How to address the workforce skills gap

It's no secret that organizations today are struggling to find the right talent to fill jobs. With rapid technological advancements, workers' skills are becoming outdated faster than ever before. Ninety percent of CEOs believe their company is facing disruptive change driven by digital technologies according to Deloitte, and 70 percent say their employees don't have the skills needed to adapt.

The world of work is quickly changing and employees require a lifetime of continuous learning to keep up. But many organizations aren't providing the learning environment needed to tackle the workforce skills gap. Millennials, who will represent nearly half of the workforce by 2020, place a high value on learning, yet 42 percent say they are likely to leave their current job because they aren't learning fast enough, Deloitte found.

Looking Ahead

To keep up with the changes happening in the workforce, organizations must train employees for the future. But that doesn't mean honing in on a highly specialized set of skills for a position that may soon no longer exist—rather, organizations should help their workers build comprehensive skill sets that are applicable to a variety of roles that will eventually be in high demand, according LinkedIn's latest jobs report. That means placing a heavy focus on soft skills such as adaptability, culture fit and collaboration.

With the rise of automation, robotics and artificial intelligence, essential human skills such as empathy, strategic decision making, emotional intelligence and ethical thinking will become critical as employees increasingly work in tandem with machines, Deloitte's research revealed.

Preparing for the Future

Internal leaders must work together and share the same vision in order to successfully prepare their teams for the future of work. Leaders should meet to share their predictions about the skills that their company will need over the next two to five years, consider how those skills will support business growth and create a plan that will align talent management, training and culture to help achieve those goals. By looking beyond the resume and hiring with these forward-looking skills in mind, organizations can build a future-proofed employee base.

In order to close the skills gap and provide existing employees with the knowledge they need to successfully navigate their careers, employers must prioritize learning development programs that enable employees to refresh or gain new skills. Here's how they can do it.

Identify Skills Gaps Early

Before investing in a learning platform , start by identifying which skills employees lack. A skills gap analysis can help pinpoint essential skills, compare them to skillsets of current employees and diagnose gaps. Current skill levels can also be measured through surveys, assessments, employee interviews or feedback from performance reviews. With data in hand, companies can then develop an appropriate training approach that facilitates continuous skills development in a business.

Create a Learning Culture

Even the most innovative learning program won't go far if employees don't recognize the value in it. By creating a learning culture and an environment that welcomes knowledge-seeking, companies can help employees feel comfortable about self-improvement. Plus, Bersin found that at organizations with strong learning cultures, employees are 37 percent more productive. These companies are also 58 percent more likely to have candidates in their talent pipeline with skills to meet changing marketplace needs, and 32 percent more likely to be the first to market with an innovative solution.

A strong learning culture starts at the top, with company values dedicated to knowledge and improvement. The best way to ensure that this culture permeates the entire organization, however, is to align learning with strategic goals, and show how it makes a difference in the business.

For example, using predictive analytics tools, HR teams can demonstrate how addressing employees' weakness and areas of potential through learning and development can lead to longer-tenured, higher-performing employees, which benefits the company in the long run.

Promote Continuous Learning

In order to build top talent from within, improve retention rates and develop strong leaders, organizations must provide employees with continuous learning opportunities. New hires should receive training that sets them up for success in their current position and tenured employees should participate in up-skill training that prepares them to take on a new project or work towards a promotion.

Increase engagement in learning by investing in new technology and fresh approaches, such as video and mobile learning tools, microlearning and personalized learning paths. In a continuous learning environment, employees will feel empowered to experiment, actively participate in their own professional development and share knowledge across departments.

Assess Progress and Improve

It can be difficult to demonstrate the return on investment (ROI) of learning programs, which is why companies are sometimes reluctant to budget for them. But remember, an investment in learning ultimately benefits your organization. Skill development is key for business growth and sustainability, and the right learning solution will help close skills gaps, increase productivity and improve business outcomes.

To deliver ROI to both to company leaders and employees, track how your learning program affects specific business outcomes such as employee productivity, retention and time to promotion. And as technology and skill requirements continue to evolve, keep evaluating learning programs to ensure they address pressing problems.

With the right culture and processes in place, companies can create learning programs that make employees eager to grow, thereby closing skills gaps and preventing them from forming again.

Interested in creating a learning culture at your organization? Find out how Cornerstone's online learning platform creates a continuous learning environment to close skills gaps and build future talent.

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