Why Employers Should Invest in Reskilling Frontline Workers

Frontline employees are the backbone of the economy, representing 70% of the US workforcebut attracting and retaining this essential workforce has never been more challenging.

For organizations that rely on large numbers of frontline workers, the costs associated with hiring and retention have always been high. However, these challenges have been further amplified in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. These difficulties are not just a corporate dilemma but also a societal issue, as frontline workers often find themselves stuck in a cycle of low-wage jobs with limited prospects for advancement.

The root of this issue lies in traditional training models, which fail to translate into meaningful career outcomes for these workers. Without the opportunity for skill development and education, frontline workers face barriers to progressing up the corporate ladder. This lack of advancement potential leads to high turnover rates, contributing to a myriad of problems for employers, including lower retention, increased absenteeism, and a decline in overall productivity and morale.

The solution lies in reskilling—providing these workers with the training and development opportunities they need to fill high-demand roles, especially in growing sectors like IT, analytics, and cybersecurity. By investing in the reskilling of frontline workers, companies can tap into an underutilized pool of talent, addressing their hiring challenges while empowering a significant portion of the workforce.

In this article, we explore why reskilling frontline workers isn't just a charitable act but a strategic necessity for employers. It highlights how such investments can mitigate hiring challenges, enhance productivity, and foster a more loyal and skilled workforce. Read on to discover how reskilling initiatives can transform your organization's challenges into opportunities, and why it's crucial to start this journey now.

Finding and retaining frontline talent has never been harder

In today's increasingly competitive business environment, organizations are struggling to attract and retain frontline talent. In a recent Workday report, the majority of organizations surveyed had higher employee turnover rates than their historical average, and nearly half anticipate a higher employee turnover rate in the year ahead.

Numerous factors have made it difficult to find and retain talent. For example, the evolving nature of work processes driven by swift technological advancements has created a demand for new skill sets that existing workers may not possess.

This situation underscores the importance of evaluating employee training and skills development. Organizations should prioritize comprehensive training programs and skills development initiatives, which can be strategic levers to mitigate high turnover rates and foster a more stable, engaged, and capable frontline workforce. Nearly one-third of workers who responded to a recent survey said additional training and development would motivate them to continue in their current position.

By investing in employee development, organizations can foster a more stable, engaged, and capable frontline workforce. Training programs help employees remain up-to-date on the latest skill requirements and increase productivity. When employees perform better in their positions and receive more praise from superiors, it boosts morale and improves employee retention rates.

When organizations prioritize employee development, there is often a positive ripple effect. An empowered and skilled workforce delivers superior customer service, drives innovation, and contributes to a positive organizational culture. Similarly, companies willing to invest in employee growth and development are viewed as desirable places to work, enhancing their ability to attract and retain talent.

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Workers are hungry for advancement opportunities

Frontline workers exhibit a strong desire for upward mobility and professional development, and most seek opportunities to broaden their skill sets, advance their careers, and increase their pay. Unfortunately, as much as frontline workers want to move up in their organization, few receive the opportunity. A McKinsey report found that while three out of four frontline employees seek promotions, fewer than one in four achieve that goal. 

To retain frontline talent and adapt to the evolving demands of the workforce, HR leaders must develop career growth pathways and integrate continuous learning and advancement opportunities into the employee experience. A 2021 WorkStep survey of more than 18,000 front-line employees indicated that a lack of career growth was the top reason for turnover.

Establishing career paths isn't enough. HR leaders must provide incentives other than promotions to keep employees motivated. If job growth or increased pay are not viable options, organizations should focus on learning opportunities, such as reskilling courses, professional development, and mentorship programs.

Additionally, all learning and advancement opportunities should align with the organization's strategic goals. Employers should show employees how their personal growth directly impacts organizational success. Aligning company and individual career goals can enhance employees' engagement and sense of purpose.

Demand for IT talent is growing—and the skills gap is widening

As AI and digital technologies advance, the demand for IT and data expertise will continue to skyrocket. As such, employers are increasingly confronted with the challenge of sourcing skilled professionals in these areas. The exponential growth in data collection, the digitalization of businesses and services, and the adoption of AI have created a skills gap in the IT sector.

The shortage of IT professionals has forced companies to outsource work or offer higher salaries to attract specialized talent. Underscoring this point, a recent report found that four in five employers cannot find the skilled talent they need. Furthermore, recruiters are struggling to find data scientists and IT professionals who, in addition to having the required technical skills, understand how to apply these in a business context.

The growing skills gap in the IT sector presents a compelling case for organizations to invest in reskilling programs. A LinkedIn survey found that 79% of L&D experts believe it's less expensive to reskill employees than to hire new ones. Meanwhile, the Society for Resource Management (SHRM) studied the reskilling initiatives at PwC, Amazon, AT&T, and Accenture and found that reskilling employees was half the cost of hiring externally.

By investing in comprehensive training and development programs, employers can equip their existing workforce with the skills needed to navigate the digital landscape. Such initiatives also demonstrate a commitment to employee growth and development, which can improve employee retention.

Over time, a commitment to reskilling can help organizations stay competitive, reduce hiring costs, and increase innovation. It can also transform an organization's existing talent pool into the tech-savvy workforce of tomorrow.

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Reskilling is a pathway to a more inclusive workforce

In the contemporary business landscape, diversity and inclusion are strategic imperatives. To this end, employer-sponsored reskilling initiatives give organizations the opportunity to bridge equity gaps and foster a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

A substantial percentage of frontline workers are members of marginalized populations. A recent report found that people of color make up just over four in ten frontline workers. Another report by the same company found that people of color are overrepresented in many frontline occupations. Additionally, frontline workers are more likely to be female, foreign-born, have lower education levels, and live below the poverty line.

Reskilling initiatives can rebalance equity and diversity by developing pathways to higher-skilled, better-paying jobs. By providing frontline workers with the training and resources to acquire new skills, employers can empower them to advance in their careers, enhance their job satisfaction, and improve their financial stability.

Inclusivity should be a guiding principle when designing and implementing these programs. Employers need to consider language proficiency, digital literacy, and learning styles to support accessibility for all workers. Reskilling initiatives gain no traction if only a select few will benefit from them.

Additional support mechanisms like mentorship and dedicated career coaching help foster success by providing guidance throughout the reskilling journey. This is especially true for underrepresented communities that don't typically have support systems or may not be familiar with the language and culture.

Transform Your Frontline Workforce Through Reskilling 

Today's organizations face many challenges when managing their workforce—the challenge with finding and retaining frontline talent, the demand among frontline workers for advancement opportunities, the skills gap for in-demand IT roles, and the imperative to build a more inclusive workforce. 

Reskilling represents a strategic solution that can tackle these multifaceted challenges. It enables organizations to adapt to the evolving technological landscape, recognize the ambitions of frontline workers, attract and retain talent, bridge the IT skills gap, and promote workforce diversity and inclusion.

At Correlation One, we’ve prepared thousands of workers for the jobs of tomorrow, helping them to transition from the frontline into in-demand roles in IT, data analytics, cybersecurity and more. Our customized, highly adaptable programs are purpose-built to equip frontline workers with the skills and career coaching they need to yield true career mobility into digital and data roles, while driving retention, diversity, L&D ROI and recruiting benefits for employers. Interested in learning more about how Correlation One can partner you to reskill your workforce? Reach out to learn more.