Closing the skills gap is an urgent issue.

That’s just one of many insights shared during the Future Workplace CLO Leadership Summit on October 10-11, 2019 at Infor’s New York City headquarters. But why the urgency and what can we do about it?

7.3 million U.S. jobs are unfilled as of last June and the skills gap widened over the past year.

A recent Future Workplace and Wiley study of 600 HR leaders revealed 7.3 million U.S. jobs are unfilled as of last June and the skills gap widened over the past year—key trends many L&D leaders actually expected to impact the future workplace and workforce. It was unexpected however to discover that the most in-demand skills include a combination of hard skills (technical skills, digital literacy) and soft skills (critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration, and character aka “The 5 C’s”).

The most in-demand skills include a combination of hard skills (technical skills, digital literacy) and soft skills (critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration, and character aka “The 5 C’s”).

Here’s some perspective on how quickly things have changed. In 2016, leaders at IBM ranked technical core capabilities for STEM and basic computer and software/application skills as the top two most critical skills for employees. In 2018, the top two skills they sought were behavioral skills—willingness to be flexible, agile, and adaptable to change and time management skills and ability to prioritize. Today, IBM leaders now point to behavioral skills as the most critical for the workforce.

Key forces including big data, multiple generations in the workforce, and crowdsourcing of innovation are transforming how L&D organizations deliver learning to upskill their employees. We’ve seen a shift from product-focused training to skills-based training. From a formal, in-person setting to an informal, agile one. From planned and scheduled training to remote, on-the-go training. From standardized training offerings to training that focuses on specific business pain points.

Where and when employees learn has shifted as well. Infor shared some statistics that underscore that learning in the flow of work is evolving to learning in the flow of life. 70 percent of employees learn on their phones, so ensuring training is mobile is critical. 47 percent learn during evenings and weekends, showing that employees consider L&D to be so important that they’re willing to give up their free time for it. 42 percent learn at their office desk, demonstrating that some employers want to ensure employee development. 27 percent learn during their commutes, so it’s important that learning is accessible.

Who employers are recruiting is yet another shift. Future Workplace and Wiley also discovered that more L&D organizations are sourcing non-traditional talent (military, senior citizens, non-college grads, and more) utilizing boot camps, micro-credential certificates, and pre-paid tuition. It may be because that same study found that 41.4 million U.S. workers voluntarily left their employment in the past year and that employers spent $617 billion dollars in annual turnover cost but only allocated $87 billion dollars to their annual training investment.

To help close the skills gap, organizations are applying a variety of innovative approaches using technology and culture. Infor is using artificial intelligence to merge talent science with the LMS to create efficient learning plans that use behavioral analysis to recommend courses, improve career development by locating and growing specific talent with targeted material, and analyze employee progress and company ROI. Verizon is using virtual reality for retail robbery simulations, and their retail employees are now more prepared to handle a robbery situation than they were with traditional training. Brigham & Women’s Hospital and CEMEX are taking advantage of online collaborative learning to support their diversity and inclusion efforts and embrace different values and build more effective teams.

And then there’s jazz. Columbia University shared how they teach their students ‘Leadership Jazz’ to successfully manage projects and organizations by creating space for others to lead, fostering the unique ideas of others, allowing experimentation in a learning environment, and recognizing that we can’t do it alone. Columbia’s presentation even included a fun, lively jazz performance along with a group activity demonstrating the importance of listening and the power of collaboration.

It was a day and a half well spent. We networked with a diverse group of L&D practitioners. We heard the latest research on how we learn and work, discussed the disruptions we’re currently facing in L&D, and shared insights and new approaches to learning. We listened to jazz. Really listened. Together. We know why “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing”.

Bring on the skills gap.    

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