially because the most recent trend in IT systems development is to impact the way people collaborate with or through them. It makes sense in a corporate plan, since it’s always easier and very practical to recognise both sides of the coin. Am I preparing myself for change management because I’ll have to work with a new ERP / suite of tools? Or is it that I have to learn all about the new IT tools because there are new paradigms at work I’ll need to work on later?


In the coming weeks, we’ll post some valuable articles describing how to efficiently tackle some key re/up skilling stakes while smartly connecting the IT skills with the human skills. Contact us if you have any specific request for us to work on, and stay tuned!

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