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Future-Proof Your Workforce with Upskilling

U.S. President Abraham Lincoln once famously said, "If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I would spend the first six of them sharpening my axe." Almost 200 years later, there has never been a more apt phrase to describe the need for individuals to continually sharpen their skills, especially considering today’s rapidly transforming digital economy. 

IBM estimates that up to 120 million workers in the world’s 12 biggest economies may need to be retrained or reskilled due to the rise of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and automation. This is not surprising, as 76% of global workers say they are not prepared to implement the technologies of the future.1   For companies looking to empower innovation, improve retention and meet evolving business demands, those are issues that upskilling and reskilling can help address.

Here's how to future-proof your team with skills needed to meet the digital age.

Balance hard and soft skills

From radiologists using technology to read and analyze MRI scans to welders controlling robots and repairing pipes, there’s no doubt that tech skills are in-demand. But C-suite leaders fall short if they put all their eggs in the tech basket while ignoring vital soft skills such as communication, critical thinking and creativity. Companies today find that making the right investments in soft skills training can deliver an incredible 256% Return on Learning (RoL).2

One of the nation’s largest financial institutions, Bank of America, recently launched a virtual reality soft skills training pilot program for 50,000 employees in nearly 4,300 financial centers across North America. There workers practice routine and complex tasks and engage in client interactions that they are likely to encounter daily. Through this training, branch managers identify skill gaps and provide personalized feedback to team members, improving their individual performance and collaboration skills.3     According to John Jordan, Head of the Academy at Bank of America, the training is “helping teammates build and retain new skills and it’s one of many ways the company is using technology to provide best-in-class learning opportunities.”

Assess talent for future-fit

How can a company know where to start with training when it doesn’t know where its employee competencies are or are uncertain about what technology will be needed in the next five years. That’s where skills-mapping comes in to help organizations determine where skills gaps exist and identify potential solutions including the creation of new roles or training that focuses on specific areas of need.4

That exercise, aligned with today’s acute talent shortage, will lead most companies to reimagine a blend of outsourcing, permanent, remote and hybrid roles that fit today’s reality. According to Allison Kerska, Vice President - Global Client Consulting at Talent Solutions, leaders will also need to examine other factors from budgets to regulatory constraints and geography to determine how best to fill these skills gaps most efficiently and productively. For example, outsourcing may be the ideal way to temporarily fill gaps in a department but may eventually increase attrition among employees looking for growth opportunities.5

Offer continuous and flexible learning

With over 4 million workers quitting each month, employers are looking for solutions to stem the tide. In fact, 58 percent of workers say they are likely to leave their company without professional development—or continuing education and career training to help develop new skills and drive career advancement. This especially holds true for women, people of color and millennials.6

Global consumer products company Coca Cola has taken this to heart by setting up a digital academy to upskill employees including managers and team leaders. From go-and-see visits to immersive boot camps and e-learning modules, Coca Cola’s skills training impacts over 4,000 employees to help them build core digital, analytics and soft skills.

According to Gigly Philip, Transformation Director with The Coca Cola Company, reskilling “contributes to the learning culture we’re trying to build in the organization which can pay dividends on the employee front. And reskilling also makes financial sense because it’s obviously cheaper to reskill current employees than to hire new ones.”7

Providing flexible on-demand training is also essential to adapt to today’s remote and hybrid work environment. One-size-fits-all learning approaches are outdated and limited in their potential positive impact. Companies should customize a structure that works around their employee’s schedules, location and specific learning styles.

Rethink Your KPIs

If company training programs need a makeover, then it’s clear that leaders also need to look at news ways to measure performance that better reflect the transformative shifts in today’s workforce. Almost 62% of leaders today say there’s a need to revisit traditional productivity and achievement metrics.8 Instead of focusing only on whether employees are retaining skills and using them to improve the bottom line, employers need to understand how training aligns with career progression, employee satisfaction and rate of internal hires.

Learn more about how ManpowerGroup Talent Solutions can help organizations prepare employees for next generation roles. Read The Future of Work III: How Work is Done.



1. Workers are grappling with a major tech skills gap, Fortune, January 2022

2. The Skills To Pay Bills: Returns to On-the-Job Soft Skills Training, NBER, February 2018

3. Bank of America turns to VR for Soft Skills Training, VRScout, October 2021

4. What is Skills Mapping, HR Advisor, August 2019

5. Future of Work Series: Reimagining Workforce and Workplace Mechanics, How Will the Work Be Done?,  Everest Group, 2022

6. New Research Offers Insights into How Professional Development Affects Employee Retention, BenefitsPro, July 2022

7. Coca Cola: The People-first Story of a Digital Transformation, McKinsey, July 2022

8. Future of Work Survey, Everest Group, 2021