From Rapid Response to Reskilling Readiness: Competitive Edge Post-COVID

Where do you see yourself in the next five years? It’s a question millions of job seekers are preparing to answer right now — some 13.6 million, according to the latest numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s also the single-most important question organizations need to ask themselves right now to thrive in a post-COVID business landscape.

Time, as a concept, has changed in 2020 — reordered with every aspect of our daily lives. A future that envisioned radical shifts in the way organizations conduct business has, in many respects, already arrived — abruptly and unapologetically. In an instant, remote working and virtual collaboration put digital transformation plans into practice in order to move forward with distributed teams. For many organizations, the rapid shift signaled long-awaited change as 77% of CEOs reported that the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated their digital transformation plans with 40% increasing spending on IT infrastructure and platforms.1

At the height of the crisis, rapid response tactics superseded long-term talent strategies that build brands and capacity. But as organizations move forward to recovery and on a fast-track to digital transformation, it’s critical to hone a strategy that addresses the external pressures shaping business today while planning for tomorrow.

Today, 88 million Americans need upskilling or reskilling if they’re going to compete in the workplaces of the future — and 64 million of them lack a postsecondary degree. An astounding 47% of U.S. jobs are at risk of being entirely automated, with low-paid workers the most affected. One third of American workforce believe they would need more education or training to replace a lost job with one that pays a similar wage or salary.

In five years, organizations that put workforce development on the back-burner will find themselves competing for a shrinking pool of skilled candidates. Those that make upskilling and reskilling a business priority with a talent strategy tailored to their needs will not only build competency but also loyalty with a workforce that feels valued and engaged.

Millennials account for the majority of the workforce and 86% of them say that learning and development would keep them in a job longer. Though motivated, only 39% say they’ve learned something new in the past 30 days that they can use to do their jobs better.2

Strategy for Long-Term Resiliency

The upheaval and uncertainty of the COVID-19 crisis has, to say the least, created significant new challenges for business leaders and likewise exacerbated existing challenges facing organizations today. The need to recruit and retain high-quality employees in an era of unprecedented workplace disruption remains constant. Requirements for contactless experiences, virus tracking and ubiquitous PPE are new. In the wake of a pandemic, creating a long-term strategy to upskill and reskill a workforce may seem out of reach in the face of shifting priorities. But the reality is, most organizations had planning in progress before the pandemic and can build on learning gained during the crisis to help chart a course for future growth. While flexibility is key in the coming years, reskilling and upskilling should be a result of a coordinated strategy that envisions a wide range of scenarios to support business needs in the current climate with COVID-related imperatives, as well as future roles that will need to be filled as the workplace evolves.

Key Questions to Consider As You Pursue Reskilling Efforts

  • What new services, products or lines of business are under discussion in your organization right now? Line of sight into prospective offerings and new business models can ensure alignment with overarching organizational goals and bolster reskilling efforts by mapping training and development to future talent needs.
  • What is the outlook of your competitive landscape and partner ecosystem? The economic devastation spurred by the pandemic continues to unfold. Consider how bankruptcies, mergers and other activity might affect shifting market needs.
  • Will the 2020 elections impact your business? With the country in the midst of a recession, the economy will be a central issue for voters in November. How will policy changes with either candidate shape regulations and initiatives that are central to your industry?
  • How might your business be impacted by continued contraction in the economy? Adapting your organization’s strategy to include a downtrend scenario, should it occur, can help identify vulnerable roles that can be reskilled into middle-skill or less vulnerable roles? What are the talent pipelines for in-demand skills within your organization? Can you identify crossover between vulnerable roles and needed skills?

With digital transformation well underway, redefining a post-COVID strategy that builds workforce resiliency amidst ever-present change will not only smooth recovery but secure a competitive edge moving forward in an economy shaped by digital competencies.

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