Mentoring in the Era of Upskilling: Navigating the Future of Work  

Tina Graziosi


Mentoring in the Era of Upskilling: Navigating the Future of Work  

In today’s ever-changing work environment, the appetite for upskilling and career advancement is stronger than ever. Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of helping individuals build new skills and advance in their careers, especially at Sprinklr.  

However, we aren’t immune to the talent development and labor trends that every organization is experiencing right now. We’re navigating the complexity of enabling our employees to grow their skills and careers while balancing their increasing list of day-to-day priorities.   

In this post, we’ll explore how mentoring plays a pivotal role in supporting employees as they upskill, reskill, adapt to changing business needs, and strive for success in the era of hybrid work.  

Meeting the Skills Deficit  

Now more than ever, the business landscape is constantly evolving, and organizations must adapt to stay competitive. 

Consider data from Gallup’s American Upskilling Survey

  • 48% of employees would switch to an employer that offers skills training 
  • 65% of workers feel upskilling should be provided by their employer and use that as one of their factors when applying for jobs 

This adaptability often requires a shift in skills, among other things, to meet new market demands and strategies. While many employees have the desire to grow, finding the time to do so can be a significant hurdle. This is especially true for customer-facing employees, who are core to your business’s success.   

The business imperative to introduce new products and expand into new markets — plus the external pace of change and rise in automation — has highlighted a noticeable skills deficit among employees at all levels. There are, of course, industry-specific deficits in technical skills that vary from company to company. Yet almost universally, industry observers have noted that “human skills,” once known as “soft skills,” are in high demand and increasingly short supply.   

Given the internal and external rate of change, organizations may increasingly find that their people don’t possess all the skills needed to meet the strategic objectives of tomorrow. 

This newfound focus on skills isn’t a “nice to have” but rather a “need to have” for organizations that wish to compete. We must intentionally and continually build skills for today but also for tomorrow.  

Balancing Priorities  

Time, as we know, is a precious commodity. Employees, irrespective of role, find themselves stretched thin by their daily responsibilities. Whether implicitly part of the company culture or explicitly dictated by managers, 95% of employees feel like they’re required to overwork (according to an Inc and Go survey). 

The burning question that inevitably arises is, “When can employees find the time to engage in skill-building activities?”  

For many, the answer feels like ‘never.’  

In recent years, many organizations have recognized a significant shift in employee attitudes toward personal and professional growth. There’s an unmistakable appetite for building new skills and a deep desire for career advancement.  

However, one of the key hurdles many organizations are facing is striking the delicate balance between personal and professional development and the daily demands of work. Many employees express a strong desire to grow, but they often lack the necessary bandwidth to engage in extensive skill-building activities. 

To stay competitive, organizations find ways to help employees navigate this challenge effectively, and it needs to start at the top. Defining and committing to priorities while improving processes can help employees prioritize and give them time back through operational efficiencies.  

Mentoring: A Catalyst for Growth  

As we experience a talent market in constant flux, mentoring has emerged as one of the most effective strategies for empowering employees to grow their skills and advance in their careers. It offers a unique blend of experience, exposure, and education, serving as a guiding light through the complex yet rewarding labyrinth of personal and professional development.  

During the pandemic, as remote work became the norm, many people around the world experienced feelings of isolation. The need for connection and support became more apparent than ever. This is where mentoring truly shined, creating a space for meaningful connection while simultaneously helping employees build valuable skills required for success in the hybrid work era.  

The database, measurement, and scalability challenge  

While this seemingly recent shift toward skills-based management is promising, it’s important to recognize that skills have always been important. However, one of the most challenging elements of focusing mostly on skills lies in the areas of database management, measurement, and scalability.  

Measuring and managing skills effectively at scale can be a complex endeavor. While a focus on skills is undoubtedly a critical asset for any organization, accurately assessing, managing, and leveraging these skills presents its own set of challenges.   

At Sprinklr, we’ve embarked on a journey to help employees assess their skills, mindset, objectives, and more, ensuring that everyone is crystal clear on what’s expected. This proactive approach helps align individual skills with organizational goals and promotes a culture of continuous development and shared expectations.  

Stakeholder buy-in for upskilling  

In a rapidly changing landscape with competing demands, stakeholder buy-in, including executive leadership, is more critical than ever. Leaders who understand the future of work today and need for an intentional focus on skills can lay the foundation for long-term success. Often, upskilling initiatives are driven by Sales and Tech organizations, recognizing the need to stay ahead.  

Having leaders on board today at all levels about the need for upskilling will pay dividends for years to come. Ensuring alignment with the broader organizational strategy is essential for the success of upskilling initiatives.  

Mentoring and Coaching: A Powerful Combination  

Mentoring and coaching are valuable approaches for upskilling talent when aligned with broader objectives. These human-centric skills are especially critical for leaders who are expected to mentor and coach their teams effectively.  

Both strategies can be incredibly useful for upskilling when done intentionally and aligned to greater objectives. However, like most things in life, it’s essential to strike a balance. Defining the problem or need you’re solving will help you determine the best approach.   

Tying Skills to Organizational and Talent Development Initiatives   

To accomplish the business objectives of today and tomorrow, talent development initiatives must align with the required skills. This involves intentionally focusing on functional enablement, workforce planning, and organizational goals to ensure employees have the skills necessary to drive the organization forward.  

When considering the skills your workforce needs for the next three, five, or ten years, it’s vital to align these skills with your organizational and talent development initiatives. These initiatives should be designed to meet the business objectives of today and tomorrow, dictating the skills required.  

Beyond technical skills  

While technical skills are often top of mind when thinking about upskilling, it’s essential to recognize that upskilling extends beyond technical competencies. Those “human” skills we talked about earlier undoubtedly play a significant role in the future of work. As we navigate the shifting landscape, these skills, including empathy, effective communication, and adaptability, are critical for success.  

The skills asked for by employees are also continuously evolving. For technical employees, particularly those in engineering functions, there’s a strong inclination towards furthering functional skills in all areas. However, the pandemic and other recent events have highlighted the need for interpersonal or “human” skills. These skills play a key role in fostering productive relationships and driving business success, internally and externally. 

At Sprinklr, we’ve recognized the importance of “human” skills as a required skill for future success and have invested in live global leadership training. This initiative covers all aspects of the employee lifecycle and our culture. It emphasizes the significance of leading with empathy and career development in the new world of work.  

Final Advice for Upskilling Employees  

As we embark on this long journey of upskilling the workforce, let’s remember to retain the “human” element in our conversations. Upskilling is not just about acquiring new skills to propel the business forward; it’s also about nurturing the human aspect of employees.   

Intentionally investing in the workforce today will equip employees with the skills they need and foster a resilient and agile workforce ready for the challenges of tomorrow.    

That’s a clear path that makes room for employees who want and need to build their technical and human skills. Importantly, it’s a path that understands this type of development is definitively enhanced through the power of mentorship and coaching.