For its part-time and full-time employees who attend select schools and who are based in the United States, retail giant Target recently announced that it will begin paying their college tuition and textbook expenses. The company is partnering with education and upskilling platform Guild Education to provide “debt-free degrees” from more than forty schools, colleges, and universities. “Target employs team members at every life stage and helps our team learn, develop, and build their skills, whether they’re with us for a year or a career. We don’t want the cost to be a barrier for anyone, and that’s where Target can step in to make education accessible for everyone,” noted Melissa Kremer, target’s chief human resources officer.
Such an example demonstrates the importance of learning and education today, and the emphasis organizations are placing on building and shaping the skills of their workforce for today and tomorrow, to meet the demands of the current environment.
COVID-19 has provided business leaders with an opportunity to rethink skills training and reform training systems. The pandemic has also highlighted the need for organizations to invest in digital transformation strategies, and adopt an employee-centric approach; one that is cognizant of their needs and preferences. Posing the question: How can a company best empower each individual, employers are working to accommodate employees in a workplace that is in flux, whether that be offering remote and hybrid working arrangements, embracing a culture of empathy, or expanding their benefit offerings.
Something that employees do find to be empowering and something that many desire? More opportunities for growth and learning, and equipping them with new skills are essential in order for them to remain relevant and thrive in this new world of work. In a survey from the software company UiPath, 86% of respondents said they wish their employer offered opportunities to acquire new skills (reskilling), while 83% said they wish their employer gave them more opportunities to enhance their current skillset (upskilling). Without such opportunities, employees fear becoming obsolete, with 25% concerned about losing their jobs due to automation. Additionally, research  from the World Economic Forum found that, by 2030, upskilling can lead to the net creation of 5.3 million new jobs.
Based on years of assisting organizations with their digital transformation of reskilling and upskilling strategies and working with remote and distributed teams, Rallyware has developed some insights and best practices for success.
For A Data-Driven Experience, Take An Equally Data-Driven Approach
This is where it becomes necessary to undergo a digital transformation of employee training and engagement  initiatives; one that is data-driven and harnesses the power of technology and people analytics. It is crucial to harness people analytics  to grasp a clear picture of your current workforce and better connect with them; what are their goals and aspirations, what motivates them, and what skills they will need for the future of work, and connect this data with the skill gaps that you are seeing emerge. This step will be critical for any growing organization that wants to be the market leader with the best talent.
What is driving your employees’ performance? Do they prefer working in solitude, or do they thrive in a competitive team environment? What skills might they need in the near or long-term future? Who are the best candidates to be reskilled or upskilled? People analytics allows companies to gain these and other valuable insights, and quickly identify gaps or potential weaknesses in their internal talent pool, and enable them to plug these gaps early on. By analyzing workforce data to understand the current state of a workforce, organizations can plan for the future. Then, a personalized and automatically tailored learning experience can be delivered to each employee, aligned with the company goals and KPIs.
Reskill And Upskill According To Employees’ Current Needs
Think about it: What if employees were provided with training and learning at the precise moment of need ? Just as individuals today are provided with personalized shopping recommendations and recommended shows to watch on streaming platforms, what if this could also be applied to their learning? Performance-based training can identify baseline skills, monitor productivity, and assess employee knowledge retention over time, introducing new learning when it is relevant to employees.
As he begins his journey within a company, for instance, Kevin’s goal is to become an account manager. He completes the initial training and onboarding process and then spends several months successfully managing numerous accounts while gaining skills in customer and client service. He is then provided with the next steps in his career journey, that is, taking sole ownership and responsibility of accounts, and actively seeking new sales opportunities. Knowing where Kevin is in his journey and providing the necessary next steps to get there provides a highly personalized experience. As he gains additional responsibilities, perhaps Kevin will then be provided with opportunities for reskilling, such as learning new automation tools and CRM software in order to organically grow into an account manager position.
Focus On Learning That Drives Performance
What about learning that is not solely focused on skill development in order to complete one’s job, but learning as a tool for performance improvement, learning that actually drives performance? Now, that’s a powerful combo.
This is where harnessing an analytical and data-driven approach is also beneficial; one that connects company-specific goals with workforce performance data. This way, individuals are not only provided with customized learning journeys that empower them to reach their full potential but allow them to also contribute to their company’s overall KPIs.
How can we ensure that employees take the right course of action, that they act on and apply the skills they have learned? Sometimes, employees need that little boost of encouragement via just-in-time triggers.
A recent analysis found that smart notifications  drive sales productivity, as users of performance enablement platforms received smart personalized notifications encouraging them to complete various tasks. Having these reminders was found to have significantly impacted user behaviors as the percentage of completed tasks among users who received but did not open notifications was 0.1%, yet, for those who viewed more than one notification, this indicator increased to 29.4%. Being provided with such prompts allow users to gain the necessary knowledge for their success at just the right time.
For instance, Kevin has a business degree and already possesses a strong knowledge of his company and customer base. One area in which he is lacking experience and expertise is leadership; skills that are essential for him in his eventual transition to a more managerial role. Using performance data, performance enablement platforms will analyze who needs training, and when. Kevin might be provided with opportunities to develop leadership skills. Smart notification triggers might remind Kevin to mentor a junior team member or organize a presentation on his recent success stories. Continuous reinforcement of this learning is also key to ensuring that Kevin applies these skills in his everyday life.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for companies to invest in reskilling and upskilling initiatives for their employees, and, as the lifeblood of any business, putting employees at its heart is critical. It is time for businesses to take an employee-centric approach, nurturing their talent to build a deeply skilled workforce that is well-prepared for the future of work and can rise to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.
 Upskilling for Shared Prosperity
 Digital Transformation of Employee Training and Engagement
 Which People Metrics Matter Most to Modern Enterprise and Why?
 How Emotional Analytics Helped Companies to Empower their Distributed Workforces During the Pandemic
 The Power of People Analytics: Rallyware Report Highlights Benefits of Smart Incentives and Recognition