It’s a question managers can no longer ignore: “Does my team have the skills it takes to win in today’s marketplace? And will they have the skills to future-proof their careers while boosting my organization’s competitive advantages?” Welcome to the skills gap – an era where success is determined by providing employees with the exact learning they need when they need it.
Despite the seriousness of the skills gap, many organizations still view learning & development as an add-on luxury. Recent financial belt-tightening has exacerbated this attitude: According to Research.com, “One in two companies in the U.S. does not have formal training strategies in place to address the skills gap.” That’s a problem: The World Economic Forum states that “1.1 billion jobs are liable to be radically transformed by the next decade.”
In this post, I offer five critical benefits derived by organizations that successfully address the skills gap through ongoing employee learning & development.
Enhanced Change Management
Go back ten years and think of all the changes in the workplace and society. Could anyone perform at their best without the knowledge and skills acquired over the last decade? I don’t think so. And when we look ahead ten years, who can confidently predict what skills and knowledge will be required? But, come what may, one thing is certain: It will be a different world, demanding new knowledge, and nothing will help us respond to a changing landscape more than learning and development.
Strengthened Competitive Advantage
As an eLearning producer, I am frequently asked, “What if we invest in training our people, and they leave? It’s a question that reminds me of a well-known Richard Branson quote: “Train people well enough so they can leave but treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” That makes people ask themselves: “What is the impact on our ability to compete if our employees are not growing and developing?”
What about employees who have been with you for ten years or more? What does it cost if they are not up to speed with the latest skills it takes to be competitive and productive? Here also, the data provide a compelling argument: Forbes Magazine states that companies with strong learning cultures are 46% more likely to be leaders in their industry. That’s an advantage that no organization can afford to ignore.
Increased Employee Satisfaction
At Redwood, for over 20 years, we have focused on producing eLearning for hundreds of clients on almost every subject imaginable. And after all that time, I can say with certainty that most employees are motivated to learn new skills. But what has changed in recent years is that younger workers place personal and career development at the top of their work priorities—even ahead of remuneration.
In short, today’s younger employees seek a more meaningful relationship with employers. If you help them grow and develop in their careers, they will help your organization bridge the skills gap. If you don’t, they will search for employment with an organization that values training and employee development.
Greater Knowledge Retention
It may seem hard to believe, but the roots of distance learning stretch back nearly 170 years. In 1858, the University of London was the first institution to offer access to course materials and teacher correspondence by mail. By the mid-20th century, students were learning via radio and television broadcasts. Then, in the 1960s, the University of Illinois introduced the first computer-based training program.
The introduction of the personal computer in the 1980s and multimedia in the 1990s allowed for richer and more interactive learning experiences. In 1999, Elliott Masie coined “eLearning” – a term describing a technology coming of age. As the 21st century unfolded, broadband and mobile technologies made learning more accessible and cost-effective than ever before.
Today, eLearning providers have a broad assortment of tools that streamline the production of highly personalized and adaptive courses. Augmented and virtual realities place learners in immersive environments, and sophisticated simulations enable them to make complex choices and receive immediate feedback.
Measurable Return on Investment
If you’ve stuck with me this far, the return on an astute training investment should be clear. But many organizations are reluctant to invest in addressing the skill gap. A manager must assess whether a training program makes sense from several perspectives. Cost is usually at or near the top of that list—especially at this stage in the business cycle.
The larger the organization, the greater the likelihood of competing needs among various silos within the company. Often, multiple stakeholders pull in different directions – HR, Marketing, Customer Service – and eLearning managers and producers must roll up their sleeves and ensure that programs make the best overall use of resources expended. At this stage, organizations must be on top of the data to ensure that they are making the most astute use of investments in learning and development and other important programs like DEI.
Allow me to close with advice to those managers still doing their cost/benefit analysis: Invite an eLearning professional to drop by and talk about your situation. Ask the hard questions and allow time for well-researched, detailed answers. Then, repeat the process with other providers until you are confident in your choice.
The skills gap is real. Fortunately, so are the strategies, technologies, and tools you need to bridge it.