Life Skills UPskill: Building Resilience and Thriving in Uncertain Times

There’s a saying, “no time like the present,” and here we are. Many of us find ourselves wondering aloud, “How is November already upon us when we’ve spent most of the year on our couches streaming Netflix?” In the same breath, we’re all counting down the seconds until 2020 is *OVER* and dread the fact that the clocks are going to fall back soon. Do we really need an extra hour of 2020?!

True, the year is almost over – but how different are things going to be in January? February? June? They may not be but we can begin preparing now. How? It’s time to UPskill.

As a society, we’ve entered into some type of “Devil-we-know” steady-state; albeit unstable, unsustainable and plagued with relentless uncertainty. Students are back in school vacillating in a milieu of hybrid learning with synchronous and asynchronous days and classes; if the student has access to a computer or tablet. Some parents have cautiously returned back to the office. Numerous restaurants have somehow miraculously sourced tents and heaters despite their current scarcity in a Hail Mary bid to stay open another month or two. Wearing masks has become a political and philosophical statement for many of us while others have upped their fashion game by sporting 2020’s hottest accessory.

It’s almost, sort of, kind of – normal. We’re resilient as a species, so most of us are digging deep and getting by. But not all of us.

The other shoe, as they say, is about to drop. “Deglobalization, digitization and corporate consolidation” are economic drivers putting millions of workers at risk and vulnerable to losing their jobs.

Unemployment benefits have run out for the record-breaking 60 million who filed for them. There is no new stimulus package. Travel and hospitality businesses like Hilton, Marriott, Uber, US Airlines and most of the other airlines have begun layoffs after tens of thousands of employees have already been furloughed for months. Anxiety levels – and prescriptions to treat them – are at an all-time high rising 34% between January and May of 2020. What are those levels now?

The August 2020 State of People Strategy Report by Lattice surveyed how the events of the year to date were affecting HR personnel and the colleagues they serve. It’s been a tough year.  Employees are reporting unprecedented levels (68%) of emotional exhaustion, burnout and mental health issues with 54% of HR managers citing helplessness and feeling overwhelmed by their jobs. Employee morale and retention is proving more challenging than ever. On the flipside, recruiting is surging with hundreds of people applying to each job posted. This has been a gloomy article so here comes the upside: 

The Upside: Companies Investing in Leadership and Coaching

78% of companies are investing in leadership and 40% are investing in coaching to help employees (both current and those laid off) to upskill and manage through this crisis period.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) made a Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work to commemorate its 100th anniversary in 2019. The Global Commission is urging employers, governments and workers to invest in training and education. In summary, the ILO concluded that, “Today’s skills will not match the jobs of tomorrow, and newly acquired skills may quickly become obsolete.” Spurred by the summary of the ILO report findings, the call to action is for all organizations and individuals to embrace life-long learning.

Last year, IBM conducted and published a report with alarming statistics: more than 120 million workers globally will need to upskill in the next three years as they are displaced by artificial intelligence (AI) in their jobs and workplace but less than half of employers have a training strategy. Additionally, they identified a 10x increase in cost of upskilling versus five years ago. Some universities, like CUNY, are offering 90-Day Upskill Challenges, whereas dozens of other vendors have recently launched or pivoted to meet the needs of this growing market.

The Cost of Upskilling and Who’s Investing in It

Manufacturing companies are spending a mind-blowing $26 billion in 2020 to upskill and train new workers to fill the growing skills gap in factory work. PwC is spending a whopping $3 billion to upskill its employees. Orange, a global telecom leader in France, pledged almost $2 billion to upskill its workforce. Amazon has committed $700 million to their 2025 Upskill Project to help 10,000 employees move into more highly skilled roles within the company or outside of it. 

What’s it really going to take to do this? A recent report by Harvard Business Review (HBR) highlights the need for a combination of formal (degree or certification), informal (via colleagues) and non-formal (via instructors) learning. At what cost? Research presented by Boston Consulting Group at last year’s World Economic Forum estimated $34 billion is needed to upskill the 1.4 million workers “stranded” by the recent advances in technology (Fourth Industrial Revolution). Their data also showed that the average American worker will need $25,000 to upskill and remain relevant in the workplace.

Online Learning Platforms and the Challenge of Course Completion

The net-net? Online learning platforms have tens of thousands of courses; many of which are now free or deeply discounted given competition. Not to mention the fact that less than 10% of people who register for the course go beyond – wait for it – chapter 1! That’s right, more than 90% of people never finish the course they signed up for. Consider taking a course on soft skills or watch “how to” videos (although they’re not curated for quality and effectiveness so you’re taking a chance) instead of streaming one. More. Movie.

It can be done. Little by little. Dig in. Consider micro-burst learning, consume a Coaching Capsule or apply the Pomodoro method learning 20-minutes at a time for better productivity. Take deep breaths. Remember? You’re RESILIENT. You can do this! Talk to a coach if you need a nudge…

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