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The Education (R)evolution and Its Impact on Your HR Strategy

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As a result of recent global health, economic and social crises, existing workforce trends are accelerating, driving digital transformation at an unprecedented scale.

The digital transformation that virtually every company is experiencing requires new skills. And I’m using the term “skills” as opposed to “education” for a reason. Education teaches you about concepts; skills training shows you how to apply those concepts. This may seem like a small difference, but it can be very significant. Many times recent college graduates start out as interns or as full-time employees without having practical skill experience.

The important fact to remember — and this goes for workers as well as employers — is that education should never stop. It should evolve with the changing needs of the marketplace. However, the real magic happens when you build upon the power of education with plenty of opportunity for your staff to practically apply that new knowledge in the workplace, building the types of skills that your organization needs to excel in the future.

Skills in High Demand

How do you know what skills are most in-demand? And who needs which skills? The answer is far from clear-cut. When it comes to hard skills, while often role-specific, one in-demand skills area that is proving to be critical across a multitude of functions is tech skills. According to Scott Engler, a vice president with Gartner TalentNeuron™, “Technology skills are no longer highly centered in IT; they need to be ‘marbled’ across organizational functions and businesses and coupled with soft skills to achieve transformation success.”

So, what about those highly sought-after soft skills we keep hearing about? Our latest Talent Shortage survey reveals that when it comes to soft skills, resilience, stress tolerance and adaptability are at the top of employers’ lists, followed by collaboration/teamwork, critical thinking, creativity and problem-solving. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2020 listed critical thinking and analysis as their most sought-after soft skills, as well as problem-solving, and skills in self-management such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility. Companies that were surveyed for this report estimated that around 40% of workers would require reskilling of six months or less; 94% of business leaders reported that they expected employees to pick up new skills on the job. This was a sharp uptake from 65% in 2018. Those that were expecting new employees to pick up skills on the job listed both formal and informal methods for imparting skills training.

It’s clear to see that formal training works much better than “learning as you go.” But formal doesn’t have to mean in-person (or even online) classes in the traditional sense of the word. Assessments are valuable tools for revealing where a person’s skill level is now. Badges or micro certifications can demonstrate an employee’s soft skills such as teamwork and problem-solving. Online coaching can help a worker personalize his or her learning needs and create a path forward. When hard skills are lacking however, there are many online, on-demand courses available. It’s important to allocate time for employees to complete these courses, and to stay on top of their progress and successes.

No matter which learning combination you choose, it’s important to create a culture of learning through webinars, mini workshops or more informal connections.

Offering multiple skills training and assessment options will make you stand out in the marketplace. A great place to start is with our Learnability Quotient assessment, a way to assess employees’ learning styles and receive recommendations for how to develop and engage.

Keeping your employees up to date on both hard and soft skills will keep your company agile and primed for a leadership position in the market. For more about creating a culture of learning, see my colleague Nimo Shah’s blog, How to Boost Employee Motivation and Morale Through Learning.

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