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Companies Want To Upskill Internally, Than To Hire New Employees: Kelly Palmer, Degreed

CEOs are contemplating upskilling over 25 percent of their workforce over the next 5 years if they want to remain competitive in the future

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Kelly Palmer, Chief Learning Officer, Degreed, is releasing her book 'The Expertise Economy', co-authored with David Blake, chairman of the ed-tech company. The book talks about the new paradigm in learning & work and the urgency for companies to upskill and reskill their workforce. 

On her visit to India, Kelly talks about the changing scenario in ed-tech space and challenges for employees & employers in upskilling the latest skills.

How is the education (learning, upskilling and reskilling) scenario changing in 2018?

Skills shortage is a reality today and so is the innovation in learning to upskill, reskill and cross-skill. Companies with progressive mindsets have placed learning as a strategic part of the CEO agenda. 

In the past, a lot of corporations have been pushing learning to employees.  There is a shift towards a learner-centric model with personalised learning, realising that acceleration, digitalization, automation is pushing people to learn new skills continuously and quickly. 

What are the new developments taking place in the ed-tech (learning tech) space?

There is so much content for learning available to people now, and the rate of change is so fast, that we can’t be bound by old models of learning to satisfy how quickly people need to keep up on the required skills today.

In the old model, a central learning group would get requirements for what people needed to learn (say Java programming), design and develop the ‘training’, and then set up classrooms, register people, and have them leave their job to attend a class.  That process takes time (sometimes a lot of time) and by the time all that happens, your company has moved on and now needs Python programming skills instead.

In the new world of learning, if you are able to bring teams together to solve real problems, part of that is through online collaboration on platforms like Degreed, it can make a lot of difference. 

Degreed is not only bringing learning programs together but tying it to the skills so that they get better at their jobs they have or jobs of the future. We are helping people build skills for the future. We help people to demonstrate what skills they have and not just what they do. As we move forward, being able to identify what skills do employees have, what skills they need, and how that can help the company move forward is going to be an imperative. 

How challenging and difficult is skilling for employees in India?

One of the things Degreed is doing is solve the problems associated with traditional ways of learning. Access to all the learning that’s available out there and not just the learning that HRs and L&D organizations have designed themselves. The minute you open up all the content that employees can learn from, the challenge of helping people learn new technologies becomes so much more simpler. 

What is better for employers: to train the existing employees or to find an already upskilled workforce?

It is not an either-or situation. It has to be a two-pronged approach.

We are seeing a huge skill gap. There are a lot more jobs available than people to match them. Old traditional models of training employees are no longer working and sufficient. The paradigm shift is realising what learning means to people, helping them upskill on latest technologies that are coming out and move to different positions in the corporation along with growing their talent rather than relying on a “hire only” strategy. 

Degreed works to the advantage of the employers, saving them the high cost of chasing the same albeit limited talent pool that is being chased currently by every other company. Corporations do not want to be caught in a situation of having to lay off people and spend a lot more to hire new people from outside with the requisite skills. It is a much larger expense than investing in the employees that they already have. 

What are the challenges for employers in upskilling their workforce? 

Many learning leaders are re-thinking their strategy and want to incorporate more digital components to what they are doing with learning. This means thinking beyond traditional models of classroom training, e-learning, and the limited functionality of a learning management system. The reality is that people have information available at their fingertips and there is an abundance of tools to choose from. The key is relevance, context and helping your learners effectively navigate the explosion of content.

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