The workplace currently presents some new challenges in need of innovative solutions. According to NFIB’s monthly jobs report, March 2021, 42 percent of small business owners reported job openings they could not fill, a record which is 20 points higher “than the 48-year historical average”. [i]Certain skills roles such as system architects, software developers, data analysts are in high demand. The competition for these roles has driven pay higher and made hiring more difficult. This results in another form of labor shortage.[ii]Additionally, in a February 4, 2021 press release, Gartner cites that 58 percent of the existing workforce needs new skill sets to do their jobs.[iii] All of these factors are converging.
Taken at face value, these facts offer a bleak hiring forecast which could impact the solvency of many small businesses. However, there are novel, dare I say courageous, leaders who are looking beyond the statistics. They find the power to survive and thrive by flipping the paradigm. Instead of hiring from without, they are focusing within their own organizations. Their innovations follow a trend for upskilling and reskilling their workforce. [iv]
One such leader is Mr. Bill Berrien, CEO of Pindel Global Precision, a global manufacturer of precision machined production parts and solutions. I heard Bill interviewed on a business channel and my interest was piqued. His conversation did not focus on the bleak conditions for small business. Rather Bill introduced a concept which I addressed at the Hacking HR 2021 Conference, that of the need for upskilling and reskilling the workforce.[v]Bill’s commitment to his employees and his use of learning tools aligns with my own as presented in Digital HR: A Guide to Technology-Enabled Human Resources.[vi]
Recently, I reached out to interview Bill Berrien. I wanted to discover how Pindel Global Precision survived and thrived during the Pandemic and has made its way forward. What I found was that Pindel Global Precision was such a leading-edge HR business model that I must share it with you. While CEO Bill Berrien’s approach is unique to his custom, high tech, machine tooling business, there are principles that apply to any organization and industry. Pindel Global Precision’s recent success can be attributed in part to upskilling and reskilling the workforce. Let me explain.
Before COVID-19 : Pindel Global Precision Approach to Training
Prior to the pandemic, Pindel Global Precision used a learning model that focused on employee development through building a rewarding professional environment. Bill’s leadership style is based upon his Navy SEAL background and a philosophy that the entire team needs to succeed, as well as the individuals. In the Pindel context, teams are enabled by providing them with the tools, technology, and training to do their jobs. “Automation in this environment is not a threat or enemy, rather it is used as an enabler to create more value – and then to capture more value.” Training is an investment with a long-term focus.
The Pandemic and Specific Needs : Why Now is a Good Time to Upskill
When COVID-19 hit, requests for custom machined products fell drastically. The cash flow dropped, and Bill needed to pivot to a new paradigm. Pindel Global Precision realigned excel capacity into the business of making ventilator parts. While these components were supplied practically at cost, it provided cashflow with little profit. Bill made a commitment to his people to keep everyone employed. That required some ingenuity. He accepted the PPP loan, but there was some employee downtime. Again, considering the leadership concept of leaving no one behind, he began a new initiative to upskill his workers. Some chose to take programming training to be able to program the high-tech machinery on site, others took quality training. The training was taken online in the workplace, much of it through Tooling University.
For the past year there have been no layoffs, even though as Bill says, he didn’t “know the bottom” or how long this pandemic would last. As the ventilator business diminished over time, Bill’s other initiative started to bear fruit: pursue AS9100 aerospace certification, which is required for the production of high precision parts for the aerospace industry. Once certified, Bill incubated and launched a wholly owned subsidiary within Pindel call Liberty Precision to pursue this exciting market.
Impact of COVID-19 on the Business Model/ The Upskilling and Reskilling
Manufacturing is an industry that has had the unfortunate moniker of being “dark, dirty, and dangerous.” Bill is working to revise that image to a more accurate description of “smart, safe, and sustainable.” Yet the challenges to manufacturing remain. Bill’s philosophy is to enlighten others to see it as a viable career. In Bill’s opinion this can be accomplished through 1) reskilling by training those not presently in the profession and 2) upskilling through employee development and skill building.[vii]
Another factor driving Pindel Global Precision’s success during the pandemic is its approach to hiring and the emphasis on skills over pedigree. Bill, a graduate of Princeton, Johns Hopkins, and Harvard, makes the following important observations:
- A college degree is not the “sole cradle of human dignity”; there are so many life paths toward fulfillment, compensation and security that don’t require a degree.
- What one learns in the first 25 years of life will not carry them through the next 50 years of your professional career; you will have to be able to continuously learn.
- How one learns in the first 50 years of life (full-time school; group setting) will likely not be the mode for one’s learning the next 50 years of life; new learning modalities will emerge, and we must embrace them.
Bill’s emphasis is on creating career opportunities for ongoing employee development.
Going Forward, How Do Organizations Create Opportunities for Upskilling and Reskilling, One Paradigm
Looking toward the future, Bill believes that upskilling and reskilling are here to stay and, in fact, must be emboldened as they are fundamental to our society’s re-articulating The American Dream in the era of automation, globalization and artificial intelligence. He envisions three legs to the upskilling/reskilling “stool”. They are:
- Transparency: The pathways for individuals’ career development “learning paths” should be transparent so they can establish aspirations and a plan for accomplishing them.
- Competency: Organizations should provide courses with hands-on applied learning and opportunities to demonstrate competencies, not just knowledge.
- Currency: HR should clarify what these professional growth opportunities are worth in financial terms. Jobs should align with the skills sets required and payment recalibrated to reflect those skills.
Bill’s vision for continuously upskilling large swathes of society leverages the ‘shared-economy model’ a business concept commonplace now in businesses such as Uber, where someone with a car and driver are available on call or AirBNB where an owner rents it out his/her facility when not in use. From a learning, upskilling, and reskilling perspective, our legacy approach relies primarily upon technical colleges. These educational institutions offer the full array of components for teaching including the facility, training materials, training support, and instructors. However, a shared economic vision for upskilling is to disaggregate these components (facilities, training, training tools, and instructors) to instead be supplied by those in the system who have excess capacity of them. In so doing, learning would be more readily available and not tied to the “bricks and mortar” of education. Workers could more easily upskill and reskill on the job without going through a formal education.
Of course, the downside of organizations investing in training is the concern that workers with new, valuable skills may simply move on to another organization. To that possibility, Bill replied with the famous Richard Branson quote that he penned in 2014:
“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough, so they don't want to”.
Pindel Global Precision under the leadership of CEO Bill Berrien offers a practical approach and testimonial to the success of investing in your workforce through reskilling and upskilling, a win for both business and employees.
Have you pursued upskilling and reskilling with your organization? What is your reskilling and upskilling strategy? Please feel free to contribute innovations, solutions, and positive outcomes. Reskilling and upskilling provide one solution to a global talent shortage. In the next blog, we will address another novel solution, in fact a model for leveraging a business/education partnership for talent development.
[ii] TalentNeuron. (2020). Do More with Data to Close Critical Skill Gaps [HR Report]. G. TalentNeuron. gartner.com/en/human-resources/research/talentneuron/leveraging-skills-adjacencies
[iii] Baker, M., & Zuech, T. (2021, February 4, 2021). Gartner HR Research Finds 58% of the Workforce Will Need New Skill Sets to Do Their Jobs Successfully
[iv] Elfond, G. (Dec 21, 2020). Why Employee Upskilling and Reskilling Is So Important Right Now. Forbes.
[vi] Waddill, D. (2018). Digital HR: A Guide to Technology-Enabled Human Resources. SHRM.