Employees Know They Need Upskilling, but Many Don’t Pursue It

Employees Know They Need Upskilling, but Many Don’t Pursue It

Randstad’s Workmonitor survey for Q3, 2017 finds that 90 percent of employees worldwide believe that regularly updating their skills and competencies is essential to enhancing their employability, and 91 percent consider it their own responsibility to do so. However, Randstad highlights another, more troubling finding from the US, where many employees and employers “are not taking action for upskilling opportunities in the workplace”:

In fact, over a third of U.S. employees report they have done nothing to upskill in the past 12 months, where upskilling is defined as attending workshops, completing online courses, receiving consultation from a specialist, participating in personal coaching sessions or pursuing further education. … When asked to consider a variety of types of upskilling opportunities over the last 12 months, survey respondents revealed:

  • 67 percent of U.S. employees say they feel they need more training and skills to stay up-to-date.
  • Nearly 40 percent of U.S. employees say their employers have not offered and paid for anything related to upskilling.
  • 40 percent of U.S. employees say they wouldn’t arrange for and pay out of their own pockets to upskill themselves.

These survey findings highlight the fundamental challenges in raising the skill level of the American workforce, as well as the debate over who is responsible for doing so.

Today’s work environment is one of constant change, in which employees have no guarantees that the skills they use in their day-to-day work today will still be relevant in five years. Technological advances are a major driver of this change, making digital skills increasingly critical throughout the workforce, but technical skills aren’t the only area of concern.

The study also uncovered some interesting generation gaps in terms of what specific skills employees believed they most urgently needed to develop. While 66 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds told Randstad that they needed to strengthen their “personal skills,” only 28 percent of those aged 45 and up said so—but 70 percent of this cohort said they needed to update their “vocational skills.” This finding indicates that younger workers are more confident than their elders in their technical abilities, but less so in the soft skills that are increasingly in demand among employers.

So what is the best way to ensure that employees are building the skills they need to keep themselves (and their organizations) competitive in the future? Keeping skills up-to-date may be the responsibility of each individual employee, but their employers have an interest in enabling and encouraging them to do so. Different organizations have taken different approaches to this challenge, such as Airbnb’s Data University, Buffer’s learning sabbaticals, or AT&T’s message to employees that they need to upskill on their own time or risk becoming obsolete as the company and the economy evolve.