Many companies lack a well‑thought‑out strategy for teaching their staff new skills, even though the technologies they’re using are changing almost by the day and skills gaps are emerging.
Although many managers grasp the severity of this problem, half admit not having proper learning and development strategies in place to close these looming skills gaps.
In this article, we’ll be discussing how you can design and develop a sustainable development strategy.
‘The New Way of Working’ – a blessing or a curse?
Those debating the impact of the changing labor market often split into one of two camps.
On the one hand, some people see major benefits in the new jobs and work forms emerging. They believe that they boost productivity and liberate employees from the drudgery of routine tasks.
On the other hand, some people see these developments in a more negative light and fear for mass redundancies as employees are replaced by robots and other forms of automation.
Investing in your workforce
In reality, both scenarios are feasible. What will actually happen depends primarily on the choices we make today and the strategies we develop to close any skills gaps.
Proper preparation for future labor markets does, however, mean we have to start looking at the interaction between education, skills, and labor in a different light. Companies can no longer remain passive providers of jobs to a made‑to‑measure, ‘plug‑and‑pay’ workforce.
Instead, they will have to start investing in their staff. But how? By focusing on the following points:
- Evaluate and revamp the role your HR department plays. Tomorrow’s HR managers will have to use analytical tools to accurately map emerging trends, changing skill requirements, and looming skills gaps.
- Capitalize on diverse talent and skills throughout your organization.
- Encourage concepts such as on‑the‑job training and life‑long learning. Combining both is even better in order to safeguard your organization’s future and minimize staff turnover.
- Interdisciplinary cooperation between companies, for example public-private partnerships, offers major opportunities for organizations to combat the dangers that skills gaps present.
Closing skills gaps in three easy steps
Follow these three steps in your organization to bring about real change – greater agility and resilience – and say goodbye to skills gaps for good!
Time to take a closer look at these three steps.
Step 1: Benchmark – create transparency and acknowledge your staff’s individual skills
Transparency is an important prerequisite for formulating a development strategy. Benchmarking helps you create this transparency and map all your staff’s proficiencies. After all, it’s your employees that together form the heart and soul of your company. Benchmarking highlights where each staff member currently stands and what’s needed to reach future goals.
It takes not only hard skills, qualifications, and certifications into account, but also soft skills. These are often just as important as hard skills in terms of how employees perform. Benchmarking generally comprises a combination of generic and specialist questions that provide insight into each employee’s skills and expertise. Doing so replaces instinct-based assumptions and guesswork about employees’ skills and qualities with hard facts.
Transparency also entails communicating clearly and concisely which skills have a higher ‘market value’ at any given moment. It’s also important to acknowledge all your employees’ individual skills and to give them the freedom to work on the most relevant skills in a inspiring and challenging fashion. This means that you have to give your staff the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and to reward them for high performance.
IBM puts these concepts into practice using AI and analytics to create a digital footprint for its employees. This provides a clear picture of the skills present and their staff’s proficiency levels. Results are shared openly and translated into personalized recommendations.
IBM also monitors which skills are currently the most in demand. This creates a climate in which there is room for personal career path development, on‑the‑job training, and open career discussions between staff and management. Eight out of ten IBM employees now have the skills they need for the future. Five years ago, this was only three out of ten!
Step 2: Create a link between company strategy and personal goals
The ‘New Way of Working’ demands a new form of leadership that differs from the traditional authoritarian model in several respects. What’s more, the era of the one‑size‑fits‑all approach is long gone, especially in terms of talent management. That’s why it’s so important that there’s a direct correlation between company strategy and employees’ personal growth and learning objectives. Actively involve staff in setting and achieving these goals.
The modern‑day workforce expects a personal, rather than a top‑down approach. More and more frequently, talented professionals are looking for jobs where career development, skills, and training programs match their personal objectives and interests.
Taking the following pointers into account, it’s possible to create a match between company strategy and individual employee objectives.
- Actively seek individual motivations for acquiring and mastering new skills or achieving certain goals. Staff will be more inclined to commit to meaningful objectives and training programs that provide greater value to their personal career development plans.
- Give staff the freedom and responsibility to achieve their set goals themselves. Discuss the goals and make them as clear and concrete as possible. This gives employees a sense of ownership.
- Give clear feedback and evaluate employee performance and development.
Personalizing goals goes much further than segmenting employees into profiles or business units. It only becomes ‘personal’ once you’ve mapped out every individual’s skills and unique talents. What are the advantages of doing this? You’ll uncover exactly how individuals and your organization as a whole can benefit and progress further, and it will provide valuable information for personalizing learning and career development programs.
A prime example of an organization that’s taken personalization to an extreme is the New Mexico Community College. This educational institute uses digital badges and blockchain technology to paint a clearer picture of the students’ skills and link these to the highly sought‑after skills in the current job market.
Besides a diploma, graduates receive ‘digital credentials’ that they can send to potential employers via a smartphone app. Win-win. Companies get a clear picture of candidates’ skills and graduates gain an insight into their career goals and the skills required to achieve them.
Step 3: Create personal development plans with learning styles that suit individual employees
(How do your employees prefer to learn? Look outside your company for possible solutions)
Static jobs and job descriptions are now totally outdated. The emancipation of the modern‑day employee, an increasingly flexible labor market, and rapid technological advances are forcing us to adopt a collaborative, customized, and interdisciplinary approach. Nowadays, the perfect team no longer consists of staff with clearly defined static jobs, but highly versatile individuals with a wide range of relevant competences.
This means that an employee might be using one skill set as a member of Team A and a whole other skill set as a member of Team B. This is how flexible, agile teams can be formed with a complete pallet of carefully selected skills for a particular current requirement, process, or customer need. Skill pool management is the perfect method for implementing this new way of working. It places greater emphasis on creating personal developments plans. The focus is directed on a learning style that suits individual employee’s preferences and needs.
Younger generations, in particular, want to learn in a way that allows them to put newly acquired knowledge into working practice as quickly as possible. On‑the‑job training is often a better option than traditional, classroom-style teaching where practical sessions are preceded by huge chunks of difficult‑to‑digest theory. Matching personal development plans to tailor‑made training programs also helps generate greater employee satisfaction and motivation levels. Ideally, employees should also have sufficient freedom to shape their own learning and career goals.
It’s also worthwhile looking further afield at companies outside your own industry or sector. To remain competitive in the current business climate, it’s often wise to form sustainable partnerships with other companies or public organizations. Use their expertise to place your organization more prominently on the map.
A prime example of customization and interdisciplinary partnership is that between IBM, Cemex (a cement and building material producer), and a leading university. It resulted in their founding the Monterrey Digital Hub – a shared workspace focusing on consolidating and developing new digital skills for the next generation of employees and business owners. Staff and business owners have the freedom to select and put together their own learning objectives.
Let’s get going
Now that you know how to close your skills gap, it’s vital that you take a few practical matters into consideration. One way to do this is to combine AG5’s skills management software with any one of a number of useful learning platforms – Coursera, Skillshare, CreativeLive, Simplilearn, OuickStart, FutureLearn, Studytube, Lessonly, or Udemy.
Our software allows you tackle each of the steps listed above – effectively and efficiently. Skills matrices provide a clear picture of each employee’s skills, qualifications, and knowledge (Step 1). AG5’s software also provides greater transparency. It does so by presenting an overview of all the skills present throughout your organization and how these correlate with key operational objectives (Step 2). What’s more, you can selectively link matrices to specific projects and custom training programs (Step 3). The AG5 platform streamlines the process of mapping skills to such an extent that it frees up all the time you used to spend maintaining piles of Excel spreadsheets.
If you want to know exactly which skills, competences, and qualifications exist within your organization, and you could use a helping hand to create your skills matrices, feel free to get in touch or schedule a demo.