According to the World Economic Forum, more than half of all employees worldwide will need to upskill or reskill by 2025 to keep up with the changing nature of work. In these situations, many organizations are turning to reskilling to develop the talent they can't find or deploy effectively. Despite this, according to a 2020 global BCG survey, "talent and skills" is the second-most underinvested sector in corporate transformation efforts. Sagar Goel, J. Puckett, Pablo Claver, and Orsolya Kovacs-Ondrejkovic go deep into six practical insights and methods for firms as they reinvent how to bring learning to a scale of thousands of people and at speed. #TWN
Imagine this situation: You are lagging behind your competitors in digital transformation and are even worried about startups with massive funding that may get ahead of you. You are trying to make progress but do not have enough budget to hire enough engineers, product owners, cyber experts, design thinkers data scientists, or agile coaches. They are attracted to fun, young organizations, not the old-school companies without dynamic approaches, command-and-control leaders, and matrix structures that grind decision-making to a halt.
Simultaneously, many of your current employees are working in roles that are gradually becoming obsolete owing to automation. Furthermore, you have too many ineffective middle managers, and your digitally untrained frontline employees are unprepared for the future.
Is this anything you've heard before? These are the issues we're hearing from a lot of our clients, and they're indicative of where we are in the global skills crisis. According to the World Economic Forum, more than half of all employees worldwide will need to upskill or reskill by 2025 to keep up with the changing nature of work. In these situations, many organizations are turning to reskilling to develop the talent they can't find or deploy effectively. Despite this, according to a 2020 global BCG survey, "talent and skills" is the second-most underinvested sector in corporate transformation efforts.
We present six practical lessons based on BCG's significant experience assisting more than 100 clients internationally, touching hundreds of thousands of learners in the last four years, as firms reimagine how they bring learning to a scale of thousands of people and at speed.
The majority of skilling initiatives fail because they are designed to reduce learning and development (L&D) expenditures rather than generating significant economic benefits. According to Allied Market Research, more than $300 billion is spent on corporate education globally each year. The majority of corporate education programs, in our experience working with customers, have no quantitative impact.
Skilling should be treated as a business investment — an asset that will help deliver profits over time, with well-defined business, people, and learning KPIs as a starting point for program design.
For example, an Asian real estate firm designing a leadership development program started by establishing the end business objectives: a 50 percent faster time to new market entry and a two-fold increase in land acquisition target attainment through faster decision making.
This completely altered the L&D intervention's design. The company used to host a series of facilitated workshops on leadership and decision-making abilities. Instead, participants were guided through a hands-on learning intervention in which they were shadowed and taught how to conduct their monthly business review meetings differently in order to reach their goals. As a result, they saw a significant increase in market share and a successful initiative to cascade down to their middle management.
Employees are frequently offered skilling programs as a menu of "main course" alternatives to pick from, such as functional, digital, leadership, business, or soft skills. Our research reveals that high-impact reskilling is best accomplished by producing tasty "salads" that combine all of these abilities in a specific context.
Harvard Business Review collaborated with the Singapore government on a large-scale workforce reskilling initiative to assist mid-career professionals in transitioning from traditional employment to data and digital roles. The program has to cover a wide spectrum of abilities, from problem-solving to insight development and analytics, as well as soft skills like stakeholder involvement and communication.
Too much time is spent incorporating learning through e-modules or Zoom sessions. With a leading question in mind, learning experience designers must reimagine how, when, and where learning takes place, with the goal of bringing the excitement and wonder of learning that children experience to adult learners.
Instead of only providing case studies on customer centricity, a top Chinese mobile phone company invited real consumers to their learning sessions, which resulted in the debunking of various fallacies and the generation of fresh business insights. A major consumer products company in India taught their mid-level managers how to communicate by having them shoot and analyze selfie films. Compared to the usual way of obtaining feedback from a facilitator, this resulted in participants having a greater feeling of self-awareness about how they interact. By initially recreating common work scenarios in "command-and-control" mode and then reproducing the same scenarios in "autonomy-and-alignment" mode, a worldwide public sector organization was able to immerse middle managers in and comprehend the agile method of working.
Designing and delivering learning is both a science and an art. Every phase of the learning experience can benefit from data-driven decision-making.
For example, AI systems can examine a worker's employment experience and career path to determine their skill gaps and tailor their learning experience. These algorithms can also identify paths for groups of individuals whose occupations are likely to be considerably disrupted to migrate to in-demand roles. Another option is to do A/B tests for different cohorts on different formats of the program or modalities of learning and allow the data to make the decisions as the programs grow. Finally, tracking outcomes using both leading and lagging indicators over time can help skilling projects improve over time.
Creating an end-to-end skilling stack — including assessments, skills inventory, content curation, learning technology and analytics, training, delivery, learning experience management, credentialing, and career transition assistance — for thousands of employees needs significant investment.
Instead of "creating" this infrastructure from the ground up, businesses may now move quickly by "purchasing" or "renting" their own skilling stack through partnerships. The lack of customization to the organization's setting is cited by critics of this method. However, your L&D team can differentiate between core commodity skills that are universal and can be sourced externally (for example, learning a new programming language) and areas where there is a high value for customization (for example, an internal expert sharing which data analytics use cases are most critical in your industry).
Skilling is frequently characterized as something that "must be done to the workers," but research demonstrates that workers are aware of impending change and are prepared to respond. According to BCG's Decoding Global Talent study, 68 percent of workers throughout the world are willing to retrain for new jobs in order to stay competitive. Interventions that allow people to identify what skills they need and choose from a variety of possibilities are preferable if we believe people can be accountable for their own reskilling. Employers should provide their employees with the tools, resources, and support they need to take control of their own reskilling journeys.
BCG, for example, gives it's expert consultants the ability to stay current and relevant by building their own learning intervention with an annual budget. Collaborations on public-sector initiatives, co-designing with startups, immersion visits to wholly other corporate environments, and more have resulted as a result of this.
Business and HR leaders may take prompt action to equip their workforces to be today's and tomorrow's ready by reinventing old approaches to skilling. Organizations must choose between creating a skilling competitive advantage and risking falling behind.