Change is difficult. We all know that. But, there’s something about change at work that sparks all sorts of fears within us. That’s because our jobs, and our skills, hold the strings to our livelihood. So, when there is a perceived threat to that, it can trigger concerns, anxiety, and stress. This is especially true following a period of mass layoffs and job loss.
As employees reenter the workplace, they will likely seek a sense of stability and direction. This should be communicated from the top down, with demonstrated buy-in from executive leaders. They will also look to their managers to equip them with the right skills to manage immediate and future changes.
During this time, it is important for employees to have a sense of control over their ability to succeed. In the short term, one of the best, most direct ways to address that is through learning. You can provide employees with opportunities to improve their skills and competencies. Sustaining this in the long term requires a broader change. You will need to prepare your workforce to adopt an agile learning culture.
Why Skills and Competencies Matter Right Now
I’m sure you’ve heard the terms “reskilling and upskilling” flying around in the L&D world. They are important words during this time. But what do they mean for your organization specifically?
Reskilling means learning new skills so you can do a different job, or training people to do a different job. It involves finding people with skills that align with the new skills your organization requires. Upskilling means learning new skills or teaching workers new, advanced skills to close knowledge gaps while involving them in ongoing learning to help them advance in their career.
Developing skills and competencies is becoming increasingly important in the U.S. and across the globe. For example:
- In the report, Learning and Skills at Work 2020, released in June by CIPD and Accenture, 36% of respondents listed “addressing skills gaps” as their No. 1 priority for their organization.
- Of the top 10 threats to organizations’ future growth, “availability of key skills” ranked number three in PwC’s 22nd Annual Global CEO Survey in 2019.
- MIT Sloan’s assessment of a yearlong in-factory training program on communication, problem-solving, decision-making, and stress management found that the training resulted in a 250% ROI within eight months after it ended.
Planning for Reentry: Focus on Skills
The case is clear. Businesses should be focusing heavily on closing skills and competency gaps as they plan to reopen their doors. They can begin by building a competency framework. Using a skills and competencies template to guide you through this process saves a lot of time and effort. The goal is to identify the skills and competencies your workforce has, the ones they need, and where to fill the gaps with learning.
I recommend leaning on skills and competencies. It will help your workforce become flexible amid change—and remain that way—so they are prepared to pivot if and when another crisis happens. Skills that can facilitate short-term change while preparing your workforce for long-term agility include:
- Flexibility—Being willing to “meet others halfway” when working in an atmosphere of frequent operational and procedural changes
- Adaptability—Being able to change based on what happens around you, whether that involves customers needs, changing technology, or a rapidly changing workplace environment
- Communication—Being able to quickly, accurately, and effectively communicate changes in strategy or approach amid several changing factors
- De-escalation—Being able to “dial down” one’s own anger and the anger of others in times of confusion, change, or stress
Would you like advice on realistic ways to reopen your business with employees who are well-prepared with the right skills and competencies for your long-term agility? Watch the on-demand webinar we sponsored with The Learning Guild: Prepare and Mobilize Your Workforce for Successful Reentry.