Embark on a Reskilling Initiative

There’s no silver bullet for talent reskilling. Anyone trying to sell you that idea should be shown the exit promptly.

Inertia is the amazing force that helps an object in motion stay in motion, but it’s also the force that keeps stationary objects from moving. Reskilling and upskilling efforts often stall out right at the beginning as projects get stuck in the paralysis of analysis.

Today’s times call for wholescale reskilling initiatives. Whether due to artificial intelligence (AI), automation, the COVID-19 pandemic, or an altered regulatory context, “buying” new talent isn’t nearly as cost-effective as building it with people who already understand your mission and culture. To move quickly and effectively, you can’t bite off an analysis of every role in an organization and all of the skills required across those roles—that takes years and is largely irrelevant by the time it’s finished. The best way to get started is narrowing focus and prioritizing need.


If your business leaders don’t already have a clear picture of roles that will be impacted by either demand or decline, it’s a good time to reflect on economists’ insights through tools such as Emsi. COVID-19 has accelerated a number of predictions—such as eliminating many brick-and-mortar retail roles and accelerating the need for a stronger technical staff. The pandemic also has led to increased hiring in many roles that are high in their “automation index,” such as cashiers and warehouse workers. Using this data, you can get a clear picture of impacted roles in your industry.


After narrowing down to the five to 10 most critical roles seeing demand and decline, your next step is a skills analysis. Historically, talent development was focused on specialization, but adaptability is today’s golden ticket. Look for the skills that are the most durable and transferable in nature—frameworks, mindsets, and ways of solving problems, as well as the technical skill “gotchas” you’ll need to address. Pay attention to a role’s common audiences for interaction and communication.


It’s highly unlikely to find a direct path from areas of decline to demand. It’s much more likely you can find roles adjacent that have similar skill sets and expectations of moderate growth. Similarly, you can and should do the same sort of skills analysis on two to three adjacent roles with expectations of growth and lower chance of automation for each of the prioritized roles. This allows you to focus on 15 to 30 roles in the organization, creating avenues to jobs that are likely to stick around and serve as a pathway for a longer talent pipeline.


There’s no silver bullet for talent reskilling. Anyone trying to sell you that idea should be shown the exit promptly. Embarking on a reskilling initiative requires pulling multiple levers simultaneously. Once you have a complete picture, use all of your available tools to get where you need to go:

1. Leverage your existing content libraries and providers to curate content tied to the needed upskilling and reskilling.

2. Realign to debt-free tuition assistance programs in ways that reward employees oriented toward skills you need to achieve strategic objectives.

3. Proactively promote development opportunities through marketing campaigns to your employees.

4. Work with business partners to create a marketplace of trusted subject matter experts (SMEs) within your organization to mentor and stretch projects to allow employees to develop new skills.

As your organization develops the “chops” for large-scale upskilling and reskilling, overcoming the inertia of paralysis will get easier as your company becomes a place where talent comes to grow and find opportunity.

As a principal consultant at Guild Education, Matthew Daniel helps Talent Development teams at Fortune 1000 companies think about how to skill people for new roles, upskill people in existing roles, and outskill those displaced as a result of the future of work. Daniel has worked on L&D strategy at companies such as General Motors, Nike, Edward Jones, and others.

Matthew Daniel, Principal, Guild Education
Matthew J. Daniel is a principal at Guild Education who solves talent development challenges for the future of work. He works with economists, skill data, an education marketplace, and employers such as Walmart, Disney, and Chipotle to identify how corporate strategies are changing and how structuring education offerings can help companies get in front of those needs.