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Why you need a chief reskilling officer

Julie Cockburn

Automation and AI are radically changing the way we work. You need a C-suite exec responsible for reskilling your workforce for the future.

Amazon, Walmart, AT&T, JP Morgan are just a few of the of the firms now implementing root and branch programs to reskill their work forces. Automation and AI are here, and nearly all job roles are either changing now, or likely to evolve in the near future. 

Writing for Harvard Business Review, André Dua, Liz Hilton Segel, and Susan Lund explain why you need a chief skills and learning officer and what he or she needs to do to prepare your firm for the new normal.


As machines and digital technology replace routine tasks, physical jobs, and basic white-collar roles, there will be a major shift in labour requirements away from the mundane and towards roles which require a greater degree of digital and technical expertise, creative decision-making, and people skills. 

In the race to populate your business with the right skills mix, the labour market is certain to become more competitive – if you can grow your own talent, you’ll be ahead of the game.

Such major change requires leadership from the top: 

“Just as the role of chief technology officer became commonplace over the past two decades, the CSLO (chief skills and learning officer) may become more common in the decade ahead as organisations need to retrain, redefine and redeploy workers.” 

Such an appointment helps to embed learning to the extent that not only will your firm be better able to retrain and retain workers but you’ll also create a more meritocratic environment in which reskilling creates “pathways to upward mobility”.

This is important because of the wider social need for investment in people. 

“The United States is at a turning point. Polarisation – between high-growth cities and struggling rural areas, and between high-wage workers and everyone else – is beginning to feel unsustainable.” 

Reskilling is part of the answer.


Designing a comprehensive strategy for company-wide reskilling and retraining means rethinking what training is, how you offer it, and to whom.

  • Skills inventory. Who does what? Look for overlaps between existing skill sets and those likely to be required in the future. Now create three employee categories: those who require only training updates, those who require wholesale retraining, and those for whom there is no easy match to new job opportunities. 
  • Create a mix of new learning opportunities. Options include classroom courses and online courses or “blended programmes that combine classroom or online work and experiential learning”, and new learning methods like “bootcamps, team learning, gamification, and one-on-one coaching”. Use the technology available including interactive content, and virtual reality.
  • Create a learning hub. “Physical spaces are conducive to learning.” Even tech firms like Amazon are setting up physical infrastructure to support learning – classrooms provide a focus for your retraining strategy.
  • Engage. A balanced educational programme keeps employees interested and motivated. Engage at the right intellectual level with the right mix of theory and practical learning opportunities delivered at the right pace. Giving staff a role in designing learning programmes is one way to help make sure your programme is fit for purpose.
  • Partner. Don’t try to do everything in-house. Partner with commercial training providers and educational establishments “to develop relevant curricula, degrees, or certificates to create a local pipeline of future talent”.

The changing nature of work means you can’t afford to shirk your responsibility to prepare for it. But even as you begin to design your strategic vision for training, you must be prepared to exercise patience; you won’t see results right away. 

Some employees won’t rise to the challenge of reskilling, but a surprising number will – they just need the opportunity to enrich their lives through learning, plus a clear view of the rewards available for those who embrace the new world of work.

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Source Article: It’s Time For A C-Level Role Dedicated To Reskilling Workers
Author(s): André Dua, Liz Hilton Segel, and Susan Lund