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What Should Your Organization Be “Skilling” Toward?

March 13, 2021

By Michael Burns, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Skill:  noun – In the workplace it is “A particular ability that you develop through training and experience and that is useful in a job.”

Skilling: noun/verb – Alsoin the workplace is “The action of training a worker to do a particular task.”

Today, when one hears about “skilling”, as HR and OD professionals, one may be able to surmise we are talking about education. To be skilled, upskilled, or reskilled. All the latest cool terms for that old necessity of having or obtaining new knowledge or abilities.  One assumption about doing “skilling” is that we are talking about learning hard skills such as how to run a lathe machine. But this term includes learning new soft skills also.

Now, if I have not dated myself too much, let’s look at an interesting global study that was just released on the current state and direction of employer skilling. The 2020 Ronstad Risemart Global Survey asked over 1000 HR professionals and 1100 employees across eight countries and 20 industries about upskilling/reskilling to get an idea as to what education/training could be more effective and the gaps that exist between what employees have and will need.

Further, the survey asked what actions could improve how employees direct their reskilling or upskilling activities.

To the question of what could help improve employee up- or re-skilling, HR professionals responded:

  • Better skills and career assessments (57%)
  • Access to a broad range of learning opportunities. This includes courses, certification, academic degrees, and experiential learning (50%)
  • Direction (from employers) with choosing the best-fit skilling options (43%)
  • Information/insights into what skills are in demand (41%)

To the former question about where skilling is going, the answer to this question of course depends a bit upon the industry. The Ronstad Risemart survey found the most common skill needed going forward is adaptability (32% of all respondents and 39% of larger corporations), next was communication skills (31%), and then third, problem solving (23%). Why would adaptability be a high need skill? Because companies recognize the economy is in disruption and being able to adapt (particularly for large companies) is critical to survive.

Image Source – Skilling Today 2020 Ranstad Risemart Global Survey

The Rosntad Risemart survey further reported:

Soft skills learning rated as a top business need for its employees going forward.

In addition to adaptability, communication, and problem solving, HR professionals across the globe reported the following soft skills development needs for their companies: Leadership and Persuasion (20%), Collaboration (20%), Analytical Reasoning (17.5%), Business Analysis (17%), and Artificial Intelligence (16.5%). Customer Service (15%) and Creativity (15%) followed.

That is not in any way to say “hard skill skilling” is “going anywhere” as the report stated. Half of the survey’s respondents reported employees were taking IT, software, or programming courses, and 44% were taking business focused courses.

One last finding of this survey is that both employers and employees were in need of expert guidance on how to efficiently pursue the best skill-building strategy. This guidance can range from a “curated list of available resources” to skills assessments and job market data to a career coach. 43% of HR Professionals responding to this survey saw guidance with selecting the best-fit skilling options as the best way to help employees meet the skill needs of the employer.

To obtain a copy of this report go to

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