Joe Quick


February 06, 2020


This is an excerpt from the recently released report, Upskilling with TPM.

In today’s labor market, long-term talent strategies are often over-shadowed by the critical short-term needs of today and tomorrow. While immediate hiring needs are often the most pressing issues for HR departments, strategies like TPM can help businesses solve these common pain points—such as unfilled job openings, exorbitant training and onboarding costs, and attrition—and talent gaps collaboratively. TPM provides businesses the tools and structure for a future-forward approach to long-term, sustainable hiring practices that avoid an ongoing, singular focus on triaging immediate needs.

TPM employer collaboratives (Strategy 1, Organize Employer Collaboratives) give industry an opportunity to communicate with a coordinated, regional industry voice to send clear impactful signals to education and training partners about competency and credential requirements (Strategy 3, Communicate Competency and Credential Requirements), both for new and current workers.

Upskilling and Reskilling for Today’s Economy

A full TPM approach relies not only on improving external pipelines—adequately preparing talent that has yet to walk through the door—but also on long-term strategies for backfilling, upskilling, career pathway development, and succession planning. Companies that make upskilling and reskilling a priority will remain competitive as industry adapts to changes in technology, and as competition for talent continues to increase in today’s tight labor market. While businesses should recognize the value of both new employee perspectives and those that are already within their ranks, a company’s growth mindset should also be equally reflected in its professional development (or personal growth) practices.

Organizations like the Chamber Foundation and the Aspen Institute are working with business leaders to expand opportunities for workers and help our communities and our economy thrive through intentional incumbent workforce upskilling. And for good reason. Investment in upskilling and reskilling produces skilled, successful employees, increases employee attraction and retention, and can save money otherwise focused on recruitment efforts. Through TPM’s focus on building talent supply chains and measuring employer ROI (Strategy 5, Build Talent Supply Chains), employer collaboratives are improving key pain point metrics like the number of qualified candidates for critical positions, time to full productivity (of new or existing staff), and cost of hire.

A Talent Attraction and Retention Tool

From a talent attraction perspective, many job seekers consider professional development opportunities a major selling point when deciding where to work. A Robert Half and Enactus survey of Generation Z workers (born 1990 to 1999) indicated that 91% of respondents saw professional development support as a key factor in their decisions when selecting an employer. Coupling professional development with clear career pathways can produce a loyal, skilled, and motivated team. It can also improve retention. A workforce that feels well prepared for their jobs and experiences company investment in their professional futures is a committed workforce.

The Bottom Line

Upskilling an incumbent workforce costs money, but it is often less expensive than the aggressive recruitment strategies required for occupations with skills that are in high demand. And unfilled jobs cost both productivity and money. Results from a 2016–2017 Career Builder survey reported that nearly 60% of U.S. employers had job openings remaining vacant for at least 12 weeks. In this study, HR managers reported incurring average annual costs of more than $800,000 caused by vacant job openings.

Backfilling a less senior, entry-level role vacated by an upskilled and promoted internal candidate is often easier than filling roles that require specialized skills and experience with an external candidate. Companies that look internally to fill their pipeline for critical positions are likely to have workers in those roles reach full productivity faster and more efficiently. TPM’s strategy that focuses on analyzing talent flows (Strategy 4, Analyze Talent Flows), can help businesses discover where their most successful talent is coming from, including analyzing internal talent flows that highlight the training and education experiences which have led incumbent talent to be successful in their jobs.

Furthermore, workers who are already a part of a company’s culture and understand its operations have a perspective that—combined with newly hired talent with a fresh perspective—can accelerate productivity and promote effective knowledge transfer.

Through the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s TPM web tools, employer collaboratives can measure these key metrics as they work with preferred education and training providers to expand and improve the talent pipeline that possesses the competencies and credentials (Strategy 3, Communicate Competency and Credential Requirements) required to meet business demand (Strategy 2, Engage in Demand Planning).

Additionally, companies can take steps internally to provide a variety of opportunities for upskilling through micro-learning, virtual access to training, tuition assistance, and partnerships with key training organizations and education institutions. Often, both federal and state funding support is available to qualified workers and businesses to supplement business investment in efforts to upskill an incumbent workforce.

As the economy changes, business cultures that support life-long learning to upskill and reskill the workforce will be those that remain competitive and relevant. This challenge is best met through long-term, coordinated pipeline development strategies that put business in the driver’s seat. TPM provides businesses a structured process for collective talent solutions that improve both internal and external talent pipelines.

About the authors

Joe Quick