The current US unemployment rate is at a historic low. Which, although in the main is excellent news, it does present significant challenges for employers as they scramble and compete with each other for the same ever-dwindling pool of talent.
Recently I contributed to TalentCulture’s #WorkTrends podcast + Twitter chat hosted by Meghan M. Biro to talk about this very subject and offered her listeners advice about how learning and development can fix this problem. It’s a topic that is very close to my heart and one I encounter on an almost daily basis as I travel around the globe in my capacity as Senior Director of Business Strategy and Transformation at SumTotal.
Why L&D is the answer to the talent shortage question
The bottom line is organizations must prioritize learning and development to retain current talent and attract new talent. This emphasis on education is not a new solution; many companies have a tradition of investing in their people. What is new is that such investment is no longer an optional, “nice to have” benefit to working at your company. No, in today’s tight labor market, it is essential that enterprises have systemic, structured career development. I think soon we will see within an organization clear and structured career pathways similar to the current mapping app must of us have on our phones.
A new emphasis on the employee experience
Another consequence of this new employee-driven labor market is a renewed or shift in focus on the employee. If this is not happening within your organization this year, you may find it tougher than ever to recruit and retain workers in the future. I’ve already seen several advertisements for an SVP of People Experience, a role that simply did not exist before and reinforces the emphasis and value employers are placing on their employees.
What can organizations do to meet employee expectations?
For starters, employers need to accept that learning is more than setting up a catalog within an LMS; developing talent is more than ensuring annual performance reviews take place; and managing the workforce is more than a series of time allocation activities/making sure your employees clock in on time. These functions must work together in, ideally, perfect harmony.
Skillsoft researched over 6,700 organizations and 45 million employees in 160 countries to gather real-world data upon which to design a blueprint for companies to use when bringing the siloed areas of learning, talent and workforce management together to prepare for this new employee-centric future. The Skillsoft Organizational Maturity Index is a practical guide that assists companies in aligning their infrastructure and provides concrete stepping stones to reach higher levels of excellence. By utilizing the maturity index, an organization can assess their progress and understand the milestones that demonstrate advancement to the next stage. Skillsoft provides a complimentary online assessment that diagnoses a company’s present stage and offers a playbook of recommendations to ascend to the next phase.
The 5 stages of growth
Achieving the results of a mature learning strategy is a journey. Benchmarking, both formally and informally, helps identify the methods and actions that will make a difference. Through research and hands-on experience, Skillsoft has identified five stages of growth:
Stage 1: Disparate learning, talent, and workforce functions; culture is hierarchical and unengaging.
Stage 2: Initial coordination between learning, talent, and workforce functions; burgeoning executive interest in employee engagement and culture.
Stage 3: Learning, talent, and workforce functions merge; culture is very people-centric.
Stage 4: HR is a core strategic decision maker; engaging, agile organizational culture
Stage 5: Self-developing ecosystem; a highly sought-after culture.
Measuring success and growth
Skillsoft has nine indicators they use to measure success around these five stages. What is interesting to note is that so far, most of the companies assessed are at stage two. In a way, it’s like the idea is beginning to catch on, leadership is starting to make the connection and the relevance of this connection, between the areas. Once this occurs, the shift to stage three happens at a faster pace.
The time for reskilling is now
Here’s a question to ask yourself – if an employee at your company was learning a new skill and had some professional development happening onscreen, would they feel the need to hide the learning if someone from leadership or HR passed by? If the answer is yes, then perhaps it’s time to re-examine your company’s culture. HR needs to link training and performance. Employees are hungry for learning and development. It is your responsibility to ensure each person sees the potential and path for progression. Otherwise, you risk them leaving your organization for new career opportunities. The idea of L&D as something for after-hours is obsolete.
Other changes the future will bring
- HR data will get better: HR will finally get the data they are looking for to do their job thoroughly.
- Employees are like a sports team: We will begin treating employees as team players and move people around to where they are needed the most.
- The human factor: Despite the automation of many tasks and functions, at the end of the day, humans still serve a purpose. However, this will also include new skills, so again it as about preparation and training.
Make sure to join me on my next TalentCulture #WorkTrends podcast, September 13th at 1:30 p.m. EST, where I will be talking about my latest white paper: Putting the Human Back in HR. The podcast will be followed by a #WorkTrends Twitter chat Wednesday, September 18th.