A Skills-First Approach To Learning And Development
To address the worsening talent shortage, organizations are shifting from job-centric to skills-based Learning and Development (L&D) programs. However, to ensure an effective skills-first approach, training must be aligned to real-world impact, not course completion metrics. The talent crunch is real and is getting worse. Not only are organizations of all descriptions facing workforce talent shortages right now, but the situation is likely to become more acute. In the next five years, 44% of workers’ core skills will change, according to the World Economic Forum.
The pace of technological advancement is a major factor driving the disruption. Conventional workplace barriers and traditional norms are crumbling. A new, boundaryless workforce, is emerging, able to leverage the latest technology and applications to apply themselves across various roles and disciplines within an organization. This major shift requires companies of all sizes to rethink workforce skills both in terms of their organization needs and the delivery and measurement through L&D systems.
Shifting Mindset: From Roles To Skills
Workplace dynamics are far more fluid now than, say, a decade ago. Remote working combined with changing job roles means there is now a far greater emphasis on the skills required to succeed. For example, we see this in the way job search and hiring practices are shifting. According to LinkedIn data, skillsets for jobs have already changed 25% since 2015 and these shifts are expected to double by 2027. To keep up with changing times, skills-first hiring is booming: LinkedIn data reveals that 40% of hirers now use skills information when hiring via the platform, a jump of 20% from the year before. And this skills-first approach is working, resulting in 60% more successful hires.
Where traditional on-the-job training and development programs tended to plug skills gaps associated with job roles, by contrast, a skills-based approach to L&D is less concerned with ticking boxes for outdated processes or roles, and more focused on enabling learning as a continuum based on skills that enhance job performance and impact key business metrics. Furthermore, skills-based training is becoming an increasingly important factor in hiring and retaining the most promising candidates.
Why A Skills-First Approach Is A Win-Win For Everyone
Employers know this. On-the-job training improves retention levels, increases staff motivation, and boosts productivity. A recent study of executives and HR leaders by Deloitte found that organizations that embed a skills-based approach are 63% more likely to achieve results, 49% more likely to improve efficiency, 52% more likely to innovate, and 98% more likely to improve their brand reputation and retain high performers.
This is why organizations are keen to highlight all the training opportunities they deliver. While it’s commendable to offer a wide range of courses, it’s actually more important to guide employees through a training program that aligns with the critical skills for their role. Just as importantly, employers need a robust framework for measuring the effectiveness of any new L&D initiative.
Defining And Designing Skills-Based L&D
Measuring ROI in L&D initiatives at an individual level goes something like this. First, we identify the critical skills needed for a role. Next, we evaluate how an employee scores against them. This forms the basis of an L&D plan that bridges any gaps in knowledge or skills. We know if the L&D initiative has been a success by the extent to which the acquisition of those skills translates into performance metrics for that employee or the wider business.
However, it is at the macro level that skills-based L&D really shakes up the traditional job-centric workforce view. Instead of fitting individual employees into pre-defined roles, modern L&D prioritizes skills by asking the following questions: What are the skills needed to get the job done? Who has those skills? Do we need to upskill existing employees or hire new employees?
Mapping Training To Business Objectives
Many workplace skills have a half-life of around five years at best, or closer to two and a half if they’re technical skills, which explains why CEOs and CHROs need their L&D leaders to upskill and reskill employees as quickly and effectively as possible. Maintaining a tight connection between the needs of the business and the outcomes of L&D is essential to ensuring its effectiveness. Currently, that’s not the case in the majority of organizations. According to Gartner, 70% of employees report they do not have mastery of the skills they need in their job. For an L&D platform to be successful, it cannot just offer a catalog of courses. Instead, it needs to offer a skills-first learning roadmap that aligns with business objectives. And, with a skills-first approach, technology plays a pivotal role.
Harnessing Technology To Improve Effectiveness
Using AI-driven insights, organizations can understand the exact skills an employee needs to improve. It’s good for business and it benefits the employee: two-thirds of workers are more likely to be attracted to and remain in a job where skills and potential are valued highly. Skills-centered L&D ensures that training is tailored to the individual, learning is contextualized, and effectiveness is measured not by how many course modules are completed, but by genuine skill acquisition.
Technology plays other key roles in L&D delivery too. A platform approach enables seamless access across devices and applications, personalized content, and dynamic rendering. Training needs vary enormously between employees. For example, digitally native Gen Z-ers may not need training to work the tech, but they may well need help acquiring softer skills. Gartner recently identified a workforce-wide erosion in social skills such as negotiating, networking and public speaking that has disproportionately affected Gen Z. The ability to contextualize learning according to a person’s needs and preferences helps organizations deliver more impactful experiences for employees, and, in turn, for their bottom line.
Training The Workforce Of The Future
Employers and employees alike are struggling to keep up with the pace of change. Not only have old job titles given way to new roles and the need for new skills, but the way we work and learn is changing, too. In a boundaryless enterprise, learning is no longer tied to a certain location or time but occurs continuously across an employee’s time at their organization, very likely across multiple locations and devices, and not necessarily during standard working hours.
Skills shortages are forcing L&D leaders to re-evaluate traditional training methods and upgrade learning models to prioritize skills development. ROI measurement for skills-based programs is shifting from course completion stats and satisfaction scores to quantifying the real-world impact those skills are making on the business, which is the ultimate win-win for employers and employees.