Why Businesses Should be Focusing on Upskilling Their Workforce

Why Businesses Should be Focusing on Upskilling Their Workforce

It’s undeniable that the way we work is about to undergo significant changes. After the corona virus has made working remotely the norm, businesses can’t expect to return to their pre-COVID ways of working. If the way a company operates evolves to meet changing attitudes, then employees will also have to adapt. As we prepare to enter a digitally-driven world at a more rapid speed than anyone could have anticipated, job-roles and skills will need to be assessed. This assessment will ensure that employees can keep up with the shift in business and have the knowledge and skill set for it to succeed.

recent study found that 59% of organisations prefer to look outside for talent, rather than upskilling current employees for new roles. However, it’s implausible to think that companies can only rely on hiring new team members to meet the demands of our changing world. While recruitment is essential to fill skills-gaps, having a workforce which is mostly unskilled and unable to adapt to technological advances will lead to redundancies and high recruitment costs in the future. Plus it will put your employees at a disadvantage when looking for future roles, positioning you as a behind-the-times employer.

Many business leaders are using the downtime created by COVID19 as an opportunity to reskill and upskill their workforce, to give them a competitive edge and future proof their business. Plus, putting plans in place to upskill your workforce simultaneously identifies areas that need extra support and identify skills-gaps so you know where to focus your recruitment strategies.

Whether it’s by choice or they’re sensing the future, employees also realise that to keep up with the best talent, they need to learn new skills and adapt. LinkedIn’s latest Workforce Confidence Index revealed that 64% of professionals will increase their focus on learning during the downtime provided by the coronavirus crisis. In the UK, Google is working with the government to offer digital and online training to furloughed employees, showing how vital learning new skills could be for the future of the workforce.

The World Economic Forum estimated that 54% of all employees will require ‘significant’ reskilling by 2022 to keep up with the digital revolution. The coronavirus crisis will have fuelled this further with a higher reliance on technology, meaning that desirable skills are changing every day. 

So, what do business leaders need to know about upskilling their workforce, and how can they use it to gain a competitive edge once this crisis has lifted?

Should you be reskilling or upskilling?

While both refer to teaching new skills, there’s a considerable difference between upskilling and reskilling. Upskilling refers to teaching employees new, advanced skills to close talent gaps. Upskilling allows employees to continue in the same role but with greater capabilities, knowledge and offerings. Reskilling, however, is the development of significantly different skills to make someone suitable for a completely new role. Put simply; it’s retraining.

To know whether you should be upskilling or reskilling your employees depends on the nature of your business and its current capabilities. How much does your business need to do to adapt to the new digital culture and climate? If you’re already running smoothly in a digitally-driven era, upskilling is the route for you. If you think significant changes need to be made, then first plan what the future of your business will look like and the roles required before you consider reskilling employees.

What skills should you focus on?

One thing that the coronavirus crisis has made clear for business leaders is that flexibility and transferable skills are incredibly valuable. In a time where change is the only constant, upskilling allows employees to be more versatile and able to respond to market changes. Research has discovered an increase in searches for Excel, leadership and communication courses and 20% decreases in searches for Python and Java training. This shows employees are currently investing their time in skills which are long-lasting and can be applied to a large variety of roles. However, this may be due to uncertainty around their current job and the future of the company.

Leaders know that technical skills are still vital for business success in the future. While transferable and soft skills are useful in any role, it’s essential not to overlook skills such as data analytics, social media marketing and software development. COVID-19 has given us a glimpse of the future, and leaders need to ensure that they have the capabilities to deliver in a tech-first society; whether this means recruiting new tech talent or empowering your current workforce with in-demand tech skills.

Obviously, specific skills and necessary roles depend on the nature of a business and industry. However, generally speaking, focusing on both transferrable soft-skills and technical abilities should help to put you in a stronger position post-COVID19.

Create a learning plan

For an upskilling or reskilling programme to be successful, it requires in-depth planning. Businesses must identify the skills they wish employees to attain, which could add the most value to the company. Identifying these areas can be done through talent-mapping and insight into competitors and the future of your industry.

Customising programmes based on employee learning needs, closely monitoring adaption rates and exploring external resources for training are some of the critical aspects of any reskilling strategy and must be taken into consideration. You also need to find a way to motivate employees to learn while they work remotely. Consider an incentive with rewards or making the learning experience feel more collaborative with team hashtags, group learning sessions, or even quizzes to test skills.

What advantages will it have?

Other than having a skilled, future-proofed workforce, allowing employees to learn and grow improves your employer brand and employee value proposition (EVP). It positions you as a caring employer who invests in people and their futures as well as your business. Today’s employees want to feel valued and have a clear path to motivate them to keep improving. Upskilling can help with both of these factors as well as simultaneously improving employee retention rates. Findings reveal that employees who feel they’re progressing in their career are 20% more likely to still be working at that company in a year.

Plus, in a time that’s shrouded in uncertainty, setting goals for employees shows your intention to keep them with the business as long as possible, making them feel more loyalty towards you as an employer and reducing your recruitment costs in the long run.

If you need help assessing the future of your business, with talent mapping or improving your employee engagement, our team are ready to help. Our experts can help to create a focus for learning, identify future leaders and aid your future recruitment strategy ready for life after COVID, get in touch to find out more about the recruitment services we offer.

National Coding Week: The women who programmed the future

In 2019, despite women having paved the way for many of tech’s most brilliant innovations, women are still both underrepresented and underpaid in the tech industry. While steps are being made to make tech and STEM subjects more accessible options for young girls, through initiatives such as Girls Who Code and the Grace Hopper program, there is still a long way to go.

So, this National Coding Week, we decided to celebrate the women who have made history with their intelligence and pioneering spirit. Continue reading to learn about those women who are, too often, despite having made history, left out of the history books.

Annie Easley

Annie Easley was born in 1933 in Birmingham, Alabama. Originally training as a Pharmacist, she began her career as a human computer at NACA, soon to be known as NASA, performing complex mathematical calculations. When computers (machines, not humans) came about she became a programmer, learning languages like the Formula Translating System, or Fortran.

Most famously, she developed the software for the Centaur Rocket, which powered the first American space probe to land on an extra-terrestrial body. She worked for NASA for 34 years before retiring in 1989.

Margaret Hamilton

The first two men to land on the moon may never have got there if it weren’t for computer programmer Margaret Hamilton, who developed the sophisticated onboard flight software for the Apollo missions.

She worked tirelessly to perfect the software, preparing for emergency scenarios. As it turned out, no software bugs were ever known to have occurred during any of the Apollo missions. The code she wrote to develop the software formed books that reached to her height when she stood next to them.

Katie Bouman

Our most recent coder, Katie Bouman, led the creation of an algorithm that resulted in the first image of a supermassive black hole at the heart of the Messier 87 galaxy, 55 million light years from earth. Bouman’s experience is in Computer Science, however, she became involved in the project to create a clear picture of a black hole while undertaking a PhD in computer vision.

She said, “even though we had worked on this for years, I don’t think any of us expected we would get a ring that easily. We just expected a blob.”

Grace Hopper

A true pioneer, Grace Hopper was a computer scientist and U.S. Navy Rear Admiral, with a degree in mathematics from Vassar College, and a masters and PhD from Yale University. After teaching mathematics at Vassar, she left to join the war effort.

During her time in the Naval Reserve, she helped program the world’s first computer, the Mark 1. She did not retire until she was 79 years old and is credited with coining the terms “bug” and “de-bug” in relation to computer errors. The Cray XE6 “Hopper” supercomputer at the NERSC is named after her.

Mary Jackson

NASA’s first black female engineer, Mary Jackson, was an African American mathematician and aerospace engineer. In 34 years at NASA she earned the most senior engineering title available. However, having fought to overcome race related issues all her life, such as segregation in the early years at NASA (while it was still NACA), she was denied management-level positions.

As a result, she accepted a demotion to become a manager of the women’s program at NASA. In this role, she worked to support both the hiring and promotion of women in NASA, only retiring in 1985.

Katherine Johnson

Beginning her career as a human-computer, Katherine Johnson was a graduate at 18, graduating summa cum laude with degrees in both mathematics and French. Over a 35 year career, she calculated the orbital mechanics behind the NASA missions that launched crewed missions for the first time in U.S. history and co-authored 26 scientific papers.

In her time at NASA she instigated change regarding both racial segregation and sexism. She was the first woman in her division to put her name on a report, after a male colleague refused, as women were typically not allowed to put their names on reports despite whether they had done the majority of the work.

John Glenn, the astronaut who orbited the earth three times in 1962, refused to fly unless the computer’s calculations had been personally verified by Johnson.

Joan Clarke

Known for her work as a code-breaker at Bletchley Park during the Second World War, Joan Clarke was immortalised by Keira Knightley in the film The Imitation Game, which also focused on her relationship with Alan Turing.

She gained a double first in mathematics from the University of Cambridge (though she was denied a full degree) and in 1939 was recruited into the Government Code and Cypher School.

As a woman, she was initially assigned clerical work and paid significantly less than her male counterparts. However, within a few days her significant abilities were recognised, and she joined Turing and the other male mathematicians in decoding German messages, ultimately ending the war up to 2 years early.

If you want to read more about the women changing the future of tech today, take a look at our blog

Tech recruitment: 5 reasons why you should utilise RPO

There is a war for talent in the tech field. According to research, 86% of recruiters said they “find it challenging to find and hire technical talent”.

So, why is it so difficult to hire tech talent?

In short, there is a limited pool of candidates. Technical innovations over the last few years have, rather than depleting the need for human labour, increased it. As such, the outlook for work in the tech industry is extremely positive. However, while machines have or will take over “hard, dangerous and dull jobs”, technology has “created more jobs than it has destroyed”.

What does this mean?

There is an increasing number of roles available in the tech industry, many of which the current workforce does not have the skills to fill. This is because the tech industry is developing far more quickly than the workforce has had time to keep up with. So, candidates with the right skill sets for highly-skilled roles are few and far between. As a result, 53% of recruiters “have hired tech talent despite candidates not meeting the job requirements.”

So, fears that technology will make human labour obsolete are clearly unfounded. However, until the next generations of tech-savvy talent enter the workforce, there is likely to be a skills shortage within the tech field.

For your company to continue to innovate effectively and keep up with technological advancements, there are things you can do to attract and retain the tech talent you need. Utilising Recruitment Process Outsourcing to hire your tech talent can have many benefits for your company.

So, we’ve summarised a few of these here.

  1. When working with an RPO which specialises in tech hiring, you can gain from the experience of recruiters who have worked extensively within the tech field. This means that they have a nuanced understanding of the role being hired for and what it requires. So, they already have a pool of highly skilled talent waiting to be contacted. All this experience can significantly reduce your time-to-hire, saving money on advertising and lengthy recruitment processes.
  2. In a candidate shortage, all organisations need to be thinking of ways to increase their retention rates. The good news is, an RPO can help you do just that. An RPO can ensure that your company maintains a positive employer brand throughout the recruitment process, improving the candidate experience. An improved candidate experience improves the “perception of employees about the company”, thereby increasing retention rates.
  3. If you don’t want to outsource all your recruitment processes, but you need to hire more staff for a specific department (such as Tech), you can utilise Project RPO. This provides a solution which is both flexible and scalable to your needs, while giving you access to those experienced tech recruiters. As such, you can utilise an RPO just for your tech hiring needs. This flexibility can save your company money and ensure you fill those tech roles quickly.
  4. RPO providers often have a capacity for research and industry-led insight. This means that your provider can assess the problems with Tech hiring your company is encountering and provide insight-led solutions. For example, a researcher can assess everything from salary and culture to job descriptions and broader problems within the market. This should then give you a realistic idea of the talent available and how to appeal to the right people with suitable marketing techniques and offerings.
  5. Some RPO providers have marketing, creative and digital capacities. This can enable the team working on your behalf to market your roles with the innovation required to attract top talent. Too many companies underestimate the value of a high-quality job advert. RPO providers with creative capacity can utilise the expertise of copywriters and designers. This ensures that your campaign is targeted to the right audience, in terms of both the language and overall design. An RPO’s digital capacity can create an application process which is quick and tech-literate, therefore appealing to tech-savvy applicants.

To get ahead of the game

You need to appeal to applicants from the very start of the process. This begins with talent attraction, refining your employer brand and EVP. So, by the time the applicant gets to interview stage, you don’t have to convince them of your company’s values because they are already aware of them.

Utilising RPO for tech talent can give you access to those insight-led techniques to ensure that your company attracts those highly-skilled applicants who are so in demand.

RPO, after all, is about much more than just recruitment. RPO can give your company the capability to truly define itself as an employer. So, it’s time to ask what your organisation wants to say and how it wants to say it.

To find out more about how RPO can help to solve your tech hiring troubles, download our RPO eBook.

Talent mapping: Get ahead of the game

What is talent mapping?

In advance of live vacancies, a recruiter scours the market and identifies the top talent in a field. This process is called talent mapping. Potential candidates are sought out by the recruiter with short, medium and long-term employment goals in mind.

As such, talent mapping ensures that emergency hiring situations don’t leave companies powerless, waiting and hoping for the right candidates to apply. Chances are when a company utilises talent mapping, they have already identified a pool of candidates ready to go straight to interview.

When hiring for a live vacancy, a company will receive applications from candidates actively looking for a new role. However, this leaves a wealth of passive talent unexplored. Businesses can make quality hires by reaching out to those who are right for a position before a vacancy goes live.

This approach, therefore, provides companies with the opportunity to tailor a job role to the right candidate. As part of the process, recruiters can engage candidates to find out what it is they want from their next role. So, when employers are prepared, they can respond to a talent need swiftly and efficiently having already established relationships with suitable candidates.

In this sense, talent mapping can also be used purely for market research purposes. If a business wants to increase employee engagement and retention in the workplace, utilising talent mapping to understand what your competitors are providing can be a powerful tool. This can cover everything from the specifics of a job role and the expectations attached, to salary, benefits and seniority.

How can talent mapping support candidate attraction?

Talent mapping isn’t just about listing names, companies and locations. Rather, talent mapping aims to open up conversations with potential candidates and establish a relationship. By getting directly in contact with a candidate, a company is sending a strong message that they are particularly keen to work with that person. This then enables the business to establish if the candidate is interested in their potential offer and put a follow-up plan in place.

Previously, the market has relied on employers choosing candidates. However, while we are in the middle of a global talent shortage, the power is in the candidates’ hands. This doesn’t mean employers can’t still have a strategy in place to help them reach the best, most relevant talent in the market. However, it means employers need to utilise attraction campaigns and techniques to market their employer brand effectively.

Talent mapping is a hugely valuable asset to talent attraction campaigns. By having a detailed awareness of the market, and their competitors, an employer can ensure that they are continuing to provide the best offering. This can be utilised company-wide, to improve the overall corporate culture and work environment, as well as in attraction campaigns.

So, how does talent mapping work?

Talent mapping often requires companies to question what they want to achieve, and when they want to have achieved it by. As such, it is an essential part of any business which wants to put a successful scaling strategy in place.

Talent mapping creates a reference for the internal talent you have, and the talent you are likely to need. By mapping the company structure, you can then identify the talent gaps you will eventually need to fill. Identifying these gaps means that you can then look externally, if you need to, for the right people to fill those vacancies.

However, it also means that you can invest in training the team members in your company who could eventually fill those roles. Identifying potential in the workplace and investing in career development, in turn, promotes employee engagement and positive company culture.

Putting a strategy in place enables companies to put these plans in place with plenty of time to see them through. As such, talent mapping is not a quick, short term process. Rather, it requires a long-term investment to see the results that will make a difference. So, while planning ahead can be hugely effective, it requires the time investment to make it worthwhile.

How can my company implement a talent mapping strategy?

This is where an agency can prove itself most useful. Even if you don’t already outsource your recruitment processes, talent mapping can require time that your in-house team don’t have.

Alternatively, if you do outsource your recruitment processes, finding an agency which can combine both talent mapping with your day-to-day recruitment can mean that there is more value in the service you are receiving. With an approach that thinks ahead, you are much more likely to make quality hires with a greater chance of job satisfaction and retention.

Talent mapping is a highly flexible, versatile recruitment tool. As a process, it can be used to achieve such a variety of different goals that trying to put it in a box is futile. It is this flexibility that perhaps makes talent mapping a more difficult process to understand.

However, the goal of talent mapping is always to provide an insight into the market and can be undertaken with absolute confidentiality if necessary. It is the use and value of this insight that can then be used in a variety of ways to support your company. As such, talent mapping does much more than simply filling a role, giving your company both short and long-term employment strategies.

Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) FAQs

What is RPO?

In simple terms, RPO (Recruitment Process Outsourcing) is where an employer transfers all or part of its recruitment processes to an external service provider.

Is RPO just for big companies?

When RPO first originated it was popular with large organisations and followed a specific structure. This usually consisted of external recruiters working onsite and Being a member of the organisation, rather than the provider. However, since inception RPO has changed and although this traditional method is still used, RPO has now become flexible and scalable making it a viable option for smaller organisations as well as larger high-fliers.

Experiencing a large period of growth? Regardless of your current size, with an RPO solution you have the option to scale up and down in line with your current recruitment needs.

Will an RPO save me money?

RPO has been proven to reduce overall recruitment costs through faster time to hire, increase in the quality of the candidate pool and a decrease in staff turnover. By using an RPO you save money on advertising and job board fees, initial screening stages and administrative support. Not only that, you will gain valuable insights into how your brand is perceived externally, salary benchmarking and how you can streamline processes internally.

Will I have any say in how the RPO is run?

A well thought out RPO solution always starts with forming a partnership between the client and provider. How much of your recruitment is outsourced is completely down to you. You may decide that you want to outsource all recruitment, or just have specific functions (eg. Sales or Tech) outsourced. But outsourcing these responsibilities does not mean you’ll lose control. In fact, you’re more likely to have more control over them as they will be clearly defined at the start, along with agreed metrics, analytics and results.

How will I know if the RPO is going well?

As well as having a dedicated point of contact who can advise on how things are going, RPO providers also track every stage of the process allowing them to collate real time analytics. These detailed insights can quickly give you an overview of how the campaign is going and the ability to make measured decisions if (and when) needs be.

Do I need to sign up for a certain amount of time?

The length of time you have an RPO for is determined by your company needs. It can be a successful long-term solution but alternatively it can work with shorter, one-time recruitment campaigns to ramp up hiring and fill vacancies quickly. An RPO is a highly specialised process which can flex to meet your needs, however long or short they may be.

Find out more about our flexible RPO solution, Talentmode. A new way of thinking about RPO.

5 tips on how to reduce costs during a skills shortage

Significant skills shortages in the UK are costing businesses in excess of £2 billion per year in higher salaries, recruitment fees and temporary staffing according to new research by the Open University.

The Open University Business Barometer has found that 90% of UK-based businesses have struggled to recruit candidates with the relevant skills in the last 12 months, causing them to inflate salaries to attract talent costing at least £527 million.

Neil Purcell, Global CEO of Talent Works International, has given us his 5 top tips on how to reduce costs during a skills shortage:

The ‘Skills Gap’ is not a new phenomenon

Although popular at the moment, the ‘Skills Gap’ is not a new buzz word. It has actually been around for quite some time and it looks like it is here to stay. Neil Purcell states, ‘There is no quick fix. In the short-term companies have, and will continue to pay increased salaries to secure the talent they need. Considerations and measures need to be put in place to address this. It’s a longer-term strategy that will pay dividends in the future.’

We need to invest in future business leaders

This sounds simple but it is something that can often be neglected, especially when businesses are under resourced. In a recent study we conducted, we discovered that training and development opportunities were important to older generations as well as younger generations. 

Neil advises that we can’t just rely upon ‘on the job training’ we also need to; ‘invest in both time and money to train and retain the workforce of the future.’

Take note of the Apprenticeship Levy

‘Taking advantage of the Apprenticeship Levy is key for both small and large companies’ says Neil Purcell.

Increasing the number of apprenticeships will increase the range of skills within the workforce, as well as enabling companies to create talent pools that address skills shortages within their business. The levy can also be used to up-skill your current workforce.


A high staff turnover can be a key factor on an organisation’s bottom line. Creating loyalty amongst employees is crucial in retaining talent.

Neil says it simply; ‘If you invest in people, up-skill, engage and nurture, they will stay.’

Work-life balance

Again, another buzzword which looks like it is here to stay. Neil explains, ‘there are other ways of attracting and retaining skilled workers beyond salary. This includes giving a wider consideration to benefits, flexible working, support, engagement, environment, investment in the organisation and it’s employees and continued personal development.’

The full findings of the Open University report will be presented to MPs and Peers at an event in the Houses of Parliament on 11 July.

Finding the right talent but struggling to get them onboard? Check out our blog on how to improve candidate experience.

Beyond the Purple Unicorn

The Purple Unicorn used to be how Talent Acquisition leaders described the unique challenges they faced in finding talent. It’s no longer simply the case that talent is rare. More and more companies know how to find those purple unicorns – and many of them are deploying incredibly sophisticated search, tracking and selection systems to get to them first!

So, if it feels harder to hire good people today, that’s because it is! Organizations globally need to adjust their hiring strategy to sustain their advantage. Many are already doing so. As Talent Acquisition becomes a more complex picture, the most forward-thinking employers are looking beyond traditional talent pools. The Rainbow Unicorn? Trust me, there’s Diversity teams out there already searching hard every day.

Building a proactive talent strategy

The secret is having a realistic understanding around your organization and the positions you need to fill. Competitive insight allows you to understand how you can differentiate your business to the right candidate. By looking at direct competitors and those companies in your zip code, you know how your proposition competes. If you are not paying the best salary, but the culture is amazing, message that first so you can be honest and informed as to what a candidate will gain when they join.

You can’t control the job market, but you can put some effort and resource behind a few key strategies including:

1. Role validation

Whether you have a newly created position or not, the right job title is key. An initial overview of the role, competencies and attributes required helps to determine the right level, the right title and the potential pool in the local market

2. Target the competition

‘Post and pray’ isn’t working anymore. The number of roles is overwhelming.  Candidates can apply with a quick click on their phone, so they don’t read the job description or location carefully. Busy Talent Acquisition teams don’t have the time to sift through the clutter or respond to the best candidates quickly enough.

Sourcing depends on identifying those companies you admire, as well as those you compete with. Once again, it is time well spent. Think beyond your industry, beyond your traditional talent communities, beyond conventional job descriptions and challenge your own idea of what good looks like. If you can avoid limiting yourself, the appeal for top talent to make a move is even greater if a candidate has the chance to transition into another industry and broaden their own knowledge.

3. Tell your story authentically

Developing an EVP (Employer Value Proposition) showcasing what it is really like to work for your company is a key step in finding the right people to join your organization. It also helps the right people who just wouldn’t fit into your company culture to de-select themselves out of the process at an earlier stage.

Understanding ‘What’s In It For Me?’ also means thinking about how best to bring it to life. Words, imagery, video, animation, online presence? These elements work together to elevate the job description to another level. Providing a clear destination to see the message is important and to do that effectively you need a campaign.

4. Campaign Solutions

Once a segmented attraction message has been created, it is important to create a destination where individuals can be directed to – where you can share the compelling reasons as to why individuals should want to work for your company.

Campaigns can be built on job boards, but  programmatic advertising can be more effective. Programmatic offers the opportunity to deliver a deeper story which will result in more brand engagement and appropriate applicants. It will open up opportunities outside of the limited markets accessed through job boards. All channels will work in combination to ensure the audience is reached, captured and engaged, wherever they are, on whatever device they are using.

Regardless of the budget, role or timelines it pays to be prepared and informed.  Whether you insource or outsource, knowing what you need and where you think you can find the right talent is key:

  • Research and review with free tools to understand the competitive landscape.
  • Understanding your reputation in the market and that of your competitors will allow for you to be prepared to connect with passive and active candidates.
  • Sourcing and building talent pipelines saves time and money in the future as your business grows.

You start building relationships before you need them and ultimately position your organization as an employer of choice for the right talent.

The market is competitive and the outlook can be overwhelming, but knowing the attributes of your business and the places to look will help you find the best talent first.

Jody Robie is the Senior Vice President North America for Talent Works International (TWI). Talent Works International is a global talent communications firm that helps organizations around the world build effective and efficient talent strategies through our research, sourcing and creative teams. Please contact jody.robie@talent-works.com  for more information.