Developing your people, improving their skills, and engaging them in learning is currently not an option. Talent is increasingly scarce, and demand for needed skills is outpacing supply due to all-time low unemployment rates, limited mobility among labor markets, and an aging and retiring workforce, which is shrinking the available talent pool. Recruiting people who have technical skills combined with the people skills of creativity, empathy, and collaboration is ever more difficult. Smart leaders know employees drive the bottom line, and that talent must be developed from within in order for the organization to thrive.
Since external recruitment is so difficult, organizations have no choice but to grow the skills of, and work to retain, their talented people. PwC’s CEO survey for several years has listed finding and retaining employees with needed skills as a top challenge. This year’s survey was no different. A majority of CEOs surveyed in the 2019 and 2020 PwC reports stated that to address a talent shortfall, significant retraining and upskilling of the workforce was needed.
Awareness is not enough, however. Organizations must do more. PwC’s 2020 CEO survey uncovered that only 18% of CEOs globally and less than 10% in North America believe their organizations have made “significant progress” in establishing upskilling programs. Yet, people are prepared to learn. They know that in today’s environment their skills will become outdated. Another PwC report, a survey of employees globally, found that 53% believe that automation will significantly change their job or make it obsolete within the next ten years. Seventy-seven percent knew they will need to learn new skills and be retrained to increase the chance of their future employability. A recent IBM study confirms the importance of continuous learning, as a skill learned today will be about half as valuable in just five years or less. The useful life is even shorter for technical skills.
Your organizational culture lets you face this challenge head on. Investing in your people is a competitive differentiator to attract and then retain those who are willing and able to learn. Your company must be accurately viewed as a learning organization that emphasizes the values of career development and trust. In this environment, employees are open to new thinking about the growth potential for their capabilities and careers. They trust that there is alignment between the company’s interest and their personal growth that goes beyond the bottom line. People who are willing to learn, look for employers that will support them in building careers. Millennials expect it. A recent Gallup survey found that 59% of millennials think it’s extremely important for employers to provide opportunities to learn and grow, and they select, and are more likely to stay with companies that do so.
A learning culture sets your company apart and promotes your organization as an employer of choice for current and prospective employees. No one has a crystal ball to predict the exact skillsets necessary in the future, but a continuous learning infused culture creates the foundation to grow needed skills in-house. Your culture strengthens when your employees gain an increased sense of dignity and satisfaction through learning. Your people become challenged, engaged, and ready to contribute.
Stuart R. Levine