Training Employees for Jobs that Don’t Exist — Yet

The marketplace continues to change, and SMBs must be ready to evolve. How do you upskill workers for jobs that don’t exist yet? Find out here.

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Today’s applicants and employees may be skilled or in need of upskilling, but tomorrow’s certainly will need training. When it comes to technology, continuous learning is needed to keep pace with constant changes and advancements.

The phenomenon of Accelerating Change — each tech improvement creating the next, stronger improvement at a faster rate — is making it difficult to stay current. It’s almost impossible to anticipate what will come next, but your business and employees will need to be ready.

Change isn’t just happening in the digital world. Just 3 years ago if anyone asked small retailers if they were ready for curbside pickup, they would have asked ‘what’s that?’

The marketplace continues to change, and SMBs must be ready to evolve. That will mean making sure talent is evolving to keep competitive.

How do you train for jobs that don’t yet exist? It may rely on hiring and growing talent to be ready for whatever comes their way.

Keeping up with technology and digital workplace skills

In a recent survey, Salesforce found that 56% of hiring managers anticipate tech innovations, like AI and automation, will cause a major shift in the skills they will need from employees.

With more than 20,000 respondents, they found 73% of workers don’t feel equipped to learn digital skills in use today: 76% don’t believe they have the necessary skills for the future.

You may think digital-native and digital-dependent workers have an advantage. These employees grew up with tech.

Yet almost 2/3 of Gen Z workers say they have advanced social media skills, but fewer than half believe they have the advanced digital workplace skills necessary today.

The good news is many Gen Z workers are being proactive — more than 1/3 are actively learning and training for skills they believe will be necessary over the next 5 years.

As you recruit, these are the potential new hires to target. Talk to candidates about independent learning. Are they upskilling on their own, and in what areas?

The ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years’ interview question has evolved. The follow-up is ‘and what are you doing to make that happen?’

When you find candidates participating in self-directed learning, hire them before someone else does.

Keeping pace with non-tech changes and outsourcing

Remote work may be digitally-dependent, but the changes it required had a wider reach. How to manage and monitor time and productivity brought management unplanned headaches.

Team leaders and businesses had to make an immediate shift in how they managed to accommodate the remote model. For many, the change to hybrid or return to on-site work continues to pose challenges.

Other changes, including adapting to shortages of talent and skills, put pressure on business and management. The workplace may be shifting to a leaner model.

In the same way manufacturing shifted to a Just-in-Time model in the 1970s and 80s, today’s business may be changing to minimize waste, overlap and repetition. This can include outsourcing, digitizing, or changing the way to produce, distribute and provide goods and services.

Staff members who readily adapt to these changes should be your priority for upskilling. Employees who adjust easily when change is forced upon them adapt enthusiastically for change that’s imminent.

Business relies on talent to stay relevant and competitive

No matter what business you’re in today or where you’ll be in the future, your organization will rely on people to make it work.

Even the tech giants can’t do business without talent. Finding qualified workers is difficult today: having talent that’s ready for whatever business throws its way will be challenging, but not impossible.

To keep your company relevant and competitive, a top-down approach will be needed.

To keep your company relevant and competitive, a top-down approach will be needed. You won’t want to rely on the marketplace for skilled workers, today’s applicant pool has taught that lesson. You’ll need to rely on internal planning and flexibility to assure you have the skilled workers the future will require.

What’s your biggest 2022 HR challenge that you’d like to resolve

Answer to see the results

Start with a continuous training and learning mindset

Training should be strongly encouraged if not required of all staff members. More than just making sure staff are fluent in upgrades and updates, keep training a priority.

Build on the knowledge they have and keep staff advancing on a continuous learning pathway. The more skills and capabilities they have, the more valuable they are to the organization. The more they learn, the better they address the needs of tomorrow’s workplace.

As new tech becomes mainstream, like AI, look for staff members to train. There may be new applications of an existing technology for many areas of your company.

How are marketing teams using big data? Where is automation streamlining processes?

You may not use the technology today, but training yourself and staff on how it works, and how it can work for you, may open doors for the future.

SMBs are leveraging the data artificial intelligence offers

Many SMBs are beginning to leverage the data AI offers. Your employee’s personnel records are a wealth of information, if you had the time to analyze them. With AI, the work that would take months manually can be accomplished in minutes.

Which staff member is ripe for promotion? Which have stagnated too long in the same position, putting them at risk for resignation? Where is turnover too high: where is engagement strong? Utilize employee engagement surveys and other tech to help you determine the answers to these questions.

All these data points allow business to make meaningful changes and adjustments. Unless there’s someone on your HR team to analyze the data, you may be missing out on opportunities that benefit your workers and your company. Suggest upskilling someone on the team to utilize this invaluable data.

When new tech emerges for any aspect of your business, seek ways and opportunities to train staff on its use.

Whether you purchase the tech today, or wait for the future, having an employee ready helps you hit the ground running. Keep an eye on trade journals, association newsletters, and other outlets to see what’s new and upcoming in your industry.

When new tech emerges for any aspect of your business, seek ways and opportunities to train staff on its use.

A best practice may be to let others test the waters first: see if the latest thing is worth exploring. As you watch it working for the big players (like curbside pickup), adopt it for your own use.

From the smallest adaptation to the largest change in equipment or technology, the investment may keep you competitive (or ahead of the competition) in the near- and long-term.

Mandatory vs voluntary training and upskilling

Some training and upskilling will be mandatory. New systems and procedures are not optional. For these, look for the best type of training for every learner in your organization.

Training can be done in-house, in groups, or 1-on-1. For other upskilling, outsourcing might be the right choice.

Gamified learning can be a fun way to engage staff members in upskilling. They play games or participate in challenges, learning along the way.

However it’s offered, mandatory training should be more than classes employees need to attend. There must be an assessment at the end of the coursework. You’ll want to measure that learning took place; it was done efficiently; and that it is retained.

For voluntary training, encourages staffers to grow their skills in and outside their field. Look for volunteers to train outside their comfort zone.

Your accounting team may not consider learning about marketing, but a wider knowledge of how the company works could be beneficial. Cross-training gives them a bigger picture of the organization and how everyone works together to meet goals and challenges.

Which employees should you target for upskilling?

Target specific employees for upskilling. Look for employees with potential and encourage them to participate in classes, mentorship programs, or job shadowing. These are the workers who caught on quickly; work well with others; or have the detail-orientation that makes them stand out.

Look for tenured, dependable employees for upskilling. These are the reliable workers you may take for granted.

They may be stagnating in their position, ready for a new challenge. They may be content where they are, but a wider perspective of the company or the work could help them do their work better or more efficiently.

Look for employees you’ve made a significant investment in for training and development. These may be new staffers that, based on market conditions, cost more to recruit and hire.

You’ll want to assure a return on that investment. Upskilling them may lengthen their tenure and loyalty.

Which systems, technology, and processes should you train for?

Keep an eye on your industry, tech, and other resources for opportunities to upskill. When it comes to specific training, don’t be exacting.

The training you think may be a perfect match for an employee or group may be redundant. The learning you think may have no application at all to your company could open doors to innovation and growth.

Keep an open mind and an ear to the ground. Look for systems, tech, and processes others are using advantageously, then jump on the bandwagon. It may be learning for learning’s sake, or it may be a bonus to the bottom line.

The good news is employees are anxious to grow their skill sets today, which will translate into faster adaptation to the jobs of tomorrow.

Zenefits reported that 94% of employees would stay with their organization longer if it invested in their learning and development. That translates to an eagerness to learn, and the potential they’ll be there for the jobs of the future.

Prioritizing learning readies staff for the jobs of the future. We may not know what’s on the horizon, but if your team is ready to learn, they’ll be prepared for whatever comes their way.

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