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HR Priority in 2021: Cross-training and Upskilling Employees

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The world of work is changing. That is especially true for human resources departments and talent-management teams as they are tasked with figuring out how to meet evolving workforce demands, often with fewer resources. One of the key strategies HR teams have developed amid the economic chaos and uncertainty of 2020 to help their companies remain competitive is a stronger focus on employee learning and development. The goal here is to build more resilient workforces. In fact, according to an upcoming Eightfold survey, cross-training and upskilling employees is a top goal for hiring teams and management in 2021. 

As Jackie Wiles at Gartner writes, “HR leaders see building critical skills as vital to driving many of their organization’s priorities.” By focusing on improving the skills of their employees, organizations are better able to withstand changes and move successfully into the future.

The Driving Forces Behind Improving Employee Skill Sets

Talent management has become increasingly critical for organizations to recognize success. A number of different factors are driving that focus on employee skills development, especially over the last year or so. These factors include a growing talent gap, the changing nature of work, and the financial insecurity many companies face.

The Talent Gap

A widening talent gap is one of the biggest issues driving the need to improve and increase the skills of current employees. Employers are simply struggling to find high-quality talent. “A big challenge for us is finding enough people that are capable to do the work,” says Dan Peterson, vice president for industry and government affairs at Cook Medical, of his company’s struggles to fill medical device manufacturing jobs.

His company isn’t alone. According to a 2020 survey by McKinsey & Company, 87 percent of executives and managers report they are either currently experiencing talent gaps or expect to be experiencing them in the near future. Closing those gaps has become imperative to organizational success. While most respondents to the survey report focusing on hiring to close those gaps, about one-third say they have started training their employees to either perform more duties in their current roles or move into different, sometimes multiple, roles.

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