The new year has arrived, and organizations are putting the final touches on their strategic plans for 2020. One of the biggest threats to achieving organizational goals is a widening gap between the skills employees have currently and the skills required to keep their companies competitive both now and in the future. As organizations evaluate the current skill sets of their employees, they are acknowledging the growing importance of power skills (also referred to as “behavioral skills”) development and articulating a need to provide focused training for employees to build these vital collaboration, communication, and problem-solving capabilities.
A recent IBM report revealed that power skills now dominate the list of core competencies that executives seek in employees, supplanting technical skills for the first time. This increased emphasis on power skills will drive the workforce development agenda in 2020. Technical skills development still remains vital as technological innovation accelerates. What endures, however, is the need for all employees to be able to collectively problem-solve, adapt to the increasing pace of change, and communicate more effectively, to name a few areas of focus.
We believe IBM is getting it right. At AceUp, we see three major trends in employer investment in upskilling and reskilling for 2020:
- Power skills development will be a top priority for global enterprises to address.
- Enterprises will pursue upskilling and reskilling initiatives that have broad reach across their organizations.
- Companies will invest their training budgets in solutions that can be highly customized to the individual learner.
Read More: HR Trends That Will Rule in 2020
Let’s take a look at the forces that will be driving these trends.
The Experience Drain Is Reshaping the Business Landscape
As Baby Boomers retire in droves, Millennials are supplanting them and taking up leadership positions at all levels of the enterprise. At the same time, Generation Z is entering the workforce and establishing its own growing presence. Recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data hint at the significance of this monumental shift: In 2018, the average tenure of workers aged 25 to 34 was 2.8 years; for workers aged 55 to 64, the average tenure was nearly four times greater at 10.1 years.
While this turnover in generations has been widely anticipated for years, some companies are only now coming to grips with the loss of institutional knowledge and leadership experience due to the length of time these retiring workers have been in their roles. It’s no surprise, then, that research by Gartner has found that 70% of employees haven’t mastered the skills they need for their jobs today, and 80% said they lack the skills they need both for their current and future roles.
A recent Wiley study finds that 64% of the HR leaders said there is a skills gap in their company. Executive leadership has no choice but to acknowledge the vast experience drain that companies of all sizes and in all industries are undergoing. These executives need to act decisively to both develop the leadership skills of the rising members of the workforce and create a company culture that encourages less experienced team members to stay and invest themselves in their current organizations.
The Need for Personalized Professional Development at Scale
Given the pervasive skills gap that exists at all levels in today’s companies, a commitment to closing the skills gap has to come from the top and flow through all levels of the organization. Executive leaders need solutions that can reach as many of their employees as possible.
The issue of scale, however, is a thorny one for medium to large enterprises. Scaling anything requires efficiency, and efficiency often lends itself to a one-size-fits-all approach. But that won’t work within today’s workforce, where consumer-driven expectations for personalization rule the day. From coffee bar orders to online retail offers, consumers everywhere expect an experience that is customized to meet their particular requirements. These expectations carry through to their workplaces, where employees expect the same level of personalization from their professional development.
In the context of closing the workplace skills gap, personalization means examining each worker’s experience, assessing strengths and weaknesses and delivering a training program that is customized to the employee’s unique profile needs. In years past, giving such personalized attention to even a select few employees was a time-consuming and highly manual process, which is why personalized professional development was reserved for the company’s top leaders.
Today, however, technology solutions can automate many of these previously manual tasks and allow for deep personalization and broad scaling in the process. Automation is the key to democratizing personalized upskilling and reskilling and will be foundational to the professional development programs enterprises implement moving forward. 2020 will see forward-looking companies partnering with providers that harness this powerful combination of automation and personalization to deliver customized leadership development at scale.
Power Skills Training through Scalable, Personalized One-on-One Coaching
The power skills identified in the IBM report that are “most critical for members of the workforce today” include the following:
- Willingness to be flexible, agile, and adaptable to change
- Time management skills and ability to prioritize
- Ability to work effectively in team environments
- Ability to communicate effectively in business contexts
- Capacity for innovation and creativity
- Ethics & Integrity
This is the “what” that companies need to focus on. But they also need to consider the “how.”
We know that personalized professional development is best achieved through one-on-one career coaching. Just as every athlete needs a coach, every manager needs a coach. In fact, we believe everyone deserves a coach. Fortunately, technological innovation now allows us to build tech-enabled frameworks to operationalize coaching while keeping this upskilling effort highly personalized. These frameworks enable customized, scalable and measurable coaching for each individual employee.
When it comes to HR Analytics or “People Analytics,” organizations need to be able to track and measure training satisfaction and impact on each employee. Having the ability to accurately identify which power skills an individual is excelling in and which he or she is struggling to master is a key component to fully understanding the overall state of the workplace skills gap. Here, again, a comprehensive technology-enabled framework makes broad-scale personalized one-on-one coaching feasible, sustainable and supportable.
By taking into account the analytics and insights from each employee’s learning process, HR is better able to effectively address the specific needs within an organization, and course-correct the coaching along the way. This also helps HR align people-development goals with business goals. By harnessing the analytics developed in a scalable coaching system, HR can determine if employees are invested in their learning experience and can demonstrate how their reskilling and upskilling efforts are contributing to the overall business goals.
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For HR Professionals, the first step is evaluating your organizational skills gap by assessing each employee’s needs. This involves outlining which power skills matter most to your organization, building a strategy around the development of these skills, and introducing employee programs or resources to encourage this development. It’s time to invest in the business’ most valuable assets — its people — and personalized, one-on-one coaching should be a central aspect of this investment. The technology exists to adopt a personalized approach to closing the skills gap organization-wide. Savvy leaders understand that supporting their teams with the skills development they need will give them a competitive advantage over their rivals that fail to take a systematic approach to closing their skills gap.
Which leader will you be in the coming year? Remember, foresight is 2020!