Three key challenges in building a digital reskilling ecosystem

• 5 min read

Digital reskilling is a succinct way of saying: Teaching people to use the right technology in the workplace. Learning & development (L&D) departments are the natural leaders in this space, but face several interesting challenges when it comes to digital reskilling.

A recent webinar roundtable by Automotive I/O (Powered by MotorK) unpacks these challenges, along with why digital reskilling is important in the first place. Speakers Andrea Tucker (Learning & Performance Strategist, Docebo) and Alessandro Braga (Chief Digital Officer, Talent Garden) touch on three interrelated issues:

  • Adoption of L&D priority from leadership
  • The disruptive nature of today’s technology itself (especially artificial intelligence ) in the digital age
  • And general shifts in workplace and learning culture

You can watch the full recording, but for a five-minute recap, read on!

Why digital reskilling needs to be a priority

In a nutshell: Thanks to digital transformation, times have changed. Technology continues to expand and integrate with all facets of society. The economy increasingly relies on digital systems to function. Therefore, the demand for digitally skilled individuals will remain high, and continue to increase.

Hiring and talent challenges currently plague over half of surveyed CEOs, and a large amount of full-time workers are “concerned about missing out on development opportunities.”

And in 2019—before the pandemic, and even before the big shakeup in career mentality happened—86% of professionals said they’d switch employers if offered more opportunities for professional development.

The gap here is glaringly obvious to anyone in L&D—create a strong career development practice, focusing on digital upskilling or reskilling, and you can address both employee retention and acquisition of sorely needed talent.

So why is this difficult to execute?

Digital reskilling challenge #1: Leadership alignment

Frustratingly, L&D is often fairly low on the short-term priority list. Slow-to-adjust organizations are still grappling with hybrid work initiatives , boosting short-term wins, lowering costs, etc.

A strong L&D program, a culture of learning, and a strategy for digital reskilling—all these things tend to find themselves in the “cost center” bucket for business leaders  focused on the short term.

Capturing leadership commitment and support is a critical step in getting a digital reskilling program up and running. Some approaches to achieving this may include:

  • Recasting L&D as a potential revenue center instead of cost center, using data-backed analysis and research (especially around the costs of hiring and value of retention)
  • Meaningfully connecting the overall business objectives to L&D outputs—helping decision makers see a path to L&D ROI
  • Pushing for tolerance of taking data-backed risks
  • Cultivating a culture of learning and feedback
  • Creating and pitching an action plan—e.g. Identify which internal jobs are declining in relevance, and build reskilling strategies for those resources towards new roles or existing roles that are increasing in relevance

One’s ability to do any of these will depend on an organization’s structure, internal politics, and exposure to technology.

Digital reskilling challenge #2: Technology itself

If digital reskilling is “teaching people to use the right technology in the workplace,” what is the “right” tech in the first place?

If an organization still struggles with infrastructure from the 2000s, leaping ahead to modern systems may cause confusion and chaos. 

Also, tech evolves at a breakneck pace. It seems like every month  new technologies emerge (and with them, the need to develop new competencies and new skill sets, creating fresh skills gaps). 2023 will mark the year that AI entered the mainstream conversation, led by enormous advances made available to the public via tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney.

Technology is a double-edged sword. Fortunately, for all the disruption it can bring, it also brings a host of solutions.

For digital reskilling needs, L&D professionals can leverage the power of modern technology. All-in-one solutions focused on learning can cover a variety of needs like onboarding new employees, upskilling, reskilling, career pathing, performance support, change management, and more. All while integrating into an organization’s existing tech stack to create a coherent experience for learners. AI tools can be used to further refine and optimize the process by providing hyper-personalization, freeing up admin time via automation to allow L&D teams to focus on what really matters.

Finding the balance between technology’s disruptiveness and usefulness is a critical skill. L&D professionals seeking to implement a strong culture of continuous learning should carefully assess their organization’s general ‘tech maturity,’ and map out the gaps between the current and desired state of affairs. Some businesses may be ready to flip the switch in a week. Others may need time to clean up databases, set aside a budget for an LMS tool, and tread more carefully.

In all these considerations, urgency should always be a factor. There are enough studies, findings, data, and anecdotes out there to reinforce what should already be obvious: Modernize your organization ASAP—or become irrelevant in short order.

Digital reskilling challenge #3: Culture shifts

As our global technology ecosystem rapidly evolves, so too does the mindset of the modern employee.

Hybrid and remote work are one factor. Demand for skills development and career growth  is another. Gig working, freelancing, and short-employment hops are now  the norm as incoming generations place more value on career flexibility, employee engagement and experiences, variety, and agility.

Digital reskilling programs need to take all this into account:

  • How can you deliver it remotely (how much of it can or should be in-person?)
  • Will you or should you build career pathing with a mindset that an employee might leave and come back several times?
  • Will you offer digital reskilling to contract workers?

With all these complex moving parts, it’s little wonder that risk and change-adverse decision makers may resist prioritizing a digital reskilling program. There’s a famous quote by Henry Ford that captures this perfectly: “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.” The overarching challenge for L&D leaders is to create a tight strategy and approach that highlights a path amid all the chaos to help organizations prepare for the future of work. (Because, in case you hadn’t noticed…the future is here.) Start with the core business objectives, gather supporting data, be prepared to talk ROI, and start experimenting.

The biggest mistake you can make is doing nothing at all. 

Want to learn more?

If you want to dive deeper into these topics and get more insights on how to build training programs that teach employees the “right skills” (more specifically, the right technical skills) for today’s digital world, you can watch the full recording of the 30-minute webinar, How to build a digital reskilling ecosystem, on demand.