What Are Adjacent Skills?

Reskilling a workforce is one of the most significant challenges a company faces. There are plenty of stories of radical reskilling—seemly superhuman leaps between two very different types of roles. While these examples are inspiring, they often tend not to be the truth of reskilling. For most organizations, the opportunity in reskilling is most significant if they think about adjacent skills. Adjacent skills are not directly related to a current job but can be learned or developed to change job roles or careers. For example, an employee who has strong skills in Excel could be a prime candidate to reskill into a data and analytic role.

We’ve put together a comprehensive guide on adjacent skills and their impact on the workforce. This article helps you understand what adjacent skills are, why they’re essential, and how you can use these skills to prepare your workers better, today and tomorrow. Companies must continuously reskill and upskill employees to stay competitive in an ever-changing business environment. One step companies can take is to focus on developing adjacent skills that are complementary to existing skillsets and necessary for the future of work.

Adjacent skills complement a current job responsibility and allow employees to take on more challenging assignments. In this case, it doesn’t have to mean thoroughly learning new skills; more likely, it will involve adding new capabilities. So, while they often require learning new competencies, they build on existing knowledge, making them easier to acquire than entirely unrelated skills. In this way, they help bridge the gap between what workers already know and what they need to know in the future.

What Happens If Your Employees Don’t Improve Their Adjacent Skills?

If you’re running a large company, you have employees with skills that aren’t as critical to your business as they once were. The problem is that these employees, who might even be competent workers otherwise, won’t be of any use to your organization if their skills don’t match up with what you currently need. Reskilling these workers can help them remain competitive in today’s tech-focused job market. It can also save companies money and time by allowing less experienced people to take on jobs that would otherwise require hiring new staffers. We should expect more companies to follow suit to keep an edge on competitors.

Why Do Companies Focus On Reskilling Employees?

Companies need to think about training for tomorrow, not yesterday. Suppose your company isn’t focused on reskilling and upskilling their employees to ensure they are job-ready in a changing economy. In that case, you could be behind your competitors (just like COVID-19 proved to us). The good news is that reskilling is easier than ever before, thanks to technology and a change in workplace culture. So, here are some reasons why focusing on honing adjacent skills is beneficial for employees and the company.

1. Improves Employee Confidence

According to a recent survey by Officevibe, 42 % of employees said they see no clear plan for improving their skills. That’s why companies should refocus their efforts on helping workers overcome their fears and pursue other passions. By reskilling their employees with skills that fall outside of what they already do at work, companies are giving them more options down the road. It may seem counterproductive, but it’s forward-thinking—it helps grow your talent pipeline for future roles in your company. If you want to improve retention, give your employees something to believe in outside of work.

2. Increases Agility

Agility has many definitions, but one that you can use to improve agility at work is the capability of a system (or a person) to adapt to external change. (See how it relates to reskilling?) The idea here is that reskilling your workforce for future demands will help your employees develop new skills—specifically adjacent skills—that complement their current expertise. You’ll also see measurable benefits from having a more agile workforce, like lower turnover and higher employee engagement.

3. Improve Productivity

Incorporating additional skills into your employee reskilling strategy can also help you improve productivity and enable your employees to work on more than one project at a time. For example, providing employees with cross-training opportunities is beneficial because it helps employees learn about other departments and improve their jobs. This, in turn, leads to employee retention, which is another benefit of boosting productivity through training initiatives. According to Gartner Research, employee turnover costs companies up to 50% of an employee’s salary each year. Effective reskilling strategies are a great way to cut down on turnover and boost your bottom line.

How Do You Define A Successful Adjacent Reskilling Program?

If you’re launching an adjacent reskilling program to help your employees build new skills, the success of your program may not be defined by what you think. It could depend on your employees’ perception of the program’s usefulness and whether or not it puts them in a position for success. Here are some ways an adjacent reskilling program can define its success:

  • A successful program allows your employees to build new skills and prepares them for their next move.
  • A successful reskilling program will provide employees with the tools to succeed in their next role.
  • Successful programs give employees access to resources like training, mentoring, and coaching, and access to mentors who can provide guidance and advice on applying their newly acquired skills in the workplace.
  • A successful reskilling program will provide employees with the right fit for their new roles.
  • Reskilling programs should be designed around the specific needs of each employee, so they’ll be ready when applying those skills in a new job position.

Reskilling Is A Challenge But Also An Opportunity

Reskilling is a massive challenge for almost any business, but it’s also an opportunity. The workplace is changing rapidly, and your employees are looking to be challenged and fulfilled. Given that reskilling can help you retain top talent and stay competitive in an ever-changing landscape, it’s well worth investing in employees: not just reskilling them, but also rethinking how they work. One way to do that is to look at adjacent skills: complementary skills that will improve your employees’ overall level of expertise without reinventing their jobs entirely. By combining specific reskilled workers with adjacent skillsets—which are likely across departments—your business will get its pick of top talent at a great price!

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Originally published at www.linkedin.com.