The importance of reskilling and upskilling new graduates

Small Business Canada

Kim Spurgeon, Senior Vice President, Customer Experience, Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge

Kim Spurgeon is the Senior Vice President, Customer Experience at Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge. Speaking exclusively about the multi-faceted nature of training requirements while hiring new graduates, Spurgeon also talks about the latest trends in Canadian HR and recruitment strategies and shares some of the best practices for reskilling and upskilling initiatives during COVID-19.

Kim Spurgeon is Senior Vice President of Customer Success at LHH, responsible for setting the overall sales strategy, direction, and execution of LHH’s growth plan in Canada. As a member of the LHH senior leadership team, Kim brings over 20 years of experience in Human Capital consulting. Prior to the sales leadership role, Kim was responsible for finance, delivery, and operational effectiveness of the Career Solutions business in the GTA and Western Canada. She is a certified coach, specializing in career management, coaching, and transition. kim.spurgeon@lhh.com

Can you highlight key findings from the recent LHH LinkedIn poll in relation to the skill and training requirements when hiring new graduates during COVID-19?

LinkedIn polls have been a useful resource to collect inputs on various topics as we find new and strategic ways to connect with our audience within the remote work landscape. In a recent LHH LinkedIn poll, undertaken to better understand the biggest barriers for organizations in hiring recent graduates during the pandemic, 22 percent of respondents shared that a lack of skills was a key obstacle. Additionally, 18 percent of respondents shared that increased training is required to help recent graduates fit into new job positions.

New graduate hires are reinforcing the need to build up specific skills for future career success. Spurred by the next generation of young professional entrants, career development and training opportunities will have to be a core competency.

As new grads increasingly look for opportunities to develop skills and enhance their experience, a key deciding factor will be the training or development opportunities offered in the early recruitment stages.

Although some organizations may want to focus on training and upskilling only at the top of the talent pipeline, it is imperative that new grads, along with the staff at all levels, are equally considered to promote skills relevance and accelerate professional growth in an ever-evolving workplace.


Why do companies need to focus on training programs for new graduates?

It is important to encourage training programs for new graduates, however, learning and development opportunities are essential for all employees across the talent pipeline. The digital transformation, coupled with the pandemic, has highlighted an anticipated skills gap within the next five years. This has created an opportunity for new graduate hires to fill a portion of this gap through appropriate training. In addition, to attract and retain new graduate recruits, organizations must allocate ongoing professional development training and skilling opportunities to appeal to this younger generation’s expectation for continual growth throughout their careers.

Companies that overlook employee development and training programs face the risk of slowing the growth of their talent pipelines. A recent survey conducted by LHH on Global Redeploymentfound that 36 percent of Canadian companies have not considered reskilling or upskilling programs to future-proof their talent pipeline. Not only do training programs enhance the quality and retention of new hires, but they also increase the long-term success of the company itself.

By investing in employees, companies are investing in the future. Organizations have an opportunity to differentiate themselves by making employment more attractive to entry-level talent, while also accelerating productivity and engagement.


What is the long-term impact of talent development initiatives by large organizations?

This year’s Global Redeployment Survey, which was conducted to over 2100 senior HR professionals, indicated that among the organizations that participate in training programs; the most experienced benefits are increased productivity (56 percent), and increased employee loyalty (54 percent).

When companies initiate reskilling, upskilling, and training programs, it helps them stay relevant and competitive.

Companies can improve their future value by tapping into these types of talent strategies. A culture of continuous learning improves the employer value proposition strengthens employee retention, engagement, and overall productivity which can contribute to the organization’s bottom line.


What are the latest trends on Canadian HR and recruitment strategies for new graduates?

The outset of the pandemic, digital disruption, and changing demographics in the workforce have changed the labor market for new grads and other employees as well.

Pandemic-driven virtual recruitment and onboarding is a key trend that has forced organizations to adopt new ways and approaches to connecting, analyzing, and hiring candidates. Organizations need to ramp up their recruitment efforts and find innovative ways to onboard new grads virtually. In the recent LinkedIn poll, 47 percent of respondents identified virtual hiring and onboarding as the biggest obstacles for new graduate recruitment. The trend that will redefine recruitment strategies for new graduates is robust onboarding plans consisting of virtual welcome sessions and engaged support from teams to streamline the process.

Building effective remote teams within any company, from junior to senior levels, is also being reshaped. Organizations are creating alternative and innovative strategies to enable productivity and develop enriching relationships with new hires.

An increased focus on the implementation of a diverse and equitable workforce is crucial. The virtual workplace allows organizations to now recruit from broader geography. This gives workers in more rural locations the opportunity to work in highly populated cities with greater job options. Hybrid remote work models will also increase employment opportunities for those located anywhere in the country.


Can you please share some of the best practices for reskilling and upskilling initiatives during COVID-19?

The pandemic has forced rapid changes, creating a rising demand for enhanced digital capabilities. As companies look to remain competitive in the marketplace, they need to look to all candidates, both internally and externally, to fill the growing skills gap. Key initiatives to prepare for the future include:

  • Ensuring that reskilling & upskilling strategiesare aligned to future business goals
  • Ensuringthat executive sponsorship creates a culture of continuous learning
  • Identify the key skills gaps for the future and align them with the training strategy
  • Consider the workforce as renewable and identify segments that can be upskilled or reskilled regularly
  • Provide career development coaching so employees understand where they fit in the future workforce
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