Business recovery from the pandemic means more than figuring out how to incorporate remote work into the future. It also means giving employees new skills to make way for new business models, according to a recent article by McKinsey & Company. “Now is the time for companies to double down on their learning budgets and commit to reskilling,” the authors assert. “Developing this muscle will also strengthen companies for future disruptions.”
Three major trends are at work, they say:
New skills for the distance economy – The switch to remote has been dramatic in some professions. In the UK health care system, for example, 1% of appointments were conducted online in 2019. In 2020 it was 100%, and clinicians needed new skills to make effective diagnoses from afar. Another example is bank employees needing empathy training to deal with distressed customers.
Imbalances in talent supply and demand – In some cases, those in need of work don’t have the skills for jobs available in businesses that surged during the pandemic, such as online retail and grocery stores.
Changes to supply chains – Sourcing and production is moving closer to end-users, a process McKinsey calls “onshoring.”
The four authors – McKinsey partners from Zurich, London, Paris and Houston – offer six steps leaders can take:
- Rapidly identify the skills your recovery business model depends on – Which skills are needed to drive business forward?
- Build employee skills critical to your new business model – Build a “no-regrets” skill set, or a tool kit that will be useful no matter what. Focus investments on four kinds of skills: digital, higher cognitive, social and emotional, and adaptability and resilience.
- Launch tailored learning journeys to close critical skill gaps – Go deeper on strategic workforce planning. Which skills will each employee group need in the next 12 to 18 months to succeed at the work they will be undertaking?
- Start now, test rapidly and iterate –Even if reskilling programs fail, they are still worth doing. Simply starting a reskilling program makes organizations better prepared for potential future disruptions.
- Act like a small company – Follow agile principles to make bold moves quickly.
- Protect learning budgets – Make education more digital and more accessible. Cuts now will lead to regrets later.
“Leaders should pursue a broad reskilling agenda that develops employees’ digital expertise and their cognitive, emotional and adaptability skills,” the article says. “Companies can’t be resilient if their workforces aren’t.”