Looking Inward: Ireland and the Reskilling Revolution

November 29, 2019

We’re in the midst of a reskilling revolution, where looking inward and investing in our people, structures and organisation culture will allow us to unlock unrivalled benefits long into the future. At the recent Ibec HR Leadership Summit held in Dublin on 24 October, EY Partner Jackie Gilmore shared her views with delegates on the importance of re-skilling our workforce and the skills they need to thrive.


In this age of innovation, organisations are seeking competitive advantage through constantly evolving their technology and ways of working. However, in such a fast-paced, disruptive environment the real differentiator lies in equipping your people with the skills they need to thrive. Skills like adaptability, creativity and agility – which traditionally have been overlooked by employers – are becoming increasingly necessary to succeed.

Equipping your workforce with the skills they need for the future is two-fold. Firstly, organisations must identify reskilling as a competitive advantage. Secondly, leaders need to establish a culture of life-long learning and put the supports in place that makes this a success.

Reskilling as a competitive advantage:

Identifying, investing and growing skills for the future has been highlighted as a top strategic priority in Ireland. This is not a simple hiring game. 45% of employers worldwide say they have trouble finding candidates with the necessary skills in the job market. Therefore, employers must look to invest in the people within their organisation. 

To do this, we first need to know who we have within our organisation, their skills base, and the future skills they will need to stay relevant. We can then cross-reference this with future trends to identify skill-gaps in a proactive manner and strategically plan and manage our workforce to thrive.

A common mistake we see when assessing future skills needs is solely focusing on reskilling employees with task-specific technical skills. The real crux of success when it comes to skills for the future is building complex problem-solving skills, critical-thinking and adaptability. Developing these capabilities is a starting point, but for a reskilling programme to take flight there also needs to be due consideration paid to understanding whether you have the right people, in the right place, doing the right work. It is not a simple one-off learning and development programme. It is so much more.

Establishing a culture of lifelong learning:

Secondly, I am passionate about helping employees to remain in learning mode so that their skills don’t lose currency. Upskilling and reskilling are a major factor of the Employee Value Proposition (EVP), with 94% of employees saying they would stay at a company longer if it simply invested in helping them learn. Employee self-driven learning can only happen when the leaders and the organisation structures support its success. 

Organisations that have successfully brought a culture of life-long learning have benefited from a workforce that is highly flexible and adaptable to changes. While organisations desire a workforce like this, the reality is that cultural supports are needed to ensure success, otherwise known as a “growth mindset” culture. Companies with this culture place a high value on learning, view perceived failures as opportunities, and focus on the developmental potential of their people. This all requires organisational leaders to play their part in providing the time, space and resources necessary to set their organisation up for success.

We are in the midst of a reskilling revolution, where looking inward and investing in our people, structures, and organisation culture will allow us to unlock unrivalled benefits long into the future. We all have a responsibility to build a better working world, and our people are at the heart of this paradigm. 

Jackie Gilmore, MA, MBA
Partner at EY, People Advisory Services

Note:  themed ‘Shaping Talented Minds’ Ibec’s annual HR Leadership Summit took place on 24 October in Dublin’s Croke Park Stadium. This year’s event focused on the theories of grit and growth mindset. Speakers at the event explored how these theories, spoken about widely in academic fields, can be transferred to organisation company culture.