reskill and upskill

The speed of change has impacted business in new ways in recent months. While the shelf life of skills continues to shrink, new skills are constantly being introduced as companies shift to new business or operational models to get work done. The rapid changes caused by the pandemic have only increased the number of new skills required and, by default, have widened the gap for your current employees. Smart employers today are reskilling and upskilling their staff to close this gap, whether the employees are transitioning internally or even externally. This investment in future employability of your exiting talent can make a huge difference in maintaining your employer brand and driving cost savings.

Let’s examine two different job search scenarios. One job seeker is receiving skilling as part of an outplacement package from her employer while the other does not have this option.

Alex is an experienced media salesperson and recently lost her job. Her company went through a reorganization and her role was filled by someone in the corporate office. For the first time in years, Alex is looking for work. At 48, she knows how to sell herself and get a job but she’s finding that her experience selling television advertising is difficult to translate into the digital sales jobs she sees posted all the time. She has many recruitment conversations and some second and third interviews but without the relevant digital sales skills, Alex is finding it difficult to convince a new employer her skills are transferrable without the lingo and the credentials.

Sharon is in a similar position with her career taking a pause. As an HR director of an aerospace company, she wrote herself off the org chart in the post-COVID reorganization. Like Alex, Sharon is also looking to try something new, like HR metrics consulting, but is first taking advantage of the reskilling and upskilling tools made available to her through her former employer as part of her outplacement package. While Sharon is taking courses in Tableau, learning about how to start a consulting business during the COVID-19 pandemic and refreshing her business development skills, she can relax a bit and find some balance.

Both examples are similar to the stories of many individuals who have found themselves looking for new jobs during a pandemic. Yet Sharon’s story is one with more hope and possibility. The difference: Sharon’s employer provided her with reskilling and upskilling tools as part of her outplacement package from her company. As HR leaders, we likely already aspire to offer our employees the best development our companies can afford. There is convincing evidence that developing people as they leave the company can also be beneficial.

the exit is part of the employee experience

When you lay off employees, their exit experience is an important last step of their employment experience with you. We pay careful attention when we recruit and onboard employees to ensure they have a positive first impression of our company. Throughout their employment with us, we’re measuring their engagement and sentiment through pulse surveys. We create employee experience blueprints and maps. We hire CEX (Chief of Employee Experience) roles. In fact, according to a Deloitte study, 84% of respondents believe employee experience is an important issue; 28% say it’s one of their top three most urgent issues. When the business requirements shift and we must make difficult decisions to cut people and let them go, why should this attention to their experience stop?

The exit from the organization should always be an extension of the experience you provide to your employees. You’ve taken care of them as employees and you can continue to take care of their needs, including helping them skill up to find their next opportunity faster. According to the World Economic Forum, close to 200 million workers will be displaced by technology over the next decade. The report says that these workers can be skilled to ‘new viable (similar skillset) and desirable (higher wages) growing roles’ – with investment from employers and the public sector.

The way you treat departing employees can also impact your consumer brand and customer experience. Think of an employee’s worst possible exit experience from your company. Picture what that experience might look like on a social media post or in your Glassdoor rating. Then consider the opposite. Imagine what a Facebook update would look like if it said, ‘Company X is teaching me, continuing to invest in me, even though the business has forced them to furlough me (or lay me off).’

We worked recently with an organization that had a strong consumer brand and was adamant they maintain a relationship with departing employees, providing an experience that would invite these employees, their friends and their families to buy more of the company’s products and support the brand even stronger. By offering reskilling and upskilling solutions for their exiting employees, the organization is making great strides toward this vision.

related content: 5 myths about reskilling and upskilling

new skills will help your departing employees

As the COVID-19 crisis hit the US this spring, companies began quickly shifting their business models to accommodate work from home, social distancing and other measures taken to prevent the spread of the virus. Many companies recognized a need to shift workers quickly and upskill or reskill them. A McKinsey article from May of this year showed how some skill sets, such as supply chain management, were even more in demand due to the economic impact of the crisis and claimed companies who reskill their workers will be more resilient during the pandemic.

No doubt your employees needed to continually learn new skills before the pandemic. Now, it’s even more important for employees to upskill and reskill as they leave the company to maintain their job market relevance. Creating this kind of ’train you as you exit’ culture can also invite employees to boomerang back to your organization sometime in the future. The Corporate Culture and Boomerang Employee Study by Workplace Trends shows that 40% of employees say they would consider returning to a company for which they previously worked. Providing employees with a foundation of learning upon their departure with encouragement to learn more from another organization can invite key talent to return to you with fresh skills and knowledge that will lead to faster productivity.

Offering training to refresh an employee’s skills doesn’t have to be difficult, either. The ed tech industry has raised over $4 billion in funds since January of this year due in part to increased online learning. Companies like Coursera and Class Central have made many courses in their catalog available for free to workers laid off as a result of the pandemic. Even the paid courses can be inexpensive for an organization to provide, in conjunction with a strategic learning plan, coaching and other outplacement services to help exiting employees decide which courses to take.

related content: reskilling and upskilling: best practices to build a robust learning plan

reskilling exiting employees makes good business sense

Sometimes doing the right thing can be at a cost to the business but in the case of reskilling and upskilling, providing departing employees with new skills can save your organization money. According to the Randstad RiseSmart 2019 Guide to Severance & Workforce Transition survey, 44 percent of all companies surveyed now offer some form of severance benefits to all employees. This expense, plus the cost of unemployment in the US, provide a strong incentive for companies to help their former employees land new roles faster. Outplacement service providers like RiseSmart may include skilling and reskilling as part of outplacement services at little or no additional cost to the employer. And with fresh skills, many employees will find themselves landing in better-paying roles, increasing their goodwill toward their former organization for helping them better themselves.

According to Monster, obtaining tech skills like SAS and Ruby on Rails can lead to up to a 17% increase in salary. Consider how enabling this kind of a jump in pay could impact not only your employer brand but, to our point earlier, your consumer brand. While you might be hesitant to train departing employees who may then take their skills to a competitor, happy ex-employees can make great brand ambassadors, future buyers and, as we mentioned above, might even boomerang back to your organization in the future.

The media sales rep, Alex, is now in her eighth month of the job search. She’s looking into investing her own funds in a reskilling program so that she can be more competitive with other candidates in her search. Sharon is entering her third month of her job search and is continuing to upskill.

Reskilling and upskilling your exiting employees can help them be more at ease and more successful with their job search, knowing they’ll come out of the time better prepared for the future. It can save you money in the long run and help you support the investment you’ve made in your employee experience.

jeanne schad.

talent solutions and strategy practice leader

03 September 2020

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