IN THE TRENCHES: Why Companies Are Failing at Reskilling

In a tight labor market, employers from Amazon to JPMorgan are trying to get better at retraining the workers they have. ‘We need a Waze for your career,’ says one labor expert.

Excerpted and RePosted from the Wall Street Journal
By Lauren Weber. April 19, 2019

While executives bemoan the cost of hiring in a tight labor market to meet fast-changing business needs, there is a ready pool of talent they wouldn’t need to spend a dime recruiting: their own workers.

Walmart is using virtual-reality training to prepare workers to better interact with customers. Here, employee Andrew Weyand tries out the VR goggles during a training session at a Walmart store in Natrona Heights, Pa., on a recent day. PHOTO: ROSS MANTLE FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Thousands of companies across the country are in the thick of a digital revolution that requires them to transform their operations. They need an employee base that’s ready to do new kinds of work, filling roles that are just emerging and adapting existing jobs to integrate more data and automation.

If only they knew how to reskill them. 

Instead of teaching new skills to their current workers, employers often choose the disruption and high costs of layoffs or buyouts. Why? Sometimes the required skills aren’t easily taught to existing employees, experts say. It’s also often because companies have only a hazy sense of what their internal talent is capable of, and migrating large numbers of employees into new positions requires time, money and commitment. 

Employers are still trying to master the challenge of mapping the skills of their current workers, identifying the skills required of their future workforce and filling the gaps between the two. By the time many companies figure out exactly who they need, it’s often too late to invest the necessary time and money into retraining.

Cumulatively, firms spend billions of dollars every year on technology devoted to digital transformation, but executives admit to confusion and uncertainty about the impact.


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