Editor’s note: As we ended a difficult and unique year and entered a new one, the Training Industry editorial team asked learning leaders to write in with their reflections on 2020 and predictions for 2021. This series, “What’s Changed and What Hasn’t?: Taking Stock of 2020 and Planning for 2021,” is the result.
When the COVID-19 crisis erupted, organizations across the world were plunged into such uncertainty it was hard for many to know whether they would emerge intact. Now, though the road ahead will be difficult, leaders are shifting their focus to building organizational resilience and business growth.
According to the World Economic Forum’s 2020 “Future of Jobs Report,” automation is likely to displace 85 million jobs by 2025. This disruption is causing a rapidly changing skills landscape that will require businesses to accelerate their investment in workforce reskilling. What’s more, a recent Deloitte survey points to a growing expectation among workers for employer-led reskilling; 73% of employees consider employers to be responsible for workforce development. Data from Coursera corroborates this growing expectation; enrollments among enterprise learners grew by up to 450% this year, with significant demand for digital and technology skills.
As enterprises look ahead to 2021, here are three trends to keep in mind that will shape skills development now and in the years to come:
1. Leveraging Skills-based Credentials to Respond to Digital Transformation
Companies are redrawing their skills goals in real time to take the shift to remote work into account and increasing their investments in capacity-building, productivity and connection through digital tools. In fact, “eighty-four percent of employers are set to rapidly digitalize working processes,” according to the World Economic Forum report, including plans “to move 44 percent of their workforce to operate remotely.” That said, the pace of technology adoption is expected to remain unabated and may accelerate in areas like cloud computing, big data and e-commerce.
Put simply, employees are being asked to learn and implement new skills in record time. Knowing there are multiple skill areas aligned with digital transformation and many employees to reskill, companies must look for role-based learning programs. Learning programs that clearly map job roles across an organization to skill proficiency goals — what we sometimes call “academies” — will accelerate talent outcomes while driving the business forward.
2. Placing the L&D Function at the Center of Corporate Strategy
The pandemic has made it clear that learning and development (L&D) plays a pivotal role in organizational resilience. Beyond the skills development mandate, fostering a culture of learning leads to increased satisfaction and talent retention.
It makes financial sense, too; a corporate learning program can cost as little as one-sixth the cost of hiring an external candidate, according to research by Josh Bersin and General Assembly. With so much value to be gained, L&D leaders should be recognized as a strategic business partner to the chief executive officer and across the C-suite.
3. Hands-on Learning to Apply New Knowledge and Skills
Hands-on learning experiences can be both interactive and easy to place within the flow of work. Side-by-side browser interfaces can help employees learn and apply skills at the same time. When learning programming skills, for example, they can use hands-on learning to simultaneously write practice code on one side of the browser while listening to an instructor on the other side of the browser.
Hands-on learning isn’t limited to coding or other technical skills, however. Emerging products are enabling companies to create hands-on learning experiences for tools that are unique to their organization. Organizations like Nokia and Sanofi are using these types of tools to drive continuous reskilling across teams in a virtual cloud workspace. As Steve Tadeo, data science and analytics specialist at Nokia, says, this approach can help global data science teams shift their learning environment “from ‘I understand’ to ‘I can do,’ in a wide range of valuable, job-relevant skills.”
As businesses shift their focus from crisis response to growth-oriented strategies, reimagining the enterprise learning agenda will be critical to building the workforce of the future. There is a lot we can learn from this pandemic. With robust and foundational steps, we can successfully navigate the ongoing volatility and steer the organization through future disruptions.