What happens when businesses can’t find enough qualified employees?

Employers across industries are facing a growing skills gap — the divide between the skills job seekers have and the skills employers are looking for — but neither employers nor job seekers are helpless. By focusing on innovative learning and development (L&D), employers and job seekers can work together to close the skills gap.

The Widening Skills Gap

Skills shortages are a major contributor to the tight job market. In the 2019 Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) survey “The Global Skills Shortage,” three out of four HR professionals who reported experiencing recruiting difficulties in the previous 12 months said there are skills gaps among job candidates. What’s more, over half said the skills shortage has worsened over the past two years.

The survey found that the skills gap is worse in the areas of trade skills; data analysis and data science; and science, engineering and medical fields. Notably, these skills areas are also where technology and customer demand are evolving at rapid speeds. The contact center is a prime example of the growing talent gap: As routine customer support tasks are increasingly automated, more customer care representatives are expected to solve complex problems, be creative and analytical thinkers, and support a number of different communication channels. However, hiring contact center workers with these skills is difficult.

Closing the skills gap in these industries begins with innovative training. L&D needs to build a solid foundation by identifying and developing the right people for the right positions through data analysis. Just like the “precogs” in Philip K. Dick’s science fiction story “The Minority Report,” business leaders need to identify behaviors early and then leverage technology, data and resources to enrich them. They need to constantly revisit their assumptions, cross-reference them with operations-based data, and continuously analyze them to ensure that they are adapting their teaching methods to the times and to individual learners.

So, what does the future of learning look like? Here are three dreams to make learning applicable to today’s reality.

Dream 1: Predicting Performance

In “The Minority Report,” precogs have an important role: Not only are they able to see potential futures, but this skill allows them to intervene to prevent crime. Being able to predict employees’ future performance based on their performance during training is, or should be, the dream of all training leaders. Accomplishing this dream requires three essential elements:


Instead of reinventing operations, augment them. To train employees on how to use a customer service software, for instance, it’s important to replicate the actual work “environment” through easy-to-update, minimal-maintenance cloud technology. Using cloud technology that imitates the software user experience enables learners to immerse themselves in the operational experience without impacting real customer records. The cloud also allows for real-time updates to reflect the changes in the live operations environment.


Developing a refined, successful process to ensure consistent quality takes time, patience and experimentation. Consider using simulated peer-to-peer customer interactions that are recorded and evaluated. You should also analyze multichannel customer data to understand the trends and themes specific to each customer, associate skill set and communication type.


People are, perhaps, the most undervalued element of training. Many leaders look for the one tool that can make everything better or the single process that will change customer satisfaction results. On the contrary, success includes empowering aptitude-enabled employees with pride and passion. It’s essential for employees to embrace innovation and see beyond what is immediately in front of them.

These three elements allow organizations to proactively identify the future success of prospective employees with an average 85 percent success rate. For example, by replacing its traditional blended learning with simulated and social learning tools, one company achieved an 18% improvement in handle time, while quality improved 32 percentage points within four months.

Dream 2: Personalized Learning

Rewarding employees is necessary, but waiting until the end of a project or program to do so is likely to lead to disaster. Today’s learning leaders need to find ways to challenge and reward their learners in job-specific ways that invigorate their willingness to learn rather than insult their knowledge. Through the use of gamification, organizations can reward employees with social badges for earning certifications or based on their operational performance.

Instead of one-size-fits-all tools, organizations need associate-specific microlearning tools that are automatically administered based on individual performance data. Employees can access such content through collaborative platforms that invite ratings, comments and other social actions, and the learning management system (LMS) houses the results. The next stage of this dream is to generate reports that reflect the effectiveness of microlearning and make this information visible to employees.

Dream 3: Innovation

Many of us are terrified to put our dreams into words out of fear that we will be asked to achieve them. This fear leads to complacency and static learning practices. Learning leaders need to not only dream about innovative learning methods but also document their vision and then join forces with their operational and technology colleagues to determine ways to turn their dreams into reality. Rather than rely on lecture-based practices, test scores and trainer evaluation forms, it’s time to rethink innovation. Innovation goes beyond the introduction of new technologies; it’s also about taking risks and learning from mistakes.

A New Age in Learning

The nature of learning is evolving, as consumers rely more on self-service, visual learning, collaboration and on-demand information. Be ready to help them learn and develop with a mix of humanity and personalized technology. It’s also incumbent on employees and job seekers to be lifelong learners, ready to take on new challenges and develop new skills.

While technology solutions are great additions to learning programs, they are not be the sole solution. Technology isn’t meant to automate humans out of the training process but, rather, enhance the process. The human element is what differentiates businesses, both now and in the future.