I came across an article from HBR recently that got me thinking about the opportunity that may currently exist for service organizations to put a major dent in the much-discussed talent gap. We talk a lot about the seismic shift that’s happening within businesses to become more service-centric, and what that shift means in terms of the skills required from frontline workers. We’ve also discussed at length the challenge companies are faced with in recruiting and hiring talent.

The article from HBR about reskilling points out that “the past few months have seen a rapid acceleration of three major forces: deglobalization, digitization, and corporate consolidation.” The article discusses the uniqueness of our current situation as not only an opportunity, but an imperative. The article states, “This is a unique scenario — millions unemployed on the one hand, and rapidly evolving and growing skills needs on the other. There is an opportunity for the former to solve the latter’s problem. With it, comes an urgency for companies, governments, and workers’ organizations to join forces and offer the global workforce clear reskilling pathways. In 2019, the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work stated, ‘Today’s skills will not match the jobs of tomorrow, and newly acquired skills may quickly become obsolete.’ The commission strongly recommended that governments, employers, and workers invest in education and training. Today, we believe this need is no longer just a recommendation, but a necessary step to economic recovery.”

Perhaps this necessary step to economic recovery is also the service industry’s answer, at least in part, to the major talent problem? It will require companies to think outside of the box and become more creative and flexible in both their hiring and training processes. But if we’re being honest, companies need to evolve in these ways regardless. The HBR article gives a couple of examples of companies that are investing heavily in reskilling. One example, Orange – the French telecommunications company, stood out to me as being particularly relevant to our audience.

Orange Embraces the Opportunity of Skills Development

Orange recently published a press release about its commitment to this endeavor, sharing that it will invest over €1.5 billion. The press release states, “Major technological disruptions and their effects on the world of work require us to continuously adapt. With 148,000 employees, Orange is directly affected by these changes. This is especially true given that by 2025 the Group will look nothing like it does now. It will be more international, more focused on B2B and younger, while remaining multi-generational and at the forefront of new technologies. To support these evolutions and meet its ambitions, Orange has decided to make the ‘skills challenge’ a central component of its new ‘Engage 2025’ strategic plan.”

Orange highlights three main priorities of its plan: to strengthen its “tech” expertise over the next five years; to develop in all business lines the use and understanding of data, AI, and cybersecurity – in particular with marketing and network management teams; and to offer every employee the opportunity to develop soft skills with the goal of training 100% of employees in these key skills by 2025.

Considerations for Realistic Reskilling

Whether you look to reskill from the inside, like Orange is doing, or from the outside-in, you need to consider setting realistic expectations for your reskilling initiative. A few important points that come to my mind when I think about how companies struggling to hire talent could incorporate reskilling are:

  • Define what skills, not experience, you need to hire. All too often companies seek to hire based on experience alone and that experience is getting harder and harder to come by. To be able to view the idea of reskilling as an opportunity for augmenting your workforce, you need to think about what you should look for outside of what you may be used to looking for (experience)
  • Another way to do this is to separate out what aspects of the jobs you’re looking to hire for are trainable. Yes, that training may take more effort that you’re accustomed to putting in – and that leads to another conversation around how to effectively reskill – but if you can teach good talent how to do some aspects of the job, it is well worth doing so
  • With the skills necessary for today’s increasingly demanding definition of service rapidly evolving, use this as an opportunity to examine what skills gaps you have and how you may use reskilling to fill them. We know that the field technicians of today need to be more polished and have better soft skills, oftentimes be an active participant is consultative selling, need to be more tech-savvy, could benefit from better understanding customer centricity, and so on. Think about what roles you may be able to reskill in that would, with training, nicely compliment the more traditional skill sets your workforce has
  • Be realistic about what reskilling will entail – you need to consider how you’ll bring potential talent in from roles/industries/backgrounds that you may not have been pulling from historically, the time it will take to effectively reskill for the roles you’re looking to fill, how you can use some of your more experienced workers to assist in this process, and much more

I’m not saying this is a magic solution to the talent problem, but I do think it is a piece of the puzzle that is well worth some serious exploration.

Sarah Nicastro
Author

Field Service Evangelist, Future of Field Service