New McKinsey Report Spotlights Product Management and Other Reskilling Efforts in Response to Market and Technology Trends

The following insights have been drawn from the McKinsey & Company report: Beyond hiring: How companies are reskilling to address talent gaps, 2020.

Rapid market and technology changes are driving companies to seek increased product innovation and operational effectiveness to keep up with the pace of change. A recent report from McKinsey & Company highlights the importance and value of reskilling staff across many roles in meeting these and other challenges, including staff in product management-related roles.

For product management leaders, the report highlights how bottom-line business results are positively impacted by reskilling/upskilling efforts. Product teams are the center point of innovation and growth in most companies. They are charged with leveraging best practices to drive continuous product improvements, conceive and launch new product offerings, expand into new segments, and maximize each product’s market results. It follows that enhancing the skills of these key employees can drive improved results on each front.

What follows are key insights from the report relevant to product management leaders.

The Strategic Need for PM Skill Development

The report reveals that product and/or service design is among those areas with the greatest need to address potential skill gaps. Gaps refer to the difference between ever-increasing market and technology changes, and the skills employees need to keep pace with them. According to the report, nearly one-quarter of companies indicate that the PM-related skill gap puts it among those disciplines where the greatest need exists. For perspective, that reskilling need is roughly equivalent to the level cited for roles such as IT and executive management, roles that have traditionally received significant learning and development support.

Moreover, the most cited purpose of reskilling efforts (reported by more than half of respondents) is to enable the implementation of a new offering, business model, or strategy. Again, this outcome is the primary goal of the product management function. This report supports the need for PM leaders to improve their teams by instituting reskilling/upskilling initiatives to improve new product development, the creation of innovative business models, and the development of new market strategies. Such advancements not only align with the demands of the changing business environment, they also reinforce the product management discipline as a vital, strategic function within the organization.

Training Challenges

Most companies acknowledge important employee skill gaps, with nearly all respondents to McKinsey’s survey indicating that closing potential gaps is a priority for their organizations. However, companies face significant hurdles in their efforts to do so. The report cites a few examples of such hurdles:

  • Skill Visibility: Many companies lack visibility into the current skill level of existing employees. Because these organizations simply don’t know what they don’t know about current skill levels, they find it difficult to envision reskilling programs that will address their employees’ actual needs.
  • Curriculum Design: Fewer than half of companies in the study indicated that they have strong capabilities in curriculum design. If identifying the real level of need is the first step in reskilling, then curating effective training programs is the next. Without dedicated resources for such, this represents a very significant hurdle.
  • Balancing Training and Work: Over half of companies say the most significant challenge in reskilling has been balancing their program’s needs with those of current business operations. Everyday business needs don’t subside simply because employees are engaged in training. Reskilling efforts must be flexibly configured to allow for staff to fulfill their work responsibilities.
  • Measuring Impact: According to the report, measuring training program impact is another common challenge faced by organizations. This hurdle is related to the first – Skill Visibility – and signals a need for skill and business benchmarks against which results may be measured over time.

Key Business Impacts of Training

For those organizations that have instituted reskilling programs, over two-thirds indicate that the impact has been greater or equal to the investment in those programs. Three-quarters report improvement in employee satisfaction, while half also cite improvement to brand perception among customers to be a result of reskilling efforts.

Most tangibly, nearly half of companies say that such programs are already enhancing bottom-line growth. The centrality of product management to the development of new revenues suggests that PM reskilling may provide some of the most direct bottom-line impact to business.

Training as a Business Strategy

The report indicates that organizations are much more likely to cite skill building, rather than hiring, as the most effective way to close skill gaps over the next five years. Only by closing such skill gaps can organizations hope to keep pace with rapid market and technology changes. As such, nearly 75% say they expect their organizations to invest more in learning and development over that period. Training, thus, assumes a foundational place in business strategy.

To implement such strategic reskilling programs, the report concludes with a few key recommendations for organizations:

  • Leaders should be directly engaged in learning initiatives. The report highlights how such leader engagement tends to be key to successful reskilling efforts.
  • Reskilling curriculum should blend in-person and digital learning opportunities.
  • Personnel should train in cohorts of employees with similar experiences and be involved with projects that allow them to practice skills while they learn.

Make PM Training Part of Your Strategy

Product Management leaders can assure that their teams are able to create the new products and business opportunities needed to keep pace with change by integrating training into their strategy. Three key actions can anchor your PM reskilling effort:

  1. Assess your team’s current skill level. 280 Group offers organization-specific PM skill assessments that let you benchmark your team’s skills against international scores.
  2. Identify targeted PM training that suits your business and team. 280 Group offers a range of PM training programs from foundational skills, to Digital Product Management, to Agile development, to PM leadership, and more.
  3. Establish the right blend of live, remote, and self-directed training. A flexible mix of training modes and timing allows staff to stay engaged with work as they train. 280 Group offers several training delivery options.

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About the Author

Bill Haines - B2B Marketing Rules
Bill Haines is a Principal Consultant and Trainer at 280 Group.
Bill is a product management and marketing advisor, five-time corporate VP Product/Marketing, consultant on over 90 projects, and author of: The 21 Rules of B2B Marketing. His corporate experience included leadership roles at two, $1B+ information companies, a continuing medical education provider, a boutique software firm, and an internet start-up with $29M in funding that was subsequently acquired by its industry’s leading company. In addition, Bill previously served as Partner of an award-winning marketing communications agency.

280 Group is the world’s leading Product Management training and consulting firm. We help companies and individuals do GREAT Product Management and Product Marketing using our Optimal Product Process™.

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