How to Engage People on Reskilling: A Language Lesson

How can leaders speak about reskilling programs in ways that motivate people to act? Apply this advice gleaned from an experiment at Vodafone.

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Reskilling has become an imperative rather than merely a growth opportunity. Technology advancements like generative AI have led the World Economic Forum to project that 44% of employees will experience skill disruptions in 2023. On the surface, organizations seem to be rising to this challenge: Thirty-four percent of Fortune 50 companies have made reskilling and upskilling top strategic priorities and have designated a hefty 1.5% of their annual budgets to support them, according to research from Boston Consulting Group.

However, despite the level of investment in reskilling infrastructure, such as learning programs and talent technology platforms, we find that organizations are undervaluing the need to change employee behavior through effective engagement strategies. Having a well-designed reskilling program doesn’t help an organization if people don’t sign on to participate in it. To achieve a shift, leaders must understand how to connect people with reskilling initiatives in ways that encourage them to take up learning.

In an experiment conducted by a team of behavioral scientists from consultancy MoreThanNow and global telecommunications company Vodafone, we found that while most leaders talk about reskilling as an opportunity for individual progress and/or a means to achieving company strategy, a more frank, assertive message about keeping their skills relevant in a digital future drove more people to act. We present this evidence on how to change behaviors to help leaders connect their employees with the vast organizational investments being made in reskilling and upskilling.

Career Relevancy Resonates

Our randomized, controlled experiment, which included a global sample of 800 Vodafone employees, aimed to identify the language and motives that would best engage people to explore Vodafone’s case for change. We compared four different message types that introduced the company’s learning offering and why employees should sign up for it:

1. Individual progression: You’ll invest in your career path and thrive in a digital future.
2. Company strategy: You’ll help transform Vodafone into a technology company for a digital future.
3. Learning enjoyment: You’ll put the joy of learning into your work as you discover new skills and capabilities every day.
4. Career relevancy and security: You’ll develop skills and competencies for the digital future.

While most leaders and organizations tend to use messages 1 and 2 when talking about reskilling, we found that No.


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