With over 800 million members, LinkedIn holds a lot of the cards when it comes to understanding the jobs, skills and people who are powering the workplaces of the 21st century. Their annual Workplace Learning Report, now in its sixth year, provides a range of insights and implications for L&D teams who want to connect their people with the best opportunities to grow. Here are some key takeaways, and implications for Learning Professionals.
The Great Reshuffle – out of the workplace, away from formal learning
Learning used to be predominantly formal and episodic. A training need would emerge and a course or programme would be designed to try and meet it. Learners would be led into an LMS to complete it, mark it as done, and get on with their lives. That doesn’t work anymore, if it ever did. The workplace is transformed post-pandemic – for one thing, it’s not where it used to be, and we’re not going back to office-default culture. The report notes that 81% of executives are changing their policies to offer greater flexibility to the workforce (not entirely clear what the other 19% are doing…).
The implication for L&D:
The obvious implication of what the report calls ‘The Great Reshuffle’ (sounds kind of like the dance that never made it onto Strictly, but let’s go with it) is that any learning experience needs to be flexible and accessible on demand, wherever your people are. That’s been understood for a long time, but Covid pushed the button on it.
Learning needs to be in the workflow, the workflow is wherever your people are. We’ve seen an upturn in using collaboration tools like Teams and Slack as channels for learning and skills development, with learning platforms, and curation tools like ours seamlessly integrated. That’s going to continue. There’s no question of not being able to login to any platform from wherever you are.
The Skills Crisis Gets Real: Learning needs to meet it head-on
Below the surface of workplace flexibility there’s a bigger challenge. The skills required to do your job have changed. The report notes that in the last five years, ‘LinkedIn members’ skills for the same occupation have changed by 25%.’
Ask yourself if you have reskilled by 25% in the last five years. If you’re not sure (and it’s tricky to measure), there’s a risk you’re falling behind what’s required. And the forecast is for a further 40% change in the next 5 years. However you measure it, something has to be done.
Most organizations wouldn’t hesitate to say that people are their greatest asset. But when it comes to investing in that asset, to grow talent and potential from within, there are some serious challenges: 49% of L&D professionals say executives are concerned that employees do not have the right skills to execute business strategy.
What skills though? Are there people in your workforce who have exactly the skills needed for the business, but you just don’t know it? According to the report, that’s highly likely. It notes that only 10% of organizations have a clear database of the skills in their workforce. At the same time, an employee who thinks their skills are not being put to use is 10 times more likely to look elsewhere for a job. They are far more likely to stay with an employer that’s investing in their skills development. The replacement cost is substantially higher than growing talent from within.
The Great Reshuffle or Great Resignation can be seen as a perfect storm of mismatches: people don’t feel valued for the skills they have, they don’t feel the organization is investing in them. At the same time, the organization doesn’t know what latent skills it’s not tapping into, and may not be aware of the skills it actually needs. Next stop: talent drain and a skills crisis. The question executives are asking is: Hey L&D – would you mind, you know…fixing this?
Implications for L&D:
Get a handle on skills: The demand and supply side for skills are mismatched. And there’s a lack of data on both sides. This calls for a move into a more data-driven approach for skills auditing and analysis. Look at the tools and platforms that can help to audit the current skills graph more effectively. The Fosway 9 Grid for Talent and People Success is a good place to start.
Think differently about learning: Skills continue to evolve, emerge and change. A formal, episodic approach to learning is too rigid to cover fast-changing skills. A lot of the work we’re doing here at Anders Pink with clients is to curate continuous learning in response to in-demand skills. It’s a lot faster and cost-effective to curate first, and only create for those very specific gaps.
Align to business objectives: This should always be at the core of any L&D initiative. But now that L&D is more in the spotlight, it’s vital that skills and people development map to the skills the organization needs to develop. Even in times of transformation, don’t let go of the basics: talk to stakeholders, understand what success for the business looks like, translate that to skills and development opportunities, measure for results. Employee engagement is going to mean: who developed, who grew into a new role, who stayed.
Employees want to develop too – listen to your learners
The new language around skills development can sometimes sound like it’s entirely set by business strategy and objectives. But of course, people want to develop their skills for their own reasons. The report notes the top 3 reasons for skills development from the learner perspective. They’re more likely to engage with learning:
- If it helps me stay on top of developments in my field
- If it is personalized to my interests and goals
- If it helps me get another job internally, or advance in my career
That’s right: me, me, me. How else would we expect our customers to be?
Implication for L&D:
Listen to your learners, change the model: Take a cold hard look at your current learning offer through the lens of those three ‘Iifs’. Traditional modes such as courses, libraries and compliance modules may not exactly tick all three of those boxes. If your people are going elsewhere to stay up to date, and find interesting content, there’s a missed opportunity for L&D.
It’s time to rethink the learning offer to be more customer-focused, and more fluid in delivery. A lot of the work we do with clients is to address the needs to stay up to date on a daily basis with a feed of curated, relevant content, aligned to their interests and career aspirations, delivered in the channels and platforms that they’re already using. If you want to know what’s happening in hyperlocal marketing, or digital transformation or python, you’re probably not going to find it in a course inside your LMS. Bring the best of the outside web into the workflow. Make it easier for people to stay up to date, and automate it to save time.
It’s not the only thing you need to do, of course – but if you’re not addressing customer (i.e. your learners) demands, you’re missing an opportunity to develop skills, and keep people engaged.
Attend to your own oxygen masks first: L&D are learners too
The report notes that L&D are time poor and under pressure to deliver, and the age-old analogy of the shoemaker’s children still applies: learning professionals don’t have a lot of time for learning (23% less than other LinkedIn members on average). L&D professionals need to model their own messaging when it comes to skills development: Audit your own skills against what’s needed for modern learning professionals. Address the gaps with curation and continuous learning. The organization is placing higher value than ever in the learning function, so it’s vital to invest in ourselves to deliver on expectations.
The report includes a useful map from RedThread on the skills that matter for L&D: Use of tools, Data Analysis, Leadership and Communication skills are the front runners. That’s a great place to start with personal continuous learning in L&D.
Conclusion: L&D has a seat at the transformation table – to keep it during the shuffle, deliver on skills
It’s not that long since L&D was ranked as one of the lowest value-add functions in the eyes of CEOs. That’s changed. 53% of L&D now believe they have a seat at the executive table (from 24% in 2020). The report notes that budgets for L&D initiatives aligned to transformation projects have increased: 48% of L&D professionals expect their budgets to increase (a six-year high – and given all the other global pressures on organizational budgets, that’s saying a lot). Demand for L&D specialists increased 94% in 2021.
L&D is in a great position at the table, with an opportunity to be a hero in the battle for skills. But as all heroes know, with greater power comes greater responsibility. To stay at the table during the great reshuffle, L&D needs to own the skills challenge, and use data, tools, and fresh approaches to learning to solve it for the organization.
As David Perring says in the report: “If you want to be leading the world, you have to be learning.” Print those t-shirts, L&D…and wear it for yourself too.
Talk to us: We’re working with leading learning organizations like Capgemini, Scania and Sodexo to drive continuous upskilling and reskilling through intelligent, automated content recommendations aligned to the skills that matter. We’d love to help you. Get in touch and we’ll show you what’s possible.