Editor’s note: This is part one in a two-part series highlighting key findings from ‘Skilling Today: a Randstad RiseSmart Global Survey.’ Stay tuned for part two of the series and download the comprehensive report here.

As the world of work rapidly evolves, organisations and employees are increasingly embracing training and skilling opportunities to ensure employee skills align with business needs. In recent years, disruptions such as globalisation and the rise of automation have put pressure on employers to take a continuous approach to learning and skilling. According to Gartner, the number of skills required for a single job has increased 10% year-over-year since 2017 – and the global pandemic has further exacerbated employee skills gaps. The Randstad Workmonitor, December 2020 edition, found that 40% of workers globally are struggling to learn the new skills required in this new digital age.

To better understand how companies and workers approach skilling, we surveyed 1,099 HR professionals and 1,142 employees across eight countries and 20 industries during Q4 2020. The comprehensive global report, ‘Skilling Today,’ unveils key trends, gaps and opportunities related to upskilling and reskilling among those who undertook skilling in 2020.

Among a wide range of insights, the survey revealed two surprising findings: skilling opportunities are not fully inclusive, and employers believe learning and development would be more effective with strategic guidance. We’ll dive into the first finding in more detail in this piece and cover how to more effectively drive skilling efficiencies and ROI in part two of this blog series.

employers see value in skilling, but only offer it to some employees

Across all survey respondents, both HR professionals and employees agree that upskilling and reskilling add value to an organisation. Of the organisations that offered skilling, nearly all (98%) said employees either fully or partially used the skills they learned to benefit the business. Additionally, 57% of employees who participated in skilling said they completely put their new or refreshed skills to work in a meaningful way.

The survey found that while organisations see the value in reskilling and upskilling talent, with 72% making skilling opportunities continuously available for career development, 39% offered skilling and training opportunities to some, but not all, employees. Across all organisations, team leads and managers were far more likely to receive or be required to take skills training (65%), than were individual contributors and high-potential employees (44%) and leaders (42%).

While many of the survey findings were aligned globally, the survey uncovered some nuances across regions. Below, we’ve highlighted key distinctions by region related specifically to which employees receive skilling opportunities.

  • Companies in India were by far the most generous with offering skilling across the board: 77% said training was offered to everyone, far more than any other region. Additionally, unlike every other region in our survey, Indian companies skill their leadership equally with their managers and team leads. 
  • Here in Australia, while team leads and managers were the most likely to receive training and skilling opportunities, Australian companies were the most likely (57%) to offer training to high-potential employees. 
  • Among North American respondents, 73% said managers and team leads receive training
     – a rate significantly higher than any other region. North American companies are also the second least likely to train individual contributors, with only 39% receiving training.
  • In contrast to North American employers, individual contributors at employers in Europe and the United Kingdom were the most likely employees (51%) to receive skilling opportunities. Leadership was the least likely (33%) to receive such opportunities. 

the business case for democratised skilling

Organisations that don’t encourage or require all employees to participate in skilling initiatives are missing an opportunity. If all employees are offered equal access to skilling opportunities, this can drive increased engagement and retention, which will reduce long-term recruitment and onboarding costs. In fact, the Randstad Sourceright 2021 Talent Trends report found that 87% of human capital and C-suite leaders believe reskilling their employees will help drive retention.  

Organisations with fully inclusive skilling opportunities can discover untapped skills and develop future leaders who might have otherwise been overlooked for growth opportunities. Businesses that prioritise democratised skilling will also benefit from developing an inclusive and agile workforce with a growth mindset. And as business needs rapidly shift, any effort to support workforce agility is critical: According to the 2021 Talent Trends report cited above, 77% of human capital and C-suite leaders say that their talent strategies are now more focused on workforce agility than ever before.

Creating a sustainable workforce requires helping your employees continuously develop their careers and skills, as well as move into new roles and opportunities within your organisation. As your organisation’s priorities evolve, you can support business agility and the long-term employability of your workforce by encouraging all team members to not only participate in formal skilling courses, but also take on new roles, projects, stretch assignments and internal gig work.

organisations are split about offering skilling to employees impacted by layoffs

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, most respondents (56%) said their companies hadn't conducted layoffs during the previous year. Of the employers who underwent a workforce reduction, 50% offered skilling to employees in outplacement. While respondents were split on this result, of the employers that provided skilling to displaced workers in 2020, 85% said they believe it helped impacted employees find new work.

The report also uncovered some regional differences with how organisations approach skilling during outplacement.

  • Employers in India were the most likely (53%) to offer skilling to employees transitioning out of the organisation. Indian companies were also the most optimistic about the benefits of offering impacted employees upskilling and reskilling opportunities – 98% were confident it helped transitioning employees find new roles.
  • Of North American employers that have restructured their workforce in the past 12 months, 41% offered skilling opportunities to impacted employees, making North America the region second least likely to offer skilling as part of outplacement. North American companies were also the most skeptical about the benefits of including skilling opportunities in outplacement packages – while 73% said they believed it helped former employees with their career prospects, this was the lowest level across regions.
  • Companies in Europe were the least likely (15%) to offer departing employees reskilling and upskilling options.

why skilling for all should include impacted employees

When employees are let go, their exit is an important last step of the overall employment experience with an organisation. While employers put in extra effort to create an engaging experience throughout hiring, onboarding and an employee’s tenure with the company, some fall short when it comes to supporting a positive exit experience. When business needs shift and difficult decisions must be made, this attention to the employee experience should continue as team members transition outside the organisation. Doing so can offer significant business benefits.

Investing in skilling as part of outplacement might seem counterintuitive, as organisations facing restructuring are looking to reduce costs. But the way employees are treated as they leave your organisation can also have a significant impact on both your employer and consumer brand. The global pandemic has led to an increased focus on corporate responsibility, with more organisations giving back to their communities and identifying new ways to create sustainable, future-proof workforces. By continuing to invest in employees and helping them grow their skills, even after making the difficult decision to let them go, you can increase the likelihood of these individuals landing their next role sooner and support their long-term employability. Not only will this help contribute to the broader economic recovery, but organisations that lend extra support to their impacted employees during these challenging times will be seen as employers of choice in the future and be perceived positively by both current and prospective customers – helping drive positive business results in the long run.

related content: why helping exiting employees reskill and upskill is to your advantage.

Findings related to democratised skilling and offering reskilling and upskilling during outplacement are just a few of the many insights unveiled in ‘Skilling Today.’ In the second part of this blog series, we’ll cover how a strategic skilling roadmap using a combination of technology and guidance from career experts can increase the effectiveness of learning and development opportunities.

Download the comprehensive report or view our infographic to learn more about the findings highlighted here, as well as: 

  • why employers invest in skilling
  • the ROI of skilling for both companies and employees
  • how and when skilling happens
  • the impact company size and industry have on skilling
  • top in-demand skills for today and tomorrow
  • what organisations can do to make skilling more effective


Submitted by:

Beth Kempton

published: 11 March 2021

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