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Getting skills transformations right: The nine-ingredient recipe for success

These nine best practices will help ensure the successful design and implementation of a holistic reskilling program

By | Aaron De Smet | Angelika Reich | Bill Schaninger

Companies are grappling with an urgent need for new skills to support significant changes in business priorities and in how work gets done. According to our recent McKinsey Global Survey on reskilling, most respondents say that skill building is the best way to close those gaps, ahead of hiring, contracting, or redeploying employees. Sixty-nine percent say they have doubled down on skilling efforts since the pandemic began and are reaping clear benefits. Among organizations that have begun a large-scale, programmatic skills transformation, between 71 and 90 percent say it has had a positive impact on their ability to realize company strategy, employees’ performance and satisfaction, and their reputation as an employer.

While the design and implementation of a large skill-building program is difficult to get right, we have found that there is a clear recipe for success consisting of nine key practices. At the organizations that have implemented all nine practices, respondents report a nearly 100 percent chance of having a successful skills transformation—which is 2.5 times higher than the success rate for organizations that have failed to implement at least one of the practices. These practices are deployed across three iterative phases of a skills transformation: assessing potential skills gaps, developing a skills strategy, and reimagining infrastructure for skilling at scale.

Assessing potential skills gaps

This phase consists of rapid workforce planning to identify skills gaps. This involves comparing the company’s current skills with the demand for those skills needed to deliver on its strategic ambition, digital agenda, and overall business model. The three practices in the first phase are the following:

  1. Assessing demand and/or need for specific skills in the future.
  2. Determining the current supply of specific skills.
  3. Analyzing skills gaps, including development of the business case to close them.

Developing a skills strategy

The second phase focuses on how companies shape the skills strategy to close anticipated gaps and ensure that the workforce is future-ready. For skill-building components of that strategy, important decisions in this phase include which learning formats to use, how to design and deliver learning journeys to employees, and rolling out the required infrastructure and governance. This phase comprises the following three practices:

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