How can corporate upskilling be reimagined?
Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker.
The impact of Covid-19 on the labor market has been undoubtedly profound, but the furloughing measures introduced by governments around the world have unquestionably kept a lid on what would otherwise have been catastrophic unemployment. What is clear, however, is that the transformation of the economy, especially in terms of the digital technologies used, will require changes, not only in the skills required from workers but also from organizations in the way they recruit, retain, and manage talent.
Recent data from LinkedIn and Microsoft illustrates this shift, as they found that around a third of all new jobs started in the U.K. in the past year involved a move to either a new industry or a new function (or both).
The pair believes that for organizations to thrive, they need to move away from the traditional, credentials-based approach to talent management that sees candidates assessed on their direct work experience and formal qualifications and towards one that is based upon the skills and potential of each individual.
It’s an approach that is ably illustrated by a recent pilot project undertaken by Accenture, Unilever, Walmart, SkyHive, and the World Economic Forum that aims to use artificial intelligence to both better appreciate the skills people may have and also to better map those onto potential roles.
A core hypothesis tested by the project was to understand how many skills people possess, and indeed how many we’re aware of. The project revealed that when we are asked to self-assess the skills we possess, we typically name in the region of 11 skills that are regularly used in our current role. When SkyHive performed their analysis, however, this number jumps to around 34.
Equally importantly, it found that after mapping the skills required in a wide range of different roles, many of us only require a few additional skills in order to transition successfully into new roles. This kind of awareness building can be a crucial first step in helping people to transition to a new role.
Support on the journey
This is vital, as while there has been much written about the potential disruptions to livelihoods from technology and from the economic fallout from Covid, it is less clear-cut just what options are available to people, which can create a sense of paralysis and hopelessness that prevents transitions from working.
This was evident in research I wrote about a few years ago looking at the difficulties people have in moving from one career to another, and many of these hurdles are mental hurdles that while not insurmountable are nonetheless easier grappled with a degree of support.
This is something the U.K. government aims to provide with their recent announcement that 13,500 work coaches will be helping people across the country as they adapt to the changes facing them in their careers. While the initial announcement focused on areas such as CV development and finding jobs rather than utilizing a data-driven approach such as that outlined in the Accenture project, the potential is clear.
“Data sharing is key to strengthening connections among learners, employers, learning providers, funders, and policymakers in any given community,” says Michelle Weisse in her recent book Long Life Learning. “An improved data infrastructure will not only create a shared language; it will also empower groups to move forward toward a common vision and integrate resources, solutions, and services to make each step along the working learner’s journey a seamless and more easily navigable experience.”
There remains much to be done in order for this kind of data architecture to exist. For instance, while there has been considerable innovation in terms of flexible and adaptable learning, whether the explosion in MOOCs or the emergence of coding schools around the world, there has been much less progress in the development of valuable credentials that truly reflect the skills an individual has.
Indeed, research conducted prior to the pandemic found roughly 71 million low-wage workers who had been skilled through alternative routes. These people were perfectly capable of performing higher-skilled work but were largely frozen out because they lacked the credentials to access such roles.
The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America’s CEO Deanna Mulligan argues in her recent book Hire Purpose that the skills gap so often spoken about in business may not be as much due to a lack of skills as it is a lack of awareness of the skills we have.
“Over the course of our lifetimes, we can accumulate an impressive array of skills that would qualify us for an impressive array of jobs,” she says. “Still, only a few of these skills appear on diplomas and the resumes that land on the desks of potential employers.”
The European Union’s Skills Passport attempted to provide a transferrable repository of one’s skills that could be applied throughout Europe, but even they focus more on the skills we have certification for rather than anything learned in a more tacit way.
The Spelling Commission outlined a more experiential approach several years ago with its Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA). The aim of the CLA was to measure a much broader range of competencies, including problem-solving and critical thinking, which have been rated as among the most desirable skills required in the future of work.
“If you want to know what a person knows and can do,” says former Dean of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education, Richard Shavelson, “sample tasks from the domain in which the person is to act, observe her performance, and infer competence and learning.”
This also needs to then feed into new recruitment processes that take account of a more skills-based assessment. It’s an area that the tech startup Skillist aims to address via a matchmaking platform that uses skills rather than credentials. In a recent paper, they highlight that there are more than 70 million American workers who are Skilled Through Alternative Routes (STARs) rather than a four-year degree. What’s more, the upward mobility of these people is far less than that of their peers with degrees.
“Our analysis of job transitions demonstrates that the skills distance between jobs predicts movement in the labor market and that workers make job transitions based on their skills. However, we see that STARs travel shorter skills distances for less wage gain than workers with four-year degrees,” they explain.
On the move
The paper reveals that of those STARs who have managed to achieve mobility, they appeared to do so in a specific set of jobs. In total, there were 51 of these so-called “Gateway” jobs that were accessible from a wide range of entry-level jobs.
They argue that these pathways from an entry-level job to a Gateway job to a higher wage destination job offers a promising template for upward mobility. It’s clear, however, that for mobility to work, we need to provide people with better ways of not only developing their skills but of understanding the skills they have and of sending clear signals to recruiters about all they can do.
Of course, credentials provide a shortcut for employers to use when gauging the skills of individuals, so it’s vital that new and simpler ways are developed to tease out insights about the skills candidates possess and the learning we do regardless of where and how we do it.
Relying on degrees and other credentials to gauge our ability is a blunt instrument for truly understanding what people are capable of, of course, so there are clear benefits for employers of focusing more on skills rather than credentials.
A skills-based approach to recruitment not only promises to be faster and more effective but also fairer as resumes no longer need names, years of experience, or the various other things that may bias our decisions. The Body Shop has experimented with so-called “open hiring” and found that employee turnover in their distribution center fell by 60%.
Each of these innovations promises to make the future of work fairer while empowering learners, regardless of their starting point in life, to make the most of their talents and adapt smoothly to the needs of their location. There’s clearly a long way to go, especially in making these innovations scalable, but they’re clear markers as to the direction of travel we’re heading in.
Article source: How Can Corporate Upskilling Be Reimagined?
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