Mentorship is critical to support reskilling and upskilling

As the pandemic continues, employers are seeing resignations from employees over work conditions, pay and the swaths of industries pivoting to digital automation. Workers have been compelled to think more critically about the next steps in their careers.
According to Statistics Canada, 130,000 people have left the workforce during the pandemic, meaning they have chosen to stop working and are no longer seeking employment. Additionally, in a 2021 online survey conducted by the Canadian Center for the Purpose of the Corporation, 40% of respondents said they were considering switching jobs or careers. And while the phenomenon dubbed “the Great Resignation” hasn’t played out with the same magnitude in Canada as it has in the United States, it’s evident that a significant percentage of Canadian workers are considering quitting. As a result, employers are scrambling to hire as they undergo severe labour shortages.
The question is, what are employers to subvert this and to support employee retention and career management?
The answer seems to lie in reskilling and upskilling. While these concepts are not new, they have become more commonplace as people find themselves navigating job searches or seeking career advancement or pivots.
Reskilling and upskilling are often mistaken for one another, but are not interchangeable. Reskilling requires workers to learn new skills to equip them to move to another job area, industry or specialty. Upskilling primarily focuses on helping employees become more skilled and relevant at their current position, or to advance within their organization.
As the federal government continues to support the automation and digitization of certain industries, it is also simultaneously assessing the economic impact of pandemic-caused unemployment. It is also attempting to provide support to workers who are finding themselves needing to upskill and reskill in order to either improve their proficiency on automation or acquire new roles in entirely different industries.
Simultaneously, as workers begin to weigh their employment options, with many favouring remote-first or hybrid workplaces, employers have been forced to think critically about ways to retain employees and build organizational commitment.
As a result, employers are choosing to implement workplace mentorship programs to engage and retain their employees. It’s also clear that mentorship within reskilling and upskilling has been mutually beneficial for employers and employees at workplaces that have invested in in-house programs. A 2019 report by Gallup stated that the cost of replacing an employee can be equivalent to one and a half to two times the employee’s annual salary. For companies with over 100 employees, this might mean spending approximately $660,000 to $2.6 million per year in employee replacement costs. Therefore, investing in mentoring programs can positively affect cost savings in hiring.
Mentorship can be a fantastic solution for employee retention, attraction, satisfaction and development in the context of reskilling and upskilling. According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report, 94% of employees say that they would stay at a company longer if it simply invested in more of their training and learning.  ​​And, as a result, 27% of Gen Z and Millennials workers say the No. 1 reason they would leave their job is that they did not have the opportunity to learn and grow.
With mentorship, employers can support the reskilling and upskilling of their workforce, while employees can now make lateral / cross-departmental and/or promotional moves for their career without ever leaving their existing organization.
“Mentorship can be a fantastic solution for employee retention, attraction, satisfaction and development in the context of reskilling and upskilling.”
Through mentoring, workplaces can connect an employee with skills gaps to an employee who excels in that skill. Through this relationship, the company presumably retains the newly skilled talent, allowing them to “test drive” the employee without having to incur any additional costs of replacing them or hiring a new worker. A case study by Sun Microsystems reported that both mentees and mentors are five to six times more likely to be promoted than those who do not participate in mentorship.
Mentorship can also be a critical component in propelling diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations found that mentorship can boost representation at the management level by between 9 and 24%. Through mentorship, employees are given an opportunity to learn from someone more experienced to reskill and/or upskill, which can contribute to their career acceleration. This is especially important for those who have been historically underrepresented at senior levels. Fostering these relationships that encourage opportunities for growth and development can diversify workforces at all levels and enhance loyalty amongst employees while promoting a culture of progress. This ultimately leads to more engaged and happier employees.
It’s obvious that the benefits of mentorship within reskilling and upskilling go beyond just what is applied in the workforce. As many “leave their comfort zone” and transition back into the workforce and perhaps reskill into a new industry, some may feel less confident in their abilities. Similarly, employees who are looking to “upskill” may feel a lack of confidence, support and resources when looking for promotional opportunities or lateral transitions within their company.
Meaningful mentorship can bolster workers’ self-esteem and confidence through support, critical feedback and motivation. More than ever, mentorship has had an undeniable economic impact through creating lucrative careers within growing industries, expanding the skills of the workers. For the workforce, it has helped create more meaningful and passion-fuelled careers.
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