Consistently Teaching Employees New Skills Enhances Loyalty, New Report Shows

June 28, 2021 by Dan McCue

Programs that teach employees a new skill – whether it’s something additional to better perform a current role, or a new set of capabilities to prepare someone for a different role, will be a key component in competing for the best talent as companies adapt to the post-pandemic future of work.

According to a recent report in American Banker magazine, companies that do this well won’t see implementing the strategy as a one-off activity, but rather will see it as a key, ongoing component of keeping up with the fact-paced change in business generally.

The coronavirus pandemic did not only change employee and supervisor expectations, it rapidly changed what businesses and entire industries do.

As Ishanaa Rambachan, a partner in the San Francisco office of McKinsey & Co., told the magazine, “the future of work is changing and the pandemic has only accelerated the future of work and banking.

“Banks are becoming digital companies that offer financial products,” Rambachan said.

In addition, the piece, written by Miriam Cross, notes that there’s a two-fold benefit to reskilling and upskilling: It not only creates new in-house pools of talent, such programs also save money.

“McKinsey found that reskilling an internal employee may cost $20,000 or less, while the cost of hiring often amounts to $30,000 for recruitment alone, in addition to onboarding and training,” Cross wrote.

At the same time, being willing to reskill or upskill employees broadens the pool of talent a company can draw from when it is trying to fill a position.

That, in turn, strengthens company diversity and inclusion efforts.

On top of that, Cross writes, “Retention tends to rise because employees are committed to the companies that invested in them, whether through a homegrown program or a specialized partnership.”

The top areas for reskilling in financial services are related to cybersecurity and privacy, software development, information technology operations, cloud architecture and platform-as-a-service, the article says.

Best Practices

The American Banker piece cites a number of examples of companies in the financial sector that have already prospered from this approach.

One is United Wholesale Mortgage, which has taken people who formerly had no IT experience — everyone from bus drivers to veterinarians — and taught them how to code, growing its information technology employee base from 200 five years ago to 1,2000 today.

Other companies partner with programs that equip participants from a variety of backgrounds, including people of color and those without traditional degrees, to fill the technology skills gap, the magazine said.

Bank of America, for instance, works with Year Up, a nonprofit that typically focuses on young adults who do not have a four-year college degree but who have at least a high school diploma or GED. More than 90% identify as a person of color.

This one-year training program in fields including information technology and software development combines six months of coursework that is usually eligible for college credit and a six-month corporate internship. The program also teaches soft skills, such as communicating in business situations. There is no cost to attend and students get a stipend.

Since the partnership began in 2006, Bank of America has hosted more than 1,850 interns and hired more than 830 Year Up graduates. Those who stay tend to work in application development, data science or artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Another example the magazine cited was JPMorgan Chase, which partners with a variety of organizations to recruit entry-level technology talent across the U.S., including Zip Code Wilmington, Merit America and Tech Elevator. 

In 2020, Cross notes, JPMorgan hired more than 30 graduates from Zip Code Wilmington, a 12-week coding boot camp in Delaware. 

Some of these hires transitioned from customer service roles such as casino dealers, restaurant servers and legal support into the tech field.

JPMorgan also runs its own reskilling programs for employees to learn software engineering, data analytics and cybersecurity. 

Keep Employees Engaged

But for all this talk of technology and skills, there’s evidence technology, in some respects, is not always the panacea employers hope it will be.

According to a new study from Citrix Systems, technology deployed to keep employees engaged is actually frustrating and slowing them down.

“People are working the same or more hours, but they’re accomplishing less because technology is getting in their way,” said Tim Minahan, executive vice president of Business Strategy, Citrix. 

“As companies organize around new, hybrid work models, they need to rethink the role of technology and how they apply it across their organizations so that employees, rather than being frustrated, are empowered to succeed,” Minahan said.

To get to the bottom of the situation, Citrix and its polling partner, OnePoll, surveyed 1,000 IT decision makers and 2,000 workers across the United States. 

The study found the number of tools employees are required to use to do their jobs has significantly increased since the onset of the pandemic, as has the complexity they are creating in the workplace.

According to Citrix, 64% of  workers are using more communication and collaboration tools than they were prior to the pandemic; and 71% say they have made work more complex.

“Employees are frustrated, and to keep them engaged and performing at their best, companies need to eliminate the friction and noise from work and deliver technology that adapts to their workstyles rather than forcing them to learn new ways of doing things,” Minahan said.

New Digital Divide Emerging

The one thing that’s an absolute certainty since the pandemic swept over the United States is that the notion about how we work has fundamentally changed.

“People are not going back to working the way they did,” Minahan said.

The Citrix study found that nearly 90% of respondents said they want the flexibility to continue to work at home and in the office post-pandemic.

“Regardless of their physical location, employees need to be empowered with tools that provide a consistent, secure and reliable experience and allow them to work the way they work best,” Minahan said.

Digital Workspaces are the Future of Work

Savvy organizations are responding by embracing the concept of the go-with-you-anywhere digital workspace.

With digital workspaces, Citrix said, companies can:

  • Unify work – Whether at home, on plane or in an office, employees have consistent and reliable access to all the resources they need to be productive across any work channel, device or location
  • Secure work – Contextual access and app security ensure applications and information remain secure-no matter where work happens, and
  • Simplify work – Intelligence capabilities like machine learning, virtual assistants and simplified workflows personalize, guide, and automate the work experience so employees can work free from noise and perform at their best.

According to the survey, 72% of employees say working in a digital workspace has improved their productivity, and 77% indicate they have aided collaboration.

Almost 90% of participants in Work Your Way say their companies use digital workspace software platforms to facilitate hybrid/distributed working. And they are delivering results.

“In creating a layer between employees and the technology that frustrates them, companies can empower them to efficiently engage with the apps they need to execute work and achieve their goals,” Minahan said.

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