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Why upskilling and reskilling are more important than ever

By Jack Campbell | |5 minute read

There needs to be greater emphasis on leaders upskilling and reskilling their employees, according to a managing director.

Speaking on The HR Leader, LHH managing director James Mcilvena said upskilling and reskilling staff shouldn’t be overlooked as a key priority for businesses going forward.

Not only will it ensure you’re getting the most out of your employees, but it’ll also create greater learning opportunities, which remains key to employee retention.


“A high percentage of these people actually want to be developed. They want to actually understand how they stay current with their skill set,” Mr Mcilvena said.

“We are seeing governments invest a lot more when it comes to skills of the future. And they’ve been both federal and state government announcements around support for future and emerging skills, but also existing employers.”

He continued: “I really see the onus on existing employers and where this corresponds with the personal responsibility in their time because one of the other trends is more people than ever feeling that they can’t disconnect and burn out and say they want to be upskilled and reskilled.”

With the evolution of technology making many occupations obsolete, employees may be stressed about the future of their position.

“We’ve seen that sort of two-thirds of people are saying between digitisation, automation, and artificial intelligence, they’re really quite concerned around what that means and what impact that’s going to have for the sustainability of their roles,” Mr Mcilvena said.

By providing development opportunities for your workers, it can provide them with extra skills to take into new roles and give them the confidence that they’re not going to be replaced.

However, finding the time in the working day to provide this training may be an issue for employers.

Mr Mcilvena explained: “When does all this fit together? It’s an interesting conundrum for some employers because workers would love it during their working hours, but employers want [to] maximise productivity and profitability. So, it’s a difficult one to get the balance right.”

There are plenty of ways around this, said Mr Mcilvena: “Either people carve out time, or they have a talent marketplace internally, which encourages mobility and not necessarily permanent, even if it’s just some comments onto projects, cross-skilling, shadowing other employees, picking up new skills, but particularly those that are seen as future-focused. Because it not only benefits the individual, it benefits the organisation.”

“The way that a job is viewed has not really evolved. There are still job descriptions which are very prescriptive, and they include the core responsibilities of a particular role versus the ability to swing onto and off different projects to pick up skills.” 

While there are ways leaders can support their staff, at the end of the day, the individual needs to have the drive to want to progress their career, said Mr Mcilvena.

“It’s fantastic if you get leaders that support [staff]. It’s fantastic if you get organisations that specifically carve out time for working. That’s amazing. But even to the extent that viewing how someone can develop in their role slightly differently by taking on interesting projects, but it also requires that individual to be inquisitive and to want to make that leap as well.”

The transcript of this podcast episode, when quoted above, was slightly edited for publishing purposes. The full audio conversation with James Mcilvena on 6 February is below, and the original podcast article can be found here.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.