What comes to your mind when you hear the term “skill up”? For every gamer out there, it may remind you of a time when you “level up” or gain extra skills or armory to defeat an infamous boss or a formidable team in a sports game. For learning professionals, this definition of “skill up” is not too far from the truth except the “game” involves professional development. The new skills gained are used to combat complacency and pave the way for advancement in their career.

When it comes to the process of skilling up, it is important that employees have the adequate resources at their disposal to increase their marketable skills. By increasing their skill sets, both as part of and outside of their job descriptions, employees will be able to advance their career and integrate more fully into professional teams.

According to the 2017 Jobvite Job Seeker Nation Study, the main reason people left their jobs in the last 12 months has been salary, which accounted for 30 percent. However, it appears that millennials have different priorities and are looking for growth opportunities, with 21 percent stating that was the main reason for leaving a job. This is compared to an average of 16 percent across all other ages. Another interesting statistic from this survey showed that 35 percent of employees would leave their current jobs for an opportunity to grow. Additionally, one-third of all people would take a pay cut of up to 10 percent to pursue a career that they are more passionate about.

According to the same research, job satisfaction is down. In 2017, 64 percent of job seekers are satisfied at work but 82 percent of them are open to new job opportunities. In contrast to the previous year, 74 percent were satisfied at work and only 74 percent were open. Some may suggest that this is due to the increasing number of hyper-hoppers in the workforce.

A hyper-hopper is someone who changes jobs every one to three years. The frequency of hyper-hoppers has increased from 34 percent in 2016 to 42 percent in 2017. Millennials and those earning less than $25,000 are most likely to change jobs every one to three years. This dissatisfaction suggests that there’s a lack of monetary appreciation and lack of growth opportunities in today’s labor market, particularly for younger employees.

However, the hyper-hopping trend is rooted in a lack of loyalty. Most workers are ‘logging’ in after hours, with 45 percent checking and actively replying to their emails after hours and a further 19 percent who do it on a daily basis.

The greatest reason for younger workers to leave a role is to address their work-life balance. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) of 18- to 22-year-olds leave for this reason, versus 18 percent of people in their 30’s and 14 percent of all job seekers. Passion projects are also important to young people, with 33 percent of them likely to have a second income through a passion project, almost twice the amount of older workers (17 percent). In order to pursue their passion projects, 10 percent of younger workers would take a 50 percent pay decrease. This demonstrates that the workforce is willing to be more fluid with employment, so long as personal fulfillment issues are addressed. Much of this fulfillment can be addressed by that feeling of appreciation and growth opportunities, both of which can be fulfilled through skilling up.

An Age-Old Question

The labor market is in a unique state at this present moment. People born in the 21st century will be entering the job market from now on and the job market will have to implement some 21st-century thinking to accommodate this new labor force. What’s apparent is that the younger generations have a bleaker view of what the world of work will do for them.

According to Jobvite, only 19 percent of 18- to 22-year-olds believe that job prospects will improve for them. However, 45 percent of people over 55 believe it will improve. Despite the overall trend of people believing work prospects will not improve, there is considerably less optimism for younger people. Skilling up could be the key to conquering that pessimism.

And contrary to past beliefs that the fear of automation was the largest threat to the workforce, 1 in 4 of all current workers see Generation Z, those born after the year 2000, as the largest threat to the job market, according to the Jobvite research. Younger people (18- to 22-year-olds) feel most threatened by Generation Z (27 percent). People over 55 feel less threatened by this new generation entering the workforce, where only 19 percent feel threatened. For those, particularly millennials, who feel threatened, skilling up will help them feel more secure, increase their confidence, and help them push on in their careers.

Why an Open Learning Environment Makes Sense

These findings show the importance of learning and development (L&D) in order to retain employees and keep them happy. But what’s the best learning environment to implement? The key, first and foremost, is to listen to your employees. Find out what they want – what they need in order to successfully skill up.

In the workplace, we know how many modern employees value self-direction, especially as it pertains to learning. This yearning for self-direction makes sense. We all learn differently and retain knowledge in unique ways so learning should tailor the needs of each individual. In order to accommodate self-directed learning that can still be supported by learning professionals, consider implementing an open learning environment supported by technology.

So, what is an open learning environment? It is one supported by proper technology that incorporates content, located centrally, that stretches beyond the basics of what is needed to fulfill specific job requirements. The content can cover a variety of industries and topics, and at the end of the day, employees choose what they want to consume. After all, they know in which areas they’d like to grow. Also, an open learning environment combines published content with collaboration features and tools that allow employees to network and exchange feedback with peers, clients or experts.

Here are three benefits of implementing an open learning environment within your organization:

Increase employee loyalty. With an open learning environment, learning isn’t forced. Instead, it’s guided. With curated resources, employees consume content at any point in the day. They are in control of their professional development and have the ability to pinpoint the exact resources that will teach skills they need to improve. Additionally, with an open learning environment, employees use the resources at their disposal to skill up and grow knowledge in areas that will better equip them for future positions within the organization.

The benefit for learning professionals? After viewing what employees are consuming more often, and viewing which content is resonating most within the organization, they can recommend content to employees along with their personalized career development path. This guided, yet still self-directed model may just be the ticket to building loyalty among employees and their current organizations.

Increase collaboration, online and offline. By providing options to collaborate with colleagues, like-minded professionals and experts online, you allow employees to expand their talents by enhancing their thought processes. In the workplace, this transitions into more active conversations about learned concepts and increased thought leadership among employees. People who learn new approaches through collaboration are much more likely to pass the information on to others and thereby a continuous learning and collaborative culture is established.

Establish a network of teams. The 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report discusses the rise of “network of teams,” meaning employees are increasingly adapting to contributing to projects outside of their job descriptions. Supported by an open learning environment with content, a professional network and collaborative tools, employees are able to learn more efficiently about what’s needed to contribute to the overall organization. This increases internal mobility, and in turn, reinforces a shared culture and everyone working toward a common goal.

Conclusion

Open learning environments provide a number of benefits for both employees and their employers. For the workforce, it gives them greater freedom to learn, the opportunities to skill up at their own pace and into their own desired direction, and gain vital knowledge that enables them to advance their career and contribute further to their organization at a potentially higher level. This, in turn, benefits the business as it is often cheaper than traditional learning courses and builds greater trust.

As we have seen, the “new” workforce, particularly millennials, are pessimistic about their prospects, but skilling up through open learning environments may be the answer for both employees and employers. It provides an opportunity to build trust and makes employees feel appreciated. In the end, businesses may find this to be the best way to retain top talent and prepare their workforce for the changing nature of the workplace.

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