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Employee Skill Building: HR Priority For 2022 And Beyond

With the “Great Resignation”, the “Great Reshuffle”, and millions of workers moving to remote and hybrid environments, HR teams continue to manage the complexities of 2021. This disruption differed from previous labor market changes. According to a recent McKinsey article and research report, 36 percent of workers who quit in the past six months did not have a new job offer in hand. The report linked these departures to the massive supply of jobs, and a likely underestimation from employers about how difficult the pandemic continues to be for millions of workers. To attract and retain talent and build an adaptable culture, HR department leaders will look to expand learning and development to stay competitive in the year ahead. They’ll need to involve senior leadership to strategically offer upskilling, reskilling, and a focus on soft skills to prepare their companies for success in a changing world.

Upskilling and the Great Resignation

There’s a training gap within corporate America between the amount spent on training and employees’ usage and satisfaction with that training. In 2020, U.S. corporations spent an estimated $165 billion on learning and development. However, according to a Harvard Business Review report, 70 percent of employees said they are not taught skills they need to perform their job. This, of course, doesn’t mean training isn’t necessary, it means it needs to be more intelligent and targeted because the capital investment in it is not producing impactful results. Companies need training and upskilling to provide workers new opportunities, advance their careers internally, and combat the effects of the Great Resignation. Upskilling can also help employees perform their current jobs more efficiently and with greater satisfaction. To achieve these goals, companies need advanced learning platforms that leverage video instruction and are customized to the needs of different teams or business units. Online learning and the anytime access it offers can be the best way to transition away from management and employees focusing on training completion to individual empowerment and business improvements. Companies should also offer a wider range of courses, from a broad selection of business, communications, and soft skills to a more specific curriculum on everything from accounting, analytics, and coding.

Continual Learning and Reskilling

In 2022, we’ll see a growing emphasis on eLearning, upskilling, and reskilling. Companies should encourage their workers to engage in continual learning, even if that means they lose some top performers to other jobs. With continual learning in place, there’s a greater chance the employee will become more embedded and use the expanded education and training to access new opportunities and positions within the organization. And, as employees remain longer with their companies, their experience and performance levels will increase, which brings value to the brand, improves customer relationship management, and drives growth. As demand for reskilling and upskilling grows, HR departments will need to increase their related efforts in parallel. They need to manage various qualifications, skill sets, and processes throughout the organization to identify gaps and weaknesses, and push new training agendas and platforms forward. HR teams need to understand when and where situations call for upskilling (often in cases where automation or other factors won’t eliminate the job), or when reskilling is necessary to move a valuable employee into a new role. Doing this well requires HR leadership to share data transparently on employee skill sets, spot adjacent complementary skills that might otherwise remain hidden, and allow for broader, more flexible career pathways. This kind of fluid, proactive approach can better encourage employees’ adaptation to changing market and business needs and inspire them to seek out and embrace new skills development.

Soft Skills Remain Vital

The changing definition of “work”, including remote jobs and flexible career paths, reinforces the need to improve soft skills. Recruiters and hiring managers are well aware of the erosion of soft skills caused by consistently shifting workforce models, courtesy of the pandemic. In a post-pandemic world of digital transformation, collaboration, and virtual connections, it will be vital for workers to sharpen their interpersonal communication, collaboration, and empathy skill sets. Automation is also driving away many process-based and hard-skill tasks that can be performed with greater accuracy and scale when automated. Soft skills encourage workers to collaborate with others and better navigate changes in both the workplace (shifting to remote work) and within an industry. At the same time, HR teams will need to examine their company cultures to identify what they consider as the most desirable employee attributes and if certain skills are more relevant to specific areas or departments. Whether that’s agility, empathy, relationship building, communication, emotional intelligence, or a blending of various other skills, HR can then pair the desired soft skills with the appropriate learning and development program. Soft skills training offers a host of benefits. It builds adaptability and resiliency in challenging conditions, which is a characteristic strength of companies that survived and even thrived in the pandemic. Active listening is another soft skill that enables workers to improve communication with each other and with customers. By stressing active listening skills across a company, communication is more effective, and productivity improves across the board. HR teams should encourage active listening training for all employees, especially leadership who might be struggling with the Great Resignation. These leaders need to engage their active listening skills to understand employees’ unfilled needs, so they have the context to make sustainable changes that improve retention and growth. Improved communication skills help every facet of the organization, especially with the rapid expansion of remote work. Effective communication avoids productivity-killing confusion, gives workers purpose and direction, and creates a positive, healthier trust-based culture. The learning and development trends for 2022 and beyond correlate to broader workplace changes, including remote work, greater flexibility, reassessment of the meaning of work, and the need for a more collaborative employer/employee dynamic. Leadership needs to push forward with the kinds of strategic skills development and training that helps their workers embrace where they are, engage and succeed going forward, and drive long-term, bottom-line success.

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