The future of Learning & Development is filled with exciting challenges. A growing skills gap, a call for novel approaches to learning, and a need for more diversity in the field invite fresh perspectives and an opportunity to raise the profile of L&D within organisations to where it deserves to be: at the centre of the business. Eszter Meszaros recaps some of the key themes being discussed last week in London at Learning Technologies 2022.
Learning Technologies is Europe’s leading showcase of organisational learning and the technology used to support learning at work. With over 9000 attendees and exhibitors from 50 different countries, the conference continues to grow in importance, value and attendance year on year.
What do we know about the skills gap?
A skills gap can be defined as a mismatch between the skills that employers need and the skills that prospective employers have. According to research conducted by Marco Dondi, future of work expert and associate partner’s team at McKinsey, this gap is considerably wide.
The researchers identified 56 skills called DELTAs across four domains (cognitive, interpersonal, self leadership and digital) that will help citizens thrive in the future. and surveyed 18,000 people from 15 countries to measure proficiency.
The weakest skills were found to be software use and understanding digital systems, with scores of 39 and 42 out of 100, respectively. However, beyond digital skills, there is a need for skills development across all four domains; the average proficiency score on the survey was 57, with entrepreneurship scoring highest at 63 points.
It is perhaps no news to any of us that Covid has changed the way we work and accelerated the need for adaptability and upskilling across the board. However, it may come as a surprise to some that a university education isn’t necessarily linked to higher proficiency across the DELTAs.
In fact, education was negatively correlated with inspiring trust and humility and had little bearing on several self leadership and interpersonal skills.
Education systems will take a long time to adapt to the needs of the future labour market, meaning that employers will need to invest increasing amounts of time, money and energy into upskilling and reskilling their workforce in order to remain competitive. In case your organisation needs help with this, we can help.
What does this have to do with diversity?
In a session on Women in Learning, Sharon Claffey-Kaliouby, co-founder of #WomenInLearning shared that while women are present in L&D, 70% of leadership positions go to white men and ethnic minorities are especially underrepresented.
However, bringing more diverse perspectives into executive leadership isn’t only a question of morality. On average, companies that practise gender diversity in executive teams outperform peers by over 20%.
So what are the skills that are most closely correlated with career success, as measured by higher pay? The four DELTAs most strongly associated with high incomes in Marco Dondi’s research were work-plan development, asking the right questions, self-confidence and organisational awareness.
In a separate talk, Simon Brown, CLO of Novartis revealed that 80% of their workforce lack visibility into suitable career opportunities and 50% are unaware of what skills they’ll need to develop in the future.
While the example of Novartis shows that companies need to do more to develop their employees’ awareness and career development skills, our group discussion during the Women in Learning session reaffirmed my gut feeling that women and minorities are more heavily impacted.
If you grow up and start your career without role models from your background, it is hard to feel empowered to see yourself in a leadership role, to have the confidence that you deserve the opportunities that you worked for and to dare to ask the right questions.
However, a recognition of this problem and launching inclusive skills development initiatives can help.
How you can make a meaningful difference to…
1. Offer inclusive learning opportunities to develop future skills
Building an inclusive portfolio of learning experiences that help develop crucial skills for the future will help you empower more women and employees from minority backgrounds while growing the strategic importance of your L&D department. If you have the opportunity, reach out to your Diversity & Inclusion colleagues to brainstorm ideas.
2. Foster a growth mindset through your learning programme
L&D departments will need to do some heavy lifting in order to help build and nurture a future-ready workforce. Many of the future skills that impact high performance require lots of practice and will benefit from learners building some of their own scaffolding through self-reflection and research.
As Matthew Syed, author of Black Box Thinking pointed out in his keynote, building this scaffolding presupposes that learners believe that they are able to climb the ladder and learn the desired skills. In other words, a growth mindset will be instrumental in bridging the skills gap.
3. Reconsider how you spend your L&D budget
It is crucial that we start thinking more consciously about return on investment and company-wide strategic goals. Proving the impact of our work is what will get us the budgets and consideration that L&D deserves.
Ask yourself, is developing new content the best use of your department’s budget and talent? We rarely have the money and time to iterate on learning experiences the way marketing and product development get to perfect their messaging and products. So how about a shift toward elevating your existing offering?
The conscious curation and upgrading of existing learning materials, as well as more strategic cross-functional collaboration with other business functions will have a large positive impact on many learning programs.
Peter Manniche Ribe, Head of Digital Learning and Analytics at Novo Nordisk challenges fellow L&D managers to run actual experiments: Would you dare not train a group of learners? And then find out that they do better than the ones you provided training to?
Wrapping it up
In sum, thinking outside the box and diversifying L&D teams could bring about exciting future developments in Learning. There is also a push to place more emphasis on measuring impact and to leverage existing data and insights from other business functions. If these practices become widespread, they could revolutionise the industry and significantly raise the profile of Learning. We at Insitu are excited to see what the future holds for the field.
At Insitu we’re on a mission to help people be better at what they do. We build smarter learning experiences to reach your learners and transform your organisation, driving performance in any language. Contact us to find out more.
Eszter Mészáros is a Senior Learning Designer at Insitu.