In the metaphor of a sinking ship, 2020 was the mad scramble to find a life vest. In this same metaphor, 2022 is our attempt to swim safely to shore. While we’ve overcome the traumas of initial WFH growing pains, workplaces aren’t in the clear yet. There are infinite challenges facing workplaces and their employees. A marriage of learning and technology has become the most critical function of HR and company leadership. 

According to CNBC, 50% of employees are either looking for a new job or planning on it. 48 million people quit their job in 2021. While most cite higher pay, over 20% say they would leave for the same pay. 

Some reasons include hybrid work, career advancement, and respect. Other sources cite job security. Employees are pivoting their careers to stay ahead of uncertainty and/or stagnation at work. Other trends highlight employees taking advantage of a tight labor market to enact payback on the subpar work conditions, culture, and policies they’ve had to endure.

These are just the beginning of the challenges facing workplaces. We haven’t even begun to dive into the various logistical, geopolitical, or macroeconomic challenges facing companies and communities around the world. 

A Tight Labor Market and a Growing Skills Gap Could Push Workplaces to the Brink

An intricate array of factors has workplaces on the brink. The combination of a tight labor market and a growing skills gap means companies (and the world economy) are more vulnerable than ever. With constant economic challenges and a lacking influx of new talent, companies need to make the most of every employee they have on deck. There is no room for turnover, no room for disengagement, and no room for wasted potential. 

A 2019 McKinsey study found that 87% of executives and managers either said they currently faced skill gaps within their organization or expected gaps to develop within the next five years. 

According to Udemy, 38% of the workforce was upskilled or reskilled in 2020, which is a 24% increase compared to 2019. The pandemic provided a wake-up call needed, but there is still tons of work to do. 

Re-Skilling is the Key to Agility. Agility is Vital to Long Term Career Prosperity

report from WEF concludes that 50% of all employees will need to be reskilled by 2025. The distinction between ‘re-skilling’ and ‘up-skilling’ is an important one. Up-skilling is a term reserved for a time when technology and skills evolved at a methodical and predictable pace. Skills had time to evolve in conjunction with business demand in a sustainable way. 

Upskilling describes a linear understanding of how workplaces evolve. To say the least, we are not in linear times. That is where re-skilling comes into play. Spear-headed by technology, the fourth industrial revolution has changed the rules. 

Businesses grow faster and more unpredictably. As a result, so does the demand for new skills. This evolution is a product of massive innovations that have changed the world. They are also the source of disruption across various industries. This constant push and pull between innovation and disruption elevates certain job sectors but leaves millions of others vulnerable. 

The Pros and Cons of Re-Skilling 

The unprecedented demand for corporate re-skilling is a bi-product of disruption. Disruption has two sides, on one side there are unbelievable developments and trillions in wealth created. With that said, this disruption has likely claimed many jobs and career prospects over the years. 

This vulnerability in many ways is scary, but it can become an opportunity if learning can keep pace with innovation. In this scenario, learning and development can empower employees with skills to make career pivots that improve their earning potential and their company’s performance.

Employees who are technically brilliant in their job do not necessarily want to climb the corporate ladder or take on additional work or responsibilities—but they do desire recognition and growth, and the chance to try something new. Lateral career opportunities powered by re-skilling are 12 times more predictive of employee retention than promotions.

Why Learning and Technology Hold the Keys to Modern Re-Skilling

The evolution of learning and development hinges on our ability to leverage technology. The nuances and unpredictability of modern business require a comprehensive overhaul of learning that can only be achieved with technology. Here’s how.

Tapping into soft skills

We cannot discuss workplace agility and innovation without mentioning soft skills. But soft skills can be complex because they encompass the nuances of social interaction and even behavior change. Soft skills are more fluid than hard skills. While it’s one thing to invest time into learning new knowledge, skills like leadership, collaboration, or creativity are changing daily.

Technology is key here because it is arguably the only mechanism that truly accompanies us every single day. Its ability to engage our attention and connect us with others provide unique areas of opportunity that are promising for soft skills development. Learning strategies focusing on leadership development or DEI (for example) will likely rely heavily on an integrative technological approach.  

Bringing the workplace experience anywhere

Work from home is here to stay in some capacity. Despite an increase in return to office shifts (RTO), the research doesn’t lie. Employees overwhelmingly favor some form of work from home (WFH). This will likely manifest in a spectrum of hybrid work policies that companies will adopt over the years and learning strategies need to be prepared to integrate into this new way of working.

This may seem shocking, but technology can provide workplace connectivity in other forms beyond Zoom meetings and Slack channels. Technology is beginning to integrate a full workplace experience for employees anywhere and everywhere. This helps learning strategies meet the emerging needs of the future workplace. It also provides a launchpad for learning strategies to become a fully scaled and integrated component of the workplace.

Scale and efficiency

Scale and efficiency go hand in hand in learning strategies. One is usually the byproduct of the other. Without scale, companies will struggle to ensure their learning strategies move the needle for the company. Without efficient learning, strategies will struggle to adapt to new learning demands.

Technology holds the keys to both efficiency and scale. With technology, content can be created and deployed to thousands within minutes if needed. With that said, technology doesn’t satisfy all learning needs. Technology requires a robust investment of effort and brainpower to be harnessed.

Where companies go from here

The road ahead is daunting, however, there is hope. Companies are making significant investments in learning. But money alone isn’t enough. Companies must be creative, comprehensive, and intentional about every aspect of their strategies. 

42% of employees globally have reported a decline in mental health. Mental-health conditions cause absenteeism, presenteeism, and approximately $1 trillion worth of lost productivity. At the risk of sounding dramatic, the future of hundreds of companies and millions of employees partially hinges on the direction learning and development takes over the next few years.

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