employee receives skilling guidance from a career coach

Editor’s note: This is the second article in a two-part series highlighting key findings from ‘Skilling Today: a Randstad RiseSmart Global Survey.’ Read the first blog in the series here and download the comprehensive report here.

RiseSmart will dive into the findings further and discuss key reskilling and upskilling trends in an upcoming webinar. The webinar will also feature a panel discussion with HR industry experts – additional details will be revealed soon.

Employee skilling is a top priority among organizations worldwide, as there’s an urgent need to close skills gaps brought on by widespread, rapid technology adoption and further exacerbated by the global pandemic. According to data from McKinsey, 87% of executives said their organizations are currently experiencing skill gaps or expect them to emerge within a few years. And the World Economic Forum recently predicted that 50% of employees will need reskilling by 2025 as technology adoption increases.

We recently surveyed more than 2,000 HR professionals and employees to assess how effective skilling has been for those who participated in it in 2020, as well as to understand key differences in skilling across regions and industries. The comprehensive global report, ‘Skilling Today,’ unveils key trends, gaps and opportunities related to upskilling and reskilling.

Among an extensive list of findings, two key insights from the survey stood out: skilling opportunities are not fully inclusive, and employers believe learning and development would be more effective with strategic guidance. We focused on the first finding in the previous blog post in this series and will cover how to more effectively drive skilling efficiencies and return on investment in this piece.

employers see skilling ROI, but believe it could be more effective

While 98% of HR professionals in our global survey said employees either fully or partially used the skills they learned to benefit the business, there’s an opportunity to further improve ROI from skilling efforts. According to the survey, employers and employees agree that skilling could be more effective with additional guidance and a skills gap analysis, including a better understanding of what skills gaps currently exist and where relevant learning opportunities can be found.

When HR professionals were asked what would have helped employees make better choices about which courses to take or which on-the-job experiential learning opportunities to seek, top responses included:

  • assessments of skills, career interests and possible career paths (57%)
  • access to a broad view of learning opportunities, including courses, certifications, academic degrees and experiential learning (50%)
  • guidance with selecting the best-fit skilling options (43%)
  • insights into in-demand skills (41%)

Additionally, only nine percent of HR respondents in our survey indicated that they had full confidence that employees made optimal choices and achieve skilling goals on their own – calling for a need to integrate strategic guidance into skilling initiatives.  

how your organization can make skilling more effective

To achieve long-term business success, it isn’t enough for organizations to simply provide employees with a list of training and skilling opportunities to consider. In fact, too much data and too many options can lead to inaction and less than optimal decisions. Employees need to be able to translate the data into an efficient and wise plan of action. Leading organizations encourage employees to continuously learn on the job, and partner with career development and talent mobility experts to help their employees incorporate actionable data, analysis and coaching into their skilling journey.

integrate learning into the flow of work

Some employees might have the misconception that learning only truly happens through formal courses that provide tangible evidence the learning took place, such as a certificate or digital badge for a specific skill. However, agile organizations understand the importance of encouraging employees to maintain an always-learning mindset on the job. In fact, the widely-used 70-20-10 model for learning and development suggests that individuals gain 70% of their knowledge from job-related experiences and assignments, 20% from interactions and relationships with others and 10% from formal coursework.

related content: how internal networks can help employees reskill and upskill.

In 2018, Josh Bersin introduced the phrase ‘learning in the flow of work' in response to HR technology trends related to providing bite-size, micro-learning that happens in more informal ways. Today’s employees gain skills in many ways, including formal and on-the-job learning. Internal gigs or project teams have become an important means of learning, especially during the pandemic, as companies have needed to quickly tap into new skills from their workforce and encourage employees to contribute outside their job descriptions.

According to our ‘Skilling Today’ research, among employers who offered upskilling and reskilling in 2020, 72% made these opportunities available through on-the-job training in current roles, project teams, internal gigs or stretch assignments, making this the top method of learning across organizations. Other ways skilling was made available include:

  • company learning and development program or ‘university’ (53%)
  • third-party course providers such as LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, Coursera and edX (42%)
  • stipend for employees to select their own courses or experiential learning (39%)
  • college courses (14%)

Allowing and encouraging your employees to reach outside their job descriptions and contribute to the organization via internal gigs, projects and stretch assignments will help individuals continuously learn within the flow of work, enabling them to build their skill sets and supporting their long-term employability as a result. Taking this approach will also drive business agility and better equip your workforce to adapt to change.

related content: foster an agile workforce with continuous talent mobility.

embrace technology and human guidance

While employees have many opportunities to improve their skills and develop new ones through on-the-job learning, it may be beneficial to combine learning that happens in the flow of work with more formal coursework that offers skill-building in a manner that’s not readily available or efficient in a work setting. Deciding upon a maximally impactful skill-building strategy requires a combination of technology, such as access to online courses and job market data, and personal guidance from career experts.

Employees need data to make smart decisions, and the right career development and talent mobility provider will provide your organization and employees with job market intelligence on roles, salary, market demand, job outlook, required skills and related occupations. Armed with this data, employees can be one step closer to selecting relevant skilling courses based on their career goals.

Even so, access to a broad range of job market data and available skilling opportunities can be daunting for any employee. As a result, they might hesitate to engage in skilling because they are unsure of where to begin, or they might focus on skills that aren’t necessarily the most relevant based on market demand – which won’t benefit their long-term career success or help your organization achieve its goals.

Rather than approaching skilling on their own, employees can benefit from expert, human guidance throughout the journey. For example, a career coach can help an employee make sense of job market data and assessments to determine which skills to build. A career concierge can provide handpicked courses and experiential learning opportunities that are tailored to the needs of an employee – such as their goals, learning style and time frame. And a learning advisor can help employees stay on track with their learning plan – also known as a strategic skilling roadmap. With this approach, employees are more likely to meet their goals and close skills gaps efficiently – promoting both your success as a business and individuals’ long-term employability.

maintain a skills inventory

For employers, offering training and development opportunities is just one piece of a successful skilling strategy. Another major piece is recording employee skills – such as which employees possess certain skills, their level of proficiency and when skills were last refreshed.

Organizations that don’t have a full grasp of the skills their employees possess are more likely to overlook skills available within their organizations and might instead turn to outside candidates to fill gaps. According to data from Josh Bersin, it can cost up to six times as much to hire externally rather than build talent from within an organization.

Fortunately, our survey found that the majority of employers who undertook skilling initiatives in 2020 understand the importance of tracking employee skills. When asked how new skills were recognized or recorded, only 20% of HR professionals said new skills are not noted by the company. The top methods for keeping track of skills, according to our survey, include:

  • company maintains a skills inventory on employees (61%)
  • noted in performance review by manager (59%)
  • employees maintain their own records (38%)
  • company surveys (37%)

When organizations proactively maintain an inventory of employee skills, they can more effectively uncover untapped skills and identify skills gaps, while empowering employees to continue building their own skill sets and optimizing workforce capacity in the process.

The findings highlighted here are just a few of the many insights uncovered by our global ‘Skilling Today’ survey. Download the comprehensive report or view our infographic to learn more about the state of upskilling and reskilling, including:  

  • why employers invest in skilling
  • the ROI of skilling for both companies and employees
  • how and when skilling happens
  • who receives skilling opportunities
  • the impact company size and industry have on skilling
  • how skilling differs across regions
  • top in-demand skills for today and tomorrow

beth kempton.

senior public relations and content manager

17 March 2021

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