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CEOs must take the lead on upskilling

By Wilhelm Crous

According to PwC’s Talent Trends Report 2020 (which was based on survey data from late

2019) 74% of CEOs where already concerned about the availability of key skills. That was

before Covid-19 struck! With businesses now forced to go digital, the skills employees

require can be quite different to before.

According to Carol Stubbings and Nicole Wakefield in STRATEGY + BUSINESS, this

necessitates CEOs taking the lead when it comes to upskilling.

They suggest four reasons for CEOs to act immediately and use this to further develop

strategies to build the workforce that’s future-ready. They also make the point that upskilling

should be a top priority in a world where the speed of change is unprecedented and the path ahead is ambiguous and uncertain. The economic case for upskilling and reskilling has been proved over and over.

It’s against this backdrop that CEOs should focus on the following:

1. Focus on upskilling that delivers business strategy. Three quarters of people

surveyed across the world indicated they wanted to improve their skills. With that

high level of motivation, leaders can do well to align learning and development

initiatives with business goals. The fact is that many CEOs will require upskilling in

areas such as collaboration, remote working practices, problem solving and digital

communication tools.

2. Prioritise employee engagement and experience. There is a measurable connection

between upskilling and employee engagement. This has been prominent through

various surveys conducted by PwC and others. Gallup also found that highly engaged

business units have a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 17% increase in


3. Boost productivity. In a recent global survey of office workers by the software

company UiPath, 80% of workers said they’d expect to be more productive if they

learned new skills, and 88% said they’d be more willing to continue working at a

company that offered upskilling and reskilling opportunities. The proverbial “penny

has dropped” at various organisations. For example, PwC offers training to all staff

on a variety of tools. More than 275,000 employees around the world, in 157

countries and regions are participating. The digital hubs that have been created to

support this effort now generate thousands of ideas that solve their day-to-day


4. Embrace a growth mindset to inspire life long learning. The rapid transformation

and subsequent success of Microsoft over the last few years is proof of what a growth

mindset culture can achieve. CEOs can both have, and lead, with a growth mindset

and should encourage their workforce to evolve. They can start by upskilling

personally and communicating what they are doing to their people. Stubbings and

Wakefield stress that, “Savvy leaders who value and nurture their workforce’s innate

talents, ability to learn, and desire to do good work, will have a greater chance of

boosting their business and retaining and attracting talent.” That in itself will not only increase the growth potential of the organisation but also prepare the organisation to

respond to radical challenges such as posed by Covid-19.

This month we’ve selected a number of articles to assist you, as a L&D practitioner to upskill, reskill and refocus yourself. Have a look under our Articles under our RESOURCES.

Also have a look at our upcoming conferences and workshops which will your team for the weeks and months ahead.


Stubbings, C., & Wakefield, N. (2020, September 28). strategy+business. Retrieved from


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