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Reskilling and upskilling – Part 2 of 3: Overcome the cult of skill

29 Nov 2022

Now let’s talk about the word “skills”. This is my warning to us in the industry – skills in themselves are not good enough.

We tend to get lost in our best efforts to determine what skills, competencies, tasks, and knowledge to put into our reskilling and upskilling efforts. We forget context, outcome, and criticality.

Tasks without connection into a workflow are meaningless. Skills without outcomes that benefit the system won’t work. To do reskilling and upskilling (or any learning) well, we can’t stop at the skill level; We have to move up into the process and workflow that those skills support.

Here’s an example. Consider these two “skills” from a recent reskilling and upskilling effort:

  • Complete and submit the customer information

  • Support the sales rep by completing and submitting the customer information

The first is a generic task with no ties into a greater workflow, no line of sight to the outcome, which is for the sales rep to have the information they need for their next step in the workflow. The second is less generic and specifically gets to the outcome the employee needs to achieve for the workflow to, well, work.

As an industry, we need to get better at involving context and outcomes in reskilling and upskilling. When determining the delta between where an employee/workforce is and where they need to be, we cannot stop at the list. Tasks are done in performance of the workflow required to do the job. The call to action for us as L&D professionals is not to stop at the task or skill level, but to move up into the workflow, process, and system level that those skills support.

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