Upskilling: How You Can Replicate What Large-Orgs Are Doing

By Clark Barber

March 25, 2022
5 min read

I’m confident that when you picture your team, there are certain individuals that if they left your organization tomorrow would pose a risk to your business

Your teams and customers are expecting seamless digital experiences. In their minds, if working with or for you isn’t as easy as picking the Netflix show, they watched last night, or ordering that shirt off Amazon, last night that arrived this morning, the experience isn’t meeting their basic expectations. The last couple of years have only amplified these expectations. It’s unlikely you haven’t had internal discussions about how your department must evolve to support your clients’ new set of needs. For most companies, the answer is undoubtedly accelerating digitalization efforts agreed upon before the pandemic, and perhaps new ones that have arisen. Aside from making the right technology choices, the question your peers are asking is, “How do I ensure my team has the skills to keep pace?”

Today, digital skills gaps are often tied to in-demand technical skills like an understanding of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), cloud computing, cybersecurity or project management. In fact, according to an HBR article nearly two-thirds of mid-market leaders say a digital skills gap in their workforce is holding them back from even more aggressive pursuits. However, the skills gaps most likely also include interpersonal or soft skills like communication, cross-functional collaboration, organization and change management, and with 51% of the same mid-market leaders saying they’re challenged by employee communications, engagement and productivity, it feels like interpersonal skills are just as important, if not more important, than the technical skills.

Couple that with everything else you’re up against:

  • As IBM states, the half-life of skills continues to shrink, while the time it takes to close a skills gap has ballooned;

  • Workforce generations are shifting. By 2029 millennials will outnumber all other age groups in the labor force and Gen Zers are beginning to enter the workforce and bringing with them very different perspectives on what they want from their careers;

  • High potentials are leaving at accelerated rates—you’ve likely read about the great resignation; and

  • Since COVID, the move to a hybrid workforce model has magnified the talent shortage mid-market companies were already feeling pre-pandemic.

So, if that’s what you’re up against, what do you do?

What Some of the Largest Organizations are Doing

Most organizations will have some type of high potential development program or provide folks with self-paced learning like a LinkedIn Learning or Skillsoft. This traditional development approach fails to solve what we’re trying to solve for – adequately and quickly prepare employees for elevated and evolving roles and retain critical talent. In a recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) article they cited a CEB study which said, 40% of individuals identified as high potentials failed to perform when elevated into a new position.1

The best organizations are designing a curated learning experience incorporating multiple learning channels and opportunities. As a result, some large organizations have even gone as far as to create inhouse leadership development programs like Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) LeAD program. To be selected, business unit leaders nominate team members, agreeing they could run the business unit in the near future. Selection is prestigious versus guaranteed. This program lasts nine months, during which participants are supported by executive sponsors and coaches from outside J&J. And after the nine months, participants are provided with a multi-year individual development plan. Most importantly, J&J created more-prepared talent and retained future leaders with more than half of the LeAD participants moving on to bigger positions within the company in just three years.1

That’s fantastic if you have the resources of a J&J. A lot of your peers don’t. This is where DeVry can help you replicate the success of what some larger organizations are doing.

How We Can Help You Replicate

Your peers are collaborating with DeVryWorks to replicate the benefits some larger organizations are seeing from curated learning experiences. First, we’ll have a dialogue around specific digital and interpersonal skills gaps and understanding which individuals or levels within your department need the most immediate attention. From there, we can offer your critical talent learning pathways where they’ll be joined by employees from other organizations with similar upskilling and reskilling needs.

These cohorts are designed to be:

Specific to identified skills gaps
Flexible to individuals who have busy schedules
Inclusive of multiple organizations offering a shared learning experience
A driver to help elevate underrepresented talent
A potential retention, talent attraction, engagement, and productivity tool

An Opportunity to Have a Career Conversation

Your peers who are taking advantage of these programs, have shared that they’re already seeing benefits from the programs when they’re announcing this unique development opportunity with DeVry. What’s fantastic is many are using this investment as an opportunity to have career conversations with their teams, especially we approach year-end/new year reflection and career risk triggers. If you’re not having these types of career conversations with your team members frequently, what will they say when they get their next email from a recruiter? Take this as an opportunity to be a driver of the conversation and avoid the unexpected loss of a team member who, if they were to leave the organization, would pose a risk to the business.

If you’d like to get some of your high potentials into our next program session, I encourage you to reach out to me directly.

About Clark Barber

Vice President, DeVryWorks

As organizations accelerate digitalization efforts, employees across every function and level must evolve. Clark Barber works alongside his team to help organizations align the right talent with relevant learning pathways to reskill for the future of work. He partners closely with admissions, student services, and academics to ensure the employee experience and learning pathways meet client expectations.

Related Content

1 Harvard Business Review, The New Rules of Managing Talent