The war for talent: the role of L&D

July 17, 2019

The war for talent – now that’s a phrase we’ve heard a lot of over the years, but normally within recruitment. But as the lines between learning and recruitment become increasingly blurred, it’s now also being used in an L&D context. L&D has become part of the recruitment proposition.

Today’s talent wants to see that the organisation they work for – or are considering working for – will take their development seriously. So employers that demonstrate a commitment to developing the skills of their workforce and demonstrate a culture of continuous learning will find it easier to recruit and retain the top talent. By constantly reskilling and upskilling existing employees, organisations are sending out a strong message to the marketplace at large, creating a strong employee value proposition that will make them attractive as employers.

Not only that, skills development makes good business sense as well. There are always skills gaps, particular in key areas and that is not going to change. Skills needs are predicted to fundamentally change in the next few years, as AI is increasingly prevalent in the workplace and we move towards a hybrid workforce, so organisations and employees need to prepare for that. Even as a whole range of skills and roles become redundant, so will new needs emerge and there will always be a demand for people with the business-critical skills of the future.

What are those business-critical skills of the future? That is a question that everyone is asking. A report by Nesta, The future of UK skills: employment in 2030, conducted in collaboration with Oxford Martin School and education company Pearson, looks at skills and the major forces shaping the UK labour market. It found that the majority of workers are in occupations with highly uncertain futures, with 21% being in occupations that are very likely to shrink. Only 8% are currently in occupations that are very likely to grow over the next 10-15 years.

This has a huge implication for skills, for workers and for organisations. So, what does the report highlight as the top skills needed in the future? The top 10 are:

  • Judgement and decision making
  • Fluency of ideas
  • Active learning
  • Learning strategies
  • Originalities
  • Systems evaluation
  • Deductive reasoning
  • Complex problem solving
  • Systems analysis
  • Monitoring

What organisations can’t afford to do is just look to hire people with the skills they need. Instead, organisations need to also consider how they are going to upskill the existing workforce. And that’s why learning teams need to foster a culture of constant upskilling and reskilling.

Continuous learning is the way forward. The focus has moved on from specific skills and what employees know now to what they are able to learn in the future. It’s all about learnability and the transferability of skills now – the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn. The top talent of the future are those individuals who have more of a generalist mindset and are able and willing to constantly learn, unlearn and relearn. L&D needs to help the workforce on this journey and ensure that the culture supports and enables learnability. Knowledge and skills regeneration is key to future success for organisations and for individuals.

This is a very exciting opportunity for L&D professionals, so it’s important to make the most of it. In order to meet the demands of the war for talent, L&D needs to make much better use of data. It’s data that tells you what talent you currently have in your organisation, where the skills gaps are now and what the training needs are now. Even more importantly, the data will tell you what future skills needs and shortages are going to be. This is critical, enabling L&D and organisations to be proactive, rather than reactive.

However, a lot of L&D leaders admit that they are struggling to make effective use of data. Our recent research, The Insight Edge: The quest for data-driven learning, found that 45% of L&D leaders only sometimes use people data to inform their learning strategies, with 55% also saying they only use learning data sometimes to inform learning delivery and content. furthermore, only 12% of L&D leaders think their use of data and insight in learning strategy and design is excellent, with 41% describing it as just adequate.

It looks like L&D could be really missing a trick here. It’s definitely time to make better use of the invaluable data resource that is available and get on top of skills needs now. The longer L&D leaves it, the harder it will get…

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