Updated: Apr 28
Companies have an opportunity within the next ten years to implement strategies in learning and development to increase employee retention, build their pool of skilled workers, and better position their firms to combat the challenges posed by the growing automation of roles. In order to do so, organizations must develop new systems of formal and informal learning to meet the workplace expectations of the future.
By taking definitive steps now to build a sustainable infrastructure supporting organizational learning and employee career development, companies can set their org and their employees up for success in this new future of work.
Multiple research studies have documented the massive numbers of jobs at risk as AI/Automation is brought into workplaces. According to insights gathered by Mckinsey, by 2030, up to 30 to 40 percent of all workers in developed countries may need to move into new occupations or at least upgrade their skill sets significantly. Research further suggests that skilled workers in short supply will become even scarcer. A 2016 Pew Research Center survey, “The State of American Jobs,” found that 87% of workers believe it will be essential for them to get training and develop new job skills throughout their work life in order to keep up with changes in the workplace.
In order to meet the demands of this transforming workforce, we’ve seen a wide array of education and-training programs being created and adopted by individuals and organizations seeking job-ready skills. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic specifically, there have been historic amounts of searches for “online courses” as stay-at-home and remote-work policies led to a rapid adoption of platforms like LinkedIn Learning and Udemy. There has been a similar increase in traffic for coding bootcamp programs like General Assembly and Flatiron School. Clearly there is a demand for up-skilling and future-driven career development on the part of individuals, and these programs and platforms are appealing because of their value propositions around industry skills preparation and job placement.
Major firms are also responding to changing workforce needs and offering competitive perks designed around workplace training and employee career development. Realizing the growing shortage in talent equipped with the new competitive skills, companies have begun taking innovative approaches to internal staff development, allowing them to upskill talent they already employ and provide them further career development support allowing for quicker and more cost-efficient returns on investments. This is especially striking considering the fact that according to research like the 2018 Workplace Learning Report from LinkedIn Learning, 94% of employees surveyed would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career.
Amazon for example has launched multi-million dollar initiatives to retrain employees in tech driven roles. Their Career Choice program offers all hourly associates employed for at least one year, up to $12,000 for tuition fees and materials related to areas of work in high-demand based on sources like the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Google has piloted unique programs like Googler-to-Googler (G2G) wherein Google employees teach their peers new in-demand job skills in direct 1:1 meetings and workshops. In order to remain competitive and adapt to the transforming job market, companies cannot afford to miss an opportunity to make investments into the future of their workplace training initiatives.
A PEW research study on the future of workplace training noted 5 themes generally held by constituents about these initiatives. The overall takeaway was that in order for these training programs to be successful, there must be a push to help learners cultivate 21st-century skills through a diverse ecosystem of training involving a variety of educational formats and credentialing systems designed in specific relationship to the jobs being developed out of the future of work. Because companies are the stakeholders setting the precedent of what it means to be “job-ready,” they are also in a position of responsibility to help develop the innovative learning programs necessary for individuals (whether internal or external to their organization), to get those necessary skills. However, with only a third of global executives reporting that their organizations have launched any new re-skilling programs (including small pilots) and bootcamps/online programs needing industry insight to make their programs worth the investment, companies clearly will need more support to address the digital-skills shortage with meaningful programming designed for the future.
At Floreo Labs, we’ve helped leading companies develop systems for employee training (both virtually and in-person) preparing their team members with relevant skills in hard-to-hire roles. Our work with different movers in the workforce development sector has given us many important takeaways for creating successful organizational learning and training initiatives that other firms can replicate to fit their staffing needs for the next decade. From our experience designing programs for small businesses and large enterprises, we’ve developed a simple three-step approach to building a sustainable infrastructure that supports the development of career development education and allows our clients to prepare dozens of candidates for the new future of work.
Step 1: Research and Scoping
First comes an initial period of research and scoping. In this stage, the company must develop a unified vision for the goals of their future workforce needs, gathering insights from their current staff on existing systems as well as the necessary future skills and roles they will need to staff. At this point, companies should also develop a sense of the organization’s readiness to adopt new structures for learning and development. Key stakeholders from different departments like talent acquisition, people operations and senior management from various specialties like Engineering and Product should come to the table to identify the most important skill gaps and future needs that will be important to address. The goal should be for companies to gain a deep understanding of the way each employee and team does their present work and have them take part in redesigning their roles and ways of working to be future-driven. By allowing employees the opportunity to participate, firms increase the impact of their work on both a micro and macro level while also developing the necessary trust and rapport to increase employee buy-in and retention following the adoption phase.
It’s important to maintain an open mind and break convention at this stage in order to ensure longterm sustainability and success. Many companies make the mistake of focusing solely on costs and in turn develop programs that are one-off and not repeatable or scalable.
Forming a small working group comprised of members of a variety of teams dedicated to this matter would help organizations create more scalable programs. One client of ours brought a Senior VP, Engineering Lead, and Senior Manager of Talent Acquisition to the table to create a meaningful program for up-skilling new hires in engineering that has the ability to repeat itself many times over.
Step 2: Sequencing
Second comes a period of sequencing, to redesign systems of learning to meet the demands gathered in the first stage. The goal here should be provocative, with stakeholders thinking strictly on how to design sustainable, repeatable, and scalable initiatives for up-skilling, created together with employees. This phase involves the development of what we call learning accelerator programs to facilitate the mobilization of skilled talent across the organization in ways that can develop future talent in the most important roles.
These learning accelerator programs can either be done as a part of new employee onboarding or present staff re-skilling and coordinated in a number of different synchronous or asynchronous formats virtually or in-person. At this point, it is good for companies to do a bit of design thinking in order to craft program outcomes from specific job roles and functions that individual stakeholders view as important. By reverse-engineering the program outcomes to the specific job function, companies can ensure the viability of the programs and measure success in accomplishments beyond job placement or number of candidates.
In our programs we work with stakeholders across the organization to create scope and sequence documents that are time-based resources used to facilitate education and training initiatives. Creating scope and sequences for role-specific skills is a great foundation to guide live instruction or the development of digital content that can be housed in an internal learning management system for employees.
Step 3: Adoption and Adaptation
The third phase requires an iterative and feedback driven adoption of the necessary activities organized in the last stage. Implementation of any large scale program requires organization and testing to ensure its viability. The most important facet of this phase is creating the shared recognition of company stakeholders on the future driven nature of the program itself. Language around KPIs and OCRs should refrain from short-term and near sighted scope but be driven by an active commitment to the investment-like nature of these activities.
Creating feedback loops with early participants, tracking progress during longer term timelines, and continuing to adapt the program as a result of monitored progress will allow for necessary adaptation of the program at scale. We’ve appreciated organizations whose C-Suite execs and corporate leaders make it a priority to actively participate in, acknowledge progress and provide resources for managers to continue to encourage participation among the broader organization. These actions increase employee buy-in, as the initiative is seen as a priority rather than a nice-to-have.
Whether building out a program that will be limited to internal resources like Amazon or working with an external party like bootcamps or online learning providers, companies that take the time to follow these three steps set themselves up for success in the creation of future-driven employee learning and development initiatives.
The future of work doesn’t have to be so ambiguous. With organizations taking the opportunity now to do the necessary research, they will find clarity on the specific learning acceleration programs that need to be created to strategically develop talent in hard-to-hire roles. Making these programs scalable for the next decade will take the development of an employee-driven approach, utilizing feedback, participation and talent from employees to build the necessary ecosystem fostering a culture of learning. The future of work is and will always remain a question on our ability to develop people in meaningful ways. Organizations that know how to empathize and bring the best out of their people will have a head start on the massive innovation economy that is to come.