McKinsey’s Upskilling Initiative: Bridging the Skills Gap for Career Advancement

October 25, 2023

Upskilling at McKinsey

Upskilling is a key workplace trend that facilitates continuous learning and helps employees advance in their careers. It also helps close the digital talent gap and allows companies to fill jobs with specialized skillsets.

Upskilling is different from reskilling, which involves teaching new skills that help an employee perform their current job more effectively. Upskilling is often facilitated by training programs, such as courses offered by Penn LPS online and mentorship programs.

What are the key drivers?

The world of work is in a state of epochal transition. Digitization, automation, and advances in artificial intelligence are transforming jobs. By 2030, as many as 375 million people—or 14 percent of the global workforce—will have to switch occupations or acquire new skills.

In a McKinsey survey, 87 percent of executives reported having skill gaps in their workforces. But fewer than half of them had a clear strategy for filling these gaps.

To win the talent battle, companies need to accelerate their reskilling and upskilling efforts. Leaders who succeed in this arena have a sharp view of the talent required to build future value and are intentional about finding both top talent and adaptable learners.

They also use digital talent-marketplace platforms to connect supply and demand. They design learning journeys that can help displaced workers find new career paths. And they make reskilling and upskilling an integral part of their corporate social-impact programs. Michael Chui is a partner in the San Francisco office, Mena Issler is an associate partner, Roger Roberts is a senior partner, and Lareina Yee is a senior partner.

What are the skills gaps?

The COVID-19 pandemic brought skill gaps to the forefront, and respondents now recognize that filling them is more urgent than ever. They are more likely to cite reskilling as their most important action to take than they were in the run-up to the pandemic (Exhibit 1).

Companies need to focus on future skills—those that already exist, like agile working and digital interaction, or will develop over time, such as blockchain technology development. They must also address current skills gaps by focusing on training that will enable employees to perform their jobs more effectively, particularly soft skills, which are critical as distributed teams become common.

In order to identify which areas of their workforce require more training, companies need to conduct a capability gap analysis. This is a process that requires a mix of tactics, including reskilling, retraining, and providing more learning opportunities. It is essential that the right training is provided to employees, as failing to do so can lead to a decline in performance.

What are the learning opportunities?

McKinsey offers many opportunities to learn throughout your career, starting with our One Firm Onboarding program, which you can tailor based on the areas of development you want to focus on. You’ll also have access to a broad range of online and experiential learning programs — some are self-directed and others, like our Tech Week, help you build new skills through a combination of immersive experiences and online resources.

You’ll be thrown into the deep end your first few engagements, but don’t worry — your colleagues are always available to help. And if you get stuck, there’s our global Helpdesk — the rule is to call them for any IT issue or Excel question that can’t be solved by asking your colleague. And of course, you’ll have countless conversations with clients where you can apply what you’re learning. The result is a continuous cycle of improvement and development — one of the reasons why ex-McKinsey consultants are so highly sought after on the job market.

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