Business leaders are in a tough spot right now. It’s no secret that hiring and retaining the right people with the right skills has become increasingly difficult, thanks in large part to the widening skills gap as workplace needs rapidly evolve. Throw in current macroeconomic trends like the Great Resignation and tightening talent budgets in the face of an oncoming recession, and it’s little wonder that so many of us are facing an uncertain future.
Over the years, I have spent a lot of time talking to individuals about improving their job prospects and career trajectories by taking control. When I talk to business leaders today, I share a similar message: you have the ability to change your present and your future for the better. Instead of beating your head against the wall trying to find new employees with increasingly elusive skill sets, teach those same necessary skills to the great people you already have on your team.
I have long believed that learning should be a lifelong pursuit. Today more than ever, this advice is essential to survive in a market of rapidly evolving technologies and business strategies. Gone are the days when the knowledge and skills learned in college could sustain an entire career, often at a single company. Today’s graduates can expect to have multiple careers across a dozen or more employers. While a college education still serves as a solid foundation for many, the most successful people continue to update their skills throughout their careers.
I co-founded Springboard to help people do just that. And, while I have been overjoyed to see the positive impact our programs have had on the lives and careers of countless individuals committed to their own skill development, I have always believed that employers have a bigger role to play, given how much they stand to benefit from bridging the skills gap.
Recently, we asked ourselves: what if businesses could teach the missing skills to the people on their existing teams? By making continuing education a part of their business, could employers stop being subject to the fickle whims of the talent market? In other words, how could we enable employers to become talent makers, not talent takers? And what if we could do this in a way that’s cost-effective, and minimizes disruption to the business?
Companies like Amazon are already favoring this approach. Amazon recently chose Springboard as an education partner for its Career Choice Program, offering tailored programs to Amazon employees to help them transition into high-growth, in-demand careers in data analytics and software engineering. With this move, Amazon is placing greater importance on reskilling and upskilling, a strategy that will allow the company to fill future roles with existing Amazon employees instead of looking outside the company.
Launching our enterprise business has taught me a lot. Below, I’m sharing three essential pieces of a successful business-driven talent program.
- Be productive, not disruptive
Instead of pulling your employees out of the team for offsite training, they should learn as a cohort while working on real business projects in coordination with their manager. This allows every learner the support of their peers and mentors while working on projects that have actual business impact. The schedule would also be orchestrated in cooperation with group managers for minimum disruption, and, of course, a lot of real work gets done in the process.
- Demand high ROI
Business leaders demand ROI for any expenditure, and skills training should be no different. ROI can be found in two distinct areas, one more easily measured than the other. For projects completed as part of the training program (as described above), there should be measurable outcomes, perhaps in the areas of speed and quality, depending on the projects. I have personally seen 10X returns, just in this area. More difficult to measure is the value of having more talented, motivated, and dedicated individuals on your team, who not only continue to deliver dividends on future projects but also very likely relieve future hiring and retention costs as well.
- Remain on-trend
Given the dearth of high-value skills in the hiring market that are essential for so many businesses today, programs must be geared toward the specific needs and applications essential to the success of your current business. Strategic thinking and machine learning skills are topics that are particularly in demand recently. Other programs that are high-impact and in-demand include UI/UX design, digital marketing, software engineering, cybersecurity, and tech sales. Every company is different, but each should identify its own priorities to maximize both near and long-term impact.
In this unusual environment of recession and labor gap, where job requisitions may remain unfilled for many months, I see an opportunity to rethink how to fill the current skills gap.
If you’d like to learn more, make sure to read our white paper on the dynamics of the current labor market, along with specific strategies to tackle and overcome these circumstances—specifically, how to build the skills you need to succeed in the employees you already have.
If any of this sounds like it might be useful for your team, I encourage you to reach out to our team and see if there is a program that could be of immediate help to you and your organization.