Upskill.. Reskill.. or Revolt?

Pity the hiring manager. They have a pile of applications on their desk, and an equally high stack of vacancies to fill. Unfortunately, the talent available doesn’t match the needs at hand – or at least, that’s the complaint. Managers say candidates need upskilling and reskilling, but as global social and economic turmoil abounds, both employers and employees face tough choices around training and development.

First, the employer’s point of view. Vacancies need filled. Staffing shortages have reached such a critical point that some firms have been forced to close down both individual locations and whole operations. Hiring bonuses, higher wages, adjustments to working conditions… it’s not making a dent.

So, the next person who can fog a mirror gets the job… but should they? True, applicants who lack skills can be trained, though that takes time and money. Often, companies lack both. Plus, it’s easier than ever for freshly trained employees to quit in favor of new jobs. Thus, burned by expensive churn and realizing that they could make significant investments in a worker and still lose them, firms are reluctant to commit to lengthy upskilling or reskilling programs.

Workershave a different set of frustrations – and a fresh sense of their own value. It’s true that candidates and current employees alike say they want training, mentoring, and personal development at work.However, the firms demanding commitment and “loyalty” from workers before enrolling them in training or upskilling programs are often the same companies that for years have slashed benefits and ruthlessly cut jobs to preserve corporate profits and share price with no consideration for workers. To some, seeing these firms suffer staffing losses and shortages is karma at its finest.

Plus, for many workers, today’s blazing hot talent market is a rare opportunity to enjoy the upper hand. Economically speaking, millions of “essential workers” have endured stagnant wages for decades. Now, finally, there’s a market where higher pay, better working conditions, and real quality of life gains for all workers is possible.

And yet… for both sides… this adversarial situation can’t continue indefinitely.That’s why it may be time to consider a third way – a revolt, of sorts, against the current system.

Who benefits, after all, when workers and managers are pitted against each other? Where’s the win in chiseling a few dollars off a salary negotiation only to see an employee walk, or in “getting one over” on “the man” only to see the company fold? This isn’t a war, and it needn’t be a zero sum game, either.

The most successful companies of the future are going to be firms where employees, managers, and key stakeholders are all on the same side and working to create a win-win situation that works for real humans. What could that look like?

One of the first steps may be a dramatic reimagining of what employment looks like.

Consider scheduling… a key lesson from the pandemic is that a fixed schedule at a fixed location may be one of the least productive models of working. Sliding schedules or shiftwork that aligns with caregiving and schooling schedules is both more humane and a major factor in modern retention. Workers want to be remote or at the very least, able to be present as needed for their families. Employers need the job done, and for millions of positions, more flexibility is a better plan than insisting on certain hours.

Benefits, too, could be reimagined. Changes in tax law and incentives would allow more workers to have healthcare, sick leave, and vacation time without mandating FTE status. This would also eliminate many of the pain points between gig, contract, and “in house” arrangements, allowing workers and employers alike to focus on the work to be done rather than the structure.

So that just leaves the money… and there really is plenty of that to go around. Creating ownership with stock awards – or phantom stock equivalents for private firms – gives employees at every level skin in the game. Though traditionally a C-suite perk, it’s a powerful motivator and a proven way to meaningfully change the conversations around compensation and retention.

The world is uncertain, with turmoil, change, and uncertainty defining the “new normal” at work. Yet why should things continue on as they are, with adversarial motivations on both sides? Give hiring managers – and the employment relationship entirely – a fresh start.