Workforce Development: The Skills Gap Antidote

January 20, 2021

How can companies deal with the skills gap? One approach leading organizations are taking is upskilling employees in-house with learning management systems.

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The skills today’s employers need and rely on are changing.

Automation, artificial intelligence, and the gig economy have caused massive workforce disruptions and created a “skills gap” that has shifted what companies need from their workers, posing challenges for companies of all sizes, in every industry.

Many business leaders have been left wondering how to shore up their organizations to contend with the rising tides of automation — set to displace as many as 800 million workers globally by 2030 and creating the need for as many as 375 million of those workers to switch occupations and learn new skills.

These shortages could amount to a workforce crisis where organizations struggle to find people with the right capabilities to fill newly open roles if companies don’t work to upskill and reskill their employees.

Where Is the Demand for Skills Growing?

So where exactly are the shortages and opportunities presented by automation expected to impact companies?

According to the World Economic Forum, the roles experiencing the biggest decrease in demand (and greatest risk of redundancy due to automation) include jobs like data entry clerks, secretaries, bookkeeping and payroll clerks, accountants, auditors, factory workers, business administration managers, customer service reps, general operations managers, mechanics, and stock-keeping clerks — just to name a few.

Per the same report, the roles with the fastest-growing demand are heavily technology-centric and include:

  • Data analysts and scientists
  • AI and machine learning specialists
  • Big Data specialists
  • Digital marketing and strategy specialists
  • Process automation specialists
  • Business development professionals
  • Digital transformation specialists
  • Information security analysts
  • Software and applications developers
  • Internet of Things specialists

Compare the jobs with growing demand against those at risk of redundancy, and the difference is clear: the jobs with the highest security in a future of automation are those that require skills like creativity, strategic thinking, and experience with coding, data, and software. We are moving from a future of menial tasks to one that requires honed critical thinking, and tools that can help organizations future-proof their operations.  

The Role of Learning Management Systems

So how can companies contend with sweeping disruptions caused by automation? One approach leading organizations are taking to fill the skills gap is to help their employees reskill and upskill with the knowledge they need within the four walls of the company.

This type of employee learning and development can be accomplished with the help of a robust learning management system (LMS), which can equip employees with the skills they need in a few different ways.

Train on new processes, skills, and products.

As your organization adapts to new technologies, implementing an LMS is your chance to arm your workforce with the exact skills they’ll need to continue supporting your company through the transitions of the coming decade — and driving your operations into the future.

But what could this look like in real life? The Society for Human Resource management points to PwC as an illustration of using this approach well, “PwC is in the process of upskilling all 50,000 of its U.S. employees. It has three levels of training: Digital Hub for all employees; Digital Academy for roughly 15% of employees annually; and the Digital Accelerator program for 5% of employees.”

An LMS can offer this same type of curated library of content — with specific courses queued up for employees based on department, seniority, specialization, and more.

Make training accessible to every employee, all the time.

Today’s workers are more untethered than ever before, but they’re still going to need learning and development opportunities to provide the support your company needs for tomorrow. The beauty of today’s LMS solutions is that employees can access them anytime, anywhere. That means that even if they’re in the field, on the road, or working remotely, they won’t miss a beat.

Make it easy for subject matter experts to pass on knowledge.

There are few minds more able to help you shape your workforce than subject matter experts. In the same way that it’s easy to hop on Coursera to learn more about marketing or MasterClass to get photography lessons from world-renowned experts, an LMS gives your organization the same capabilities to pass on professional knowledge from internal experts or external consultants about anything your employees will need to know.

But is the juice worth the squeeze when it comes to investing in internal learning and development initiatives? One recent McKinsey survey confirms that organizations are one-and-a-half times more likely to report a successful digital transformation when they develop talent and skills throughout the organization than when they don’t. So the real question is: can you afford not to invest in learning and development?

Making the Case for Learning Management Systems

As every HR pro knows, the initial passion towards implementing something as game-changing as workforce development initiatives means getting buy-in from business leaders.

Making the case to your executive leadership means pointing out just how much wrong or outdated employee development practices cost your organization and tying their business goals to the benefits of upskilling your workforce.

And the truth of the matter is, you might be surprised at how receptive leadership is when it comes to upskilling your workforce.

In fact, a full 79% of CEOs are concerned about the lack of essential skills among their employees, and 46% cite “significant retraining and upskilling” efforts as the top strategy for bridging costly skills gaps according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

Not only that, but it’s getting easier to make that case for initiatives like an LMS by pointing out just how much time it can save. Today’s technology is proliferating solutions that not only provide huge repositories of customizable learning materials, but that can significantly lighten the load of HR pros when it comes to organizational development by automating a majority of tasks related to the most critical aspects of workforce development.

Deloitte’s recent report on Estimating the Return on Investment of a Human-Capital Management Solution for Various Human Resources Tasks revealed that up to 75% of the HR tasks related to learning and development can be automated, including:

  • Registering an employee for a virtual training session
  • Tracking required training progress for an employee
  • Tracking renewals for professional certifications/regulatory requirements

Indeed, as the role of HR shifts from reactive to proactive, innovators in this space have paved the way for HR to make learning and development more efficient and effective when it comes to workforce development.

Forecasting Skills Gaps and Open Roles

While the automation wave certainly merits a great deal of preparation on the part of organizations, the good news is that skills gaps aren’t mysterious, unpredictable forces of nature set up do damage your organization. In fact, best-in-class organizations have already implemented HR and payroll solutions capable of collecting data that can help forecast skills gaps and open roles with minimal effort on the part of HR.

For instance, a growing number of workers obtaining professional certifications are earning them digitally, creating more visibility for employers. Kristin Sharp of HR Technologist points out that “90% of Autodesk badge earners in a recent survey noted using their digital badge on a digital resume, portfolio, or email signature.” She adds, “creating this talent transparency allows both individuals and companies to effectively invest in new skills.”

This same logic is true for organizations that utilize formal LMS solutions. The beauty of this digitized approach is that it provides talent transparency throughout the organization, and gives employees the opportunity to:

  • Choose from a variety of course methods, including on-demand and webinars
  • Search by training title
  • Filter by supervisor, department, cost center, or office location
  • Take advantage of training opportunities anytime, anywhere through the self-service portal

Plus, the system can be set up to send workers reminders to finish incomplete trainings and makes it easy for HR pros to assign state-required compliance courses and assess the effectiveness of training through quizzes and surveys.

What’s more, a formal LMS can keep track of classes taken, modules completed, and credentials earned by employees across the company, giving detailed insights into skills gaps and unexpected skills resources within the organization, and empowering leaders to shift accordingly.

The Bottom Line

In this age of growing skills gaps, organizations simply can’t afford not to arm their workers with the knowledge they’ll need to succeed now and in the future.

In a jarring landscape where workforce changes are coming fast and furious, now is the time for HR to take the lead in human capital management, and collaborate with business leaders in order to drive organizations into the future with cohesive and robust development strategies. “No longer can HR afford to sit in the traditional silos of the function, simply playing a supporting role and primarily operating as a processor,” according to Deloitte. It’s time for HR to take a more strategic role. And it all starts with empowering organizations through the right tools and technologies.

Download your copy of Deloitte’s report to see the how the right human capital management solution can offer potential time and cost savings in ten core HR responsibility areas.

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