Reskilling in the Age of AI - Notes

2 minute read

The most recent issue (September - October) of Harvard Business Review contained an interesting piece on reskilling. The article discusses how the rapid acceleration, and advancement, of technology will see knowledge workers adapting how they work and operate in their fields.

The authors highlight five paradigm shifts that were observed across a sample set of companies that are heavily investing in reskilling initiatives.

  1. Reskilling is a Strategic Imperative.
  2. Reskilling is the Responsibility of Every Leader/Manager.
  3. Reskilling is a Change Management Initiative.
  4. Employees Want to Reskill, When it Makes Sense.
  5. Reskilling Takes a Village.

Reskilling is a Strategic Imperative

Understanding the criticality of reskilling to create a competitive advantage, by acting in response to ever changing markets. The article cited some interesting examples such as Vodafone aiming to fill 40% of their future software development needs with internal talent, and Amazon who rolled out their Machine Learning University to reskill internal employees in ML.

This is not just a mechanism to retain talent, but it’s also a mechanism to attract new talent.

Reskilling is the Responsibility of Every Leader/Manager

Managers are closest to the metal when it comes to the job requirements, employee performance and development, and how their teams can help to achieve the organisation’s goals. Thus, managers are well placed to design and deliver/contribute reskilling plans for the organisation. Reskilling efforts could (and perhaps should) be baked into the performance assessment of leaders.

I really like this one, and I’ve written about this theme in the past.

Reskilling is a Change Management Initiative

There’s more to reskilling than training. A successful initiative is composed of multiple workstream topics, including an understanding of supply/demand, changes to how we recruit and evaluate candidates, encouraging managers to nurture and grow talent for the business, rather than hoarding talent for their team, and most importantly, building skills on the job, by way of shadowing and assignments.

Developing talent for the business is a great example of Will Larson’s Company First, Team Second, Self Third mantra.

Employees Want to Reskill, When it Makes Sense

Employees will be more willing to participate in reskilling programs, if they have had a voice in creating them. Companies should adopt a customer first mindset, and develop the program around the employee.
Be transparent, seek input and feedback, and provide enough slack and resources for them to succeed. This requires forward thinking and resource choreography from line managers, but again, this is a manager’s responsibility.

One large auto manufacturer told its diesel engineers that because of changes in the automobile industry, it had less and less need for their skills, and presented its program as a way of ensuring that they would have new jobs and job security in the years ahead.

Reskilling Takes a Village

Reskilling goes beyond a single organisation, and being open to partnerships can yield more impact. In some cases, this might be partnering across the same industry, partnering with nonprofits to amplify diversity reach, or partnering with local colleges and training providers.