3 New Year’s Resolutions for Workplace Learning and Development
With unemployment at a historic low, companies are coming up with creative ways to hire fast and at scale.
It will continue to be a job-seeker’s market in 2019, and companies will continue to struggle to find qualified candidates. Applicants who have kept their skill sets up to date will have their pick of jobs, and hiring managers will pull out all the stops to sweeten their offers. But, as Udemy’s 2018 Skills Gap Report found, companies will see diminishing returns if they don’t invest in their workforce’s ongoing learning and development.
Just over half of our survey respondents said they’d quit a job where they weren’t given adequate training. In other words, it’s one thing for someone to accept your job offer; it’s another thing for them to feel like they can build a future at your organization.
As we turn the page on another year of competitive recruiting, more companies need to make substantive investments in their employees and recognize that a rich learning and development culture is the best strategy for future-proofing their workforce and lowering attrition. Here are few often-overlooked elements I hope companies will include in their 2019 plans.
Give people what they want
Digital transformation has reimagined many things we do at work, as new technologies and automation tools get applied to a wide variety of business processes, but learning and development hasn’t necessarily kept up. At a lot of companies, “training” still means one-size-fits-all sessions that employees view as an interruption and a chore, not something helping them succeed and grow.
The 51% of survey respondents who said they’d leave a job for better learning opportunities shared other traits that suggest they’re exactly the sort of motivated employees companies want to hang onto. They’re aware of changes looming on the workplace horizon, such as the impact of automation and artificial intelligence on job skills, and are preparing themselves accordingly. This cohort was most likely to say they take online courses as their primary learning resource, and 81% have already gained new skills.
Beyond that, learners need to be empowered to drive their own experience. Rather than having someone tell people what, where, and when they need to learn, give them the keys to unlock learning themselves. Who knows best what an individual employee needs to learn in any particular moment? HR? A learning and development professional? The actual individiual doing the job?
Don’t skip the soft skills
There’s a lot of misunderstanding about soft skills, such as professional communication, problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, and time management. Some people believe that you are either born with them or you are not.
On the contrary, soft skills are professional competencies that won’t get automated and are unlikely to decrease in value. And, yes, they can be learned and fine-tuned throughout our lives.
To future-proof your workforce, you’ll need people who are adaptable and have the soft skills they can call upon in a variety of contexts. If your employees are hyper-focused on hard skills, seize the opportunity to fill in the gaps by encouraging and empowering them to develop their soft skills with just as much zeal.
Even if people are slower to tackle soft skills on their own, they definitely recognize their value. For example, our survey on the employee experience found that 72% think their coworkers need communication training. In our 2018 skills gap research, leadership skills also increased in value among workers, up 7% from 2017. And more people cited leadership skills as the area they need to address in order to grow in their careers.
Democratize learning for all
Access to learning opportunities can’t be reserved only for employees of a certain pay grade or tenure. Learning must be made available to everyone, and companies should want to have people who are actively interested in growing their skill sets.
Here’s an example of why learning needs to be accessible to all. At a lot of companies, manager training is only rolled out to people who are about to be promoted or just got there, which is far too late to prepare them for making a successful transition. In our employee experience survey, 60% said their managers need more training, and 56% felt people were promoted to management too fast.
You won’t be “wasting” that training on workers who never become managers. Anyone can serve as a leader or mentor, regardless of title, and everyone can benefit from better understanding the management dynamic.
Companies should also beware of unconscious biases limiting how training is communicated and rolled out to their workforce. There’s research showing that “women are less aware of opportunities for training and less satisfied with the opportunities that exist within their company.”
Savvy companies recognize they need to solve for more than just hiring at scale in 2019. Once they’ve found the right talent, they have to create an environment where people can thrive and make progress toward their career goals.
To do that next year and beyond, companies should commit to nurturing a learning culture that doesn’t just pay lip service to employee development. If people are your most important asset, it’s time to train them like you mean it.