For the last decade, learning and development (L&D) teams have been hard at work looking for opportunities for their learning content libraries to exist outside their learning management systems (LMS). The goal has been to provide easier access to the learning content – to meet the learner where they are, integrating this content into the “flow of work.”

Throughout this period, the various annual “top 10” lists of L&D challenges and priorities have consistently put the focus on performance support, ROI measurement and leadership development. There is now a shift in attention to rapid upskilling and reskilling at scale.

As we re-enter a period of economic boom and potential resultant labor shortages, businesses will struggle to achieve their growth ambitions through hiring alone. The need to develop their current workforce will become even more critical than before. On average, companies estimate that this will be accompanied by a push to rethink their current processes and systems and dig deeper to find opportunities that allow them to scale and automate.

The need to look internally for skills is complicated by the fact that, as many working professionals are planning career transitions, many of these moves are a complete career change. That means the current employee base is more likely than ever to be looking for new roles. To avoid losing staff, employers need to look at facilitating these career changes within their own organization by offering the necessary upskilling and reskilling opportunities.

Importantly, one does not simply change careers! You must first purposefully identify the skills needed to pivot and then invest in building them. Professionals are focusing on creating a tool kit of transferable skills that can be reconfigured again and again to fit any roles they take on in the future.

The learning experience offered through microlearning activities won’t be sufficient in this case, and just offering large, integrated, easily accessible libraries of content will not provide the depth and rigor needed to make transitions at the required pace.

Instead, L&D strategists need to proactively collaborate with other teams to provide pathways, programs and tools for talent mobility. There has been progress here already, as the narrative of continuous learning is now widely accepted as “law.”


Four Upskilling Lessons

Based on extensive research, it is clear that there are certain elements that lead to long-term learning success.

1.   Universities are Ready to Play a Role in the Future of Work

Universities can play a leading role beyond the early foundational years of undergraduate and graduate study. University faculty are able to meet professionals’ learning needs at every stage of their career, and within any context, through online short courses. These provide a bridge between incredible research and expertise, and the practical application of that knowledge in real-world organizational scenarios. They also help to ensure that employees can grow in multiple areas to hybridize their skill sets and remain relevant in a complex landscape.

2.   Access to Experts and Feedback is Critical

To better facilitate learning, regular real-time feedback and interaction is needed. Expert content, engaging directly with fellow classmates, and a teaching team featuring industry specialists can inspire long-term retention of the learnings and the ability to apply them to real-life contexts.

3.   Cohort-based Learning is an Enriching Experience

A cohort-based approach allows students to navigate through a course together and get exposed to different perspectives. The social learning process encourages students to interrogate, review and deepen their understanding of a topic, while the community-building aspect improves motivation.

4.   Learning Leads to Confident Employees

There is a tremendous sense of accomplishment on completion of a program, particularly if the newfound skills are verified by the world’s best universities. The achievement of such a goal, coupled with the knowledge that an employer is committed to investing in staff development, can boost motivation at work significantly.

Move Toward a New Tomorrow

Employees are taking back ownership of their careers and reassessing what they want. They’re evaluating their lives outside of work, the type of organization they want to work for, the career opportunities ahead of them and the skills they need to get there. Employers looking to stay ahead and retain talent are recognizing these aspirations and are refocusing their efforts to upskill and reskill their teams. This means building skills-focused solutions that open up opportunities for internal mobility and bring clarity to an incredibly complex working landscape.