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Savvy leaders will see a dip in workforce productivity in 2022. Here’s why it’s a good thing

PwC’s Danielle Phaneuf says the loss is temporary. Once workers are upskilled, businesses will start to reap the benefits, witnessing an explosion of productivity as programs are in full effect.

Savvy leaders will see a dip in workforce productivity in 2022. Here’s why it’s a good thing
[Source Image: Giannis Vasilottos/Pexels]

Signs of mass resignation aren’t slowing down. This means retaining talent and keeping employees happy will be a continued challenge well into 2022. With employees increasingly valuing career growth, the solution lies within upskilling investments—but the immediate payoff will take some time. 

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There is a positive correlation between retaining talent and upskilling workers. 72% of workers claim they’d be more engaged with work if their company increased investments in training, while 69% believe they would be happier with their work. It seems like a “kill two birds with one stone” situation. Not only can businesses reap the benefits of a trained workforce but they can also keep their top talent. 

While this may be true, businesses that embark on upskilling programs need to anticipate an initial dip in productivity. There may be a sense of urgency to retain talent but upskilling takes time. Providing training opportunities for employees is critical to keep workers who prioritize career growth, yet allowing them to spend the time learning is essential to ensure they will provide value. 

Looking to next year, business leaders activating upskilling programs need to not only anticipate this drop in productivity but also have measures in place to counter it. Here is what should be top of mind as they prepare. 

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Productivity levels may fall—and that’s okay

Upskilling is a process that takes time. These programs require a certain level of commitment as they typically consist of multiple modules, tests, and certification processes. As a result of this, employees will need to turn their attention away from their daily responsibilities in order to fully learn and grow. For example, a large retailer planned for about a 25% drop in productivity while employees pursued upskilling into new roles that were critical to their new modern IT operating model. When PwC invested $3B in upskilling a few years ago, part of that was to cover time taking employees away from client service and putting them into classrooms. 

While a six-month dip in productivity may seem daunting, it will pay off. Once workers are upskilled, businesses will start to reap the benefits, witnessing an explosion of productivity as programs are in full effect. Trained employees feel empowered to get their jobs done and contribute to the growth of their business. Not only that, but it makes employees happier, with 71% of upskilled workers saying training programs have led to greater job satisfaction. 

Communicate value

In order to combat this decrease in productivity, the entire C-suite will need to be aware of the changes that are set to take place. And they must be able to advocate for the benefits of upskilling despite any short-term productivity dips. 

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While upskilling programs are rolled out, businesses will need to ensure that their C-suite members can translate the value of the technology they are investing in, and the payoff training will have to all sectors of the business. This means leaders will need to learn to be fluent in tech so that they are able to explain the benefits it provides, despite the initial loss in productivity it may spur. 

Fifty-four % of all employees will need to enhance their skills to meet changing work requirements by 2022, and the c-Suite will need to be at the head of the table in rolling out upskilling programs. As these changes run course and productivity slims, leaders can mitigate any potential skepticism or doubts by actively communicating with employees. This means acting as instructors and providing guidance on why these programs are vital, how they can benefit the business, and how they can advance personal careers. 

Prioritize well-being programs

Be aware: Your employees are not afraid to resign. In fact, 65% of employees are currently looking for new jobs. Simply put, if an employee is not getting what they want out of a role, they’ll likely look elsewhere. 

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Businesses will need to pull out all of the stops to retain their talent, especially as productivity levels wane. While one of the payoffs of upskilling is retaining and providing talent with opportunities to grow, it’s also critical to provide your workforce with opportunities to refresh. 

With employees juggling both training programs and their daily tasks, businesses should create clear well-being programs that consist of flexible working schedules, time off to prevent burnout, and opportunities to catch up on delayed vacations. PwC offers employees “protected time” where employees can disconnect from work to renew. The company has found that it not only bolsters personal well-being but also helps sustain high performance. 

Providing employees with opportunities to invest in their well-being will allow them to come back to work, eager to advance their careers via upskilling, as well as motivated to excel in their own responsibilities. This is an essential part of making up for the expected loss in productivity spurred by upskilling. 

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Upskilling will be an essential factor in the fight against the Great Resignation. Leaders must advocate for the investment required in upskilling, despite any initial productivity drops, and provide employees with opportunities to invest in their well-being. In the end, there may be a productivity slowdown yet this will only lead to a smarter, more productive, and happier workforce. 


Danielle Phaneuf is partner, Cloud & Digital Strategy, PwC.


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