Talent Development

Skills - yesterday, today and in the future

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The More Than Learning podcast is back for another season and this time it’s all about Getting Stuff Done.

We explore the experiences, approaches and musings of learning and development professionals. What are they thinking about? What's hindering their work? And what's helping them meet their L&D goals?

In the first episode of the series, Andrew explores the skills gap – a recurring hot topic in HR and L&D – with four learning experts. 

Andrew asks: which skills need to be developed? Which skills are becoming redundant? And, more intriguingly, how are they preparing for these changes? Read on for a 3-minute summary. 

Podcast guests:

Listen to the episode here: 



Only L&D people talk about “reskilling” and “upskilling” 

In L&D we tend to split skills development into two categories for clarity: reskilling and upskilling.

  • Upskilling involves equipping employees with additional skills to enhance their effectiveness in their current roles. Plus, preparing them for future demands and skill requirements within their organisations.
  • Reskilling, on the other hand, is about helping an employee gain additional knowledge to perform a different role within the organisation.

Our first speaker, Arash, said that most of his work as a Learning Solutions Manager at global power supplier, Aggreko, focuses on reskilling and upskilling. But when it comes to the reality of skills development, no one uses the terms “reskilling” and “upskilling”. These terms are used exclusively by L&D people.

It’s a notable point. After all, if the wider organisation doesn’t understand what you’re saying, why would they understand what you’re trying to do? Or get on board with your skills strategy?


The skills “state of the union” is a work in progress 

When it comes to defining their companies’ skills gaps, a common thread amongst our speakers was: nobody really knows. 

Dan, Sally and Simon have ideas on which skills their organisations need but they’re still figuring it out. Talking about the skills gaps in his organisation, Simon said, “Nobody's cleanly been able to answer that question.” Although he has got a view (which we’ll get to later!). 

Much of what Dan’s focusing on at grocery technology company Ocado Group is, “Where are we now? Where do we want to go? And how do we get ready for the skills that are needed now, as well as the skills that are going to be needed in the future?” For Dan, this also involves identifying the systems, processes and environments that are conducive to skills development. Because like any programme, learning needs a way to be packaged and delivered. 

At VirginMedia, Sally is working on a three-year plan and skills mapping exercise to define specific skills needed for today and tomorrow. Sally expects this work to provide them with a “broad basket” of in-demand skills which they’ll narrow down from there. 


Technical skills are top of mind

Although most of the group is still working on their skills-gap hypotheses, they're already seeing some trends – especially in the area of technical skills.

Sally believes that her workplace will need technical knowledge and data literacy skills. Simon echoed this, saying he sees a need for specific software engineering skills and the ability to utilise emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain. Simon added that his organisation is also “putting a tonne of energy” into data skills and digital literacy. 

Sally and Simon’s experiences align with Arash at Aggreko, which is currently developing its employees’ technical skills. The energy transition has led Aggreko to upskill their technicians on battery technologies so they can install and commission a battery-powered fleet. This requirement for technical skills extends to their salespeople, who often need specific training around a product or technology so they can sell it.

The group had a few other honourable mentions including the need for customer-centricity, creativity and leadership. Tune into our next podcast episode, Leadership & Management - How Can We Do Better?, where we explore the leadership skills gap in more detail. 


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