February 2020 | Point of View

Upskilling in 2020: Do new workplace technologies equate to greater productivity?

Empowered, more capable employees can produce greater output at a more efficient rate, but “upskilling” is essential to making this a reality

Upskilling in 2020: Do new workplace technologies equate to greater productivity?

The rapidly growing digital-first mindset in the workplace will eventually affect every professional in every industry across the world. Our report that surveyed 432 HR professionals and 1,000 U.S. workers found that 70% of organizations have implemented some kind of new workplace technology in the past year to increase employee capacity, efficiency, and quality of work.

Since the types of technologies range from modern communication software to more traditional hardware, no employee is immune from this changing landscape influencing their work productivity – for better or worse.

To realize the value from new workplace technologies, employees need to be trained on their benefits and “upskilled” to utilize the new technology and take on more complex tasks. Empowered, more capable employees can produce greater output at a more efficient rate, but “upskilling” is essential to making this a reality. That upskilling is critical for allowing employees to improve their current skill sets, learn new ones, and drive their engagement.

Technology investment through a human-centered lens creates more value

Fifty-five percent of surveyed organizations believe they must acquire new industry technology to remain competitive. It’s clear, then, that technology is becoming a critical factor in an organization’s employee retention strategy – and it pays to invest. Studies by the World Economic Forum and the Association for Talent Development found that the average cost of hiring a new employee is more than three times the cost of upskilling a current employee.

In order to foster an attractive digital workplace environment, 68% of organizations believe tech investments are key. Another 67% believe employee-enablement technologies are necessary to increase efficiency and improve time management. But organizations that implement new technology without considering the human experience will see their investments fall short. It could even cause employees to be less productive than before.

In such a tight talent market, employees’ desires to be utilized more efficiently and employers seeking cost-effective methods has made upskilling a critical part of the strategy to keep pace with competitors.

Upskilling only works with effective change management

One-third of surveyed workers said they were given no training on new technologies, and a similar 32% of surveyed employers believe ineffective training is a barrier to effective implementation.

Business and technology strategies are only effective if they are adopted. Because upskilling will include new practices, employees must understand why change is occurring, the benefits they stand to gain, and how they can take advantage of the opportunity in front of them. Adaptability is key to any effective change management approach, and it is critical to align on the right approach to drive 100% adoption.

Upskilling is about enabling employees to feel confident in using a new tool, strategy, or way of working, and it equally builds trust that their employer sees them as a valuable asset to the company by investing in their growth. Employees feeling confident in upskilling strategies is critical, but trusting in his or her manager’s ability to lead effectively through unfamiliar territory is imperative to gaining that buy-in.

Equip managers to lead upskilling initiatives

Upskilling shouldn’t be viewed as an uphill battle, or a C-suite problem, but rather an exciting opportunity for the entire company. Managers are in the best position to influence upskilling, but 65% of surveyed employers believe managers need their own upskilling in order to help their employees. Upskilling takes focus, time, and resources. Front-line managers will require these in order to be effective leading their teams through this journey.

A sizeable skills gap continues to persist at many companies: Of the surveyed employees who believe their current skill set will be outdated soon, 55% pointed to the need to learn new technology. Similarly, 56% of employers believe there is a moderate to severe skill gap in their organization’s workforce.

Employee data can be an effective tool in learning how to upskill, but we caution against interpreting it in a silo. The best way to drive results with data, we see, is using it alongside qualitative observations and conversations with employees while serving as a quantitative overlay to that experiential information.

Upskilling turns good employees into superstars

Upskilling has tangible benefits that include maximizing productivity and remaining at the forefront of digital transformation. It should also lead to greater employee engagement and retention. The time is now to build from within, invest in current employees, and prepare them—and your organization—for the future.

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