Employers Can’t Close Skill Gaps With Tech Alone: Survey | D2L
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Employers Can’t Close Skill Gaps With Tech Alone: Survey

  • 5 Min Read

We’ve been talking about skill shortages and the future of work for some time. Skill gaps, employee engagement and retention, technological advancements—these topics and more have attracted the attention of major organizations, including Forrester, the World Economic Forum, and McKinsey & Company.

But what trends are we seeing in action on the ground? And, maybe more importantly, how do we respond to them?

In a webinar with Katy Tynan, principal analyst, Employee Experience and Future of Work at Forrester, we talked through the trends we’re seeing and what organizations are doing today to address evolving needs and close skill gaps. We also asked webinar attendees to share their perspectives on key topics and received over 500 responses on everything from top technology trends to the “Great Resignation” to the role of learning at their organizations. Let’s dive into what they said.

Which “Future of Work” Technology Trends Will Accelerate the Fastest?

Our relationship with technology is far from a static one. The narrative has long been that humans were going to be replaced wholesale by robots in the workplace, but instead what we’re seeing is that advances, including artificial intelligence (AI), are augmenting and supporting our work. Technology isn’t doing our jobs for us—it’s helping us do our jobs better.

During our webinar, we asked attendees which technology trends they expect will accelerate the fastest in the years ahead. AI, machine learning and big data garnered the most attention, capturing a combined 67% of the votes.

A bar graph showing answers to the question: Which 'future of work' technology trend do you anticipate will accelerate fastest in the years ahead?

Tynan wasn’t shocked to see so many respondents identify AI and machine learning as the quickest-growing trend, though she was surprised that blockchain and credential management take up such a small chunk—only 5%. She expects to see that rise in the months and years to come, especially as talent becomes more mobile.

Are We on the Brink of a Great Resignation?

The Great Resignation is a topic that’s attracted a lot of attention, but are organizations really seeing this phenomenon on the ground? When we put this question in front of our webinar attendees, only 35% of people said a definite, confident yes, while 34% said somewhat and 32% said no.

The reality is that so far, the effects of the Great Resignation seem to be more localized, affecting specific industries in specific ways. While health care and technology saw resignations jump by 3.6% and 4.5%, respectively, in 2021, other industries such as manufacturing and finance actually experienced decreases.

In considering these trends and how to respond to them, Tynan reinforced how important it is for organizations to take a close look at what’s happening with their own teams, businesses and industries. It comes down to striking that balance—developing solutions that reflect unique needs and circumstances while continuing to do the fundamentals right, including providing career development for employees.

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Addressing the Skills Gap

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What Are Organizations Doing to Address the Skills Gap?

Whereas organizations traditionally looked at talent as a fixed asset that they had, today our outlook is more dynamic. It’s about keeping people in a learning role and seeing the workforce as being re-composable rather than static. This more flexible, fluid approach will be key to helping organizations solve a looming problem: skill gaps. According to research from McKinsey & Company, nearly 90% of executives report their organizations are already dealing with skill gaps.

When we asked our attendees what they’re doing to address skill gaps, 49% said they were providing access to learning through technology platforms, while 24% said they were offering on-the-job learning opportunities, including apprenticeships and mentoring programs. A further 18% were leveraging the expertise of higher education institutions, whether through tuition reimbursements or direct partnerships. Finally, 9% said they were taking steps to invest in recruiting and managers’ coaching skills.

A bar graph showing answers to the question:What is the most significant way your organization is actively addressing the skills gap?

Responding to the challenges ahead of us isn’t something we can do with one tool or strategy. Research from McKinsey & Company reinforces that although digital learning is a must-have tactic for skill transformations, relying on a variety of formats is key to driving success.

Is Learning a Critical Investment at Your Organization?

Whatever approaches your organization takes, it comes back to developing a strong learning culture—an environment that values growth and smart risk taking, invests in the right resources and technologies, and rewards people for embracing innovation, creativity and change.

When we asked attendees if learning was a critical investment at their organizations, 50% said yes while only 9% said no.

Organizations today are at an inflection point. Insights from PwC show us that 75% of CEOs in Canada said they were concerned about skills availability and 53% of employees globally believed automation would fundamentally change their jobs or render them obsolete in the next decade. The question, then, isn’t “what’s the challenge?” It’s “what’s the solution?”

It’s crucial to never lose sight of the fundamentals. One of the top reasons employees leave companies is still a lack of career growth, a problem that’s only going to become more acute as upskilling and reskilling needs increase. PwC’s research revealed that although 77% of employees said they were willing to learn new skills, only 33% said they’d been given opportunities to do that.

Additionally, creating a learning culture can’t be the sole responsibility of one team. A survey Forrester conducted in August 2021 revealed that although 62% of HR leaders said they were putting a priority on recruiting and retention, only 29% said the same about reskilling and upskilling. In many cases, HR simply may not have the bandwidth to lead all learning processes within an organization, nor should they. Teams and individuals need to wrap their heads around upskilling and reskilling and take ownership in making it happen.

At the end of the day, learning should be a team sport. It’s an essential muscle for everyone in an organization, and now more than ever, we need to be able to flex it.

Launch Your Skills Development Strategy

What strategies can support adaptive talent management? How do you create a strong learning culture? Which competencies are needed to close the skills gap? In this webinar, Katy Tynan, principal analyst, Employee Experience and Future of Work at Forrester, and Kenneth Chapman, VP, Learning Innovation Advocacy at D2L, answer these questions and more.

Watch the on-demand webinar now.

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