Solving the Skills Supply Chain Challenge

Contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of great, high-paying jobs out there for the taking–the problem is in finding people with the necessary skillsets to handle the roles. Technology advances and a fast-paced market mean that employees need to master new skills frequently, and college and grad school curriculums can’t keep up. In many fields, therefore, especially highly specialized industries, there’s a significant gap between the skills needed for a role and the candidates available to fill it. According to a study from Bersin by Deloitte, 70% of organizations surveyed cite “capability gaps” as one of their top five challenges.

In this case, the best solution is often to hire someone with less experience than you’d like, and invest in the time and resources to train her for the job you’d ultimately like her to fill. But that’s a long game: the same research shows it can take three to five years for a professional to be fully productive in her role, with no guarantees that the employee will stick around to make the investment worthwhile. It’s something we call the “skills supply chain”: the process of turning the “raw materials” of new or underqualified employees into high-performers with the right skills for the job. In other words, how can you help your new employees gain the skills they need to perform at top capacity as quickly as possible?

In order to conquer this gap and help your business achieve its objectives, it’s time to rethink your existing learning and development program.

Where your training investments are failing

The greatest weapon in the fight against any skills and talent gap is increased investment in training and development, and today’s employers are eagerly throwing money at the problem. With over $70 billion spent in the US and over $130 billion worldwide last year, we saw the highest growth rate in corporate learning over seven years, according to the Bersin Corporate Learning Factbook 2014. But are those billions being spent wisely?

First, let’s look at the factors that make a successful employee. In the Harvard Business Review study The Impact of Employee Engagement on Performance, we discover that among top engagement priorities for success are Effective Communications (86%), Strong Executive Leadership (85%), and Ability to Innovate (73%).

Despite recognition of engagement, innovation, and effective communications as critical success metrics, many of today’s training programs center around tests, theory, memorization and seminars. The one-dimensional nature of this approach does not allow employers to fully grasp the employee’s skill level–only their ability to memorize facts they may forget within minutes of finishing their certifications.

Tracking individual employee development is another issue. Many employers use a broad-brush approach to training, whereby all employees undergo the same program without recognition of their individual learning styles. That makes it difficult to track which employees are engaged with the material–and which ones haven’t even glanced at your reference materials.

Do these methods of training strike you as out of sync with the habits of the modern–and mobile–workforce? They should.

In fact,mobile devices and BYOD (bring your own device) trends are already a huge part of workplace collaboration–74% of unified communications (UC) users rate mobility as a very important feature in a 2014 Infonetics survey.  With adoption of entirely digital communications only set to increase in the future, is it right that businesses are still relying on outdated methods to train employees? Could employers take advantage of this digital and connected world to deliver flexible, engaging and more cost-effective training programs that help manage the skills supply chain more effectively?

“The Renaissance” of corporate learning

Here’s the thing: the Google first, ask questions later generation is not apt to memorize sales training binders or wait for updated printed materials to reach them–they’ll find the information themselves. Content engagement, not memorization, is the new renaissance of corporate learning.

In fact, employees already get it. “Professional development” consistently lands as a top priority in the annual SHRM Employee Job Satisfaction Report and ad hoc resources are more abundant than ever: The online learning industry is expected to grow to $107 billion by the end of this year. Learners are turning to cloud-based content and online subscriptions to learn how to do everything from build a WordPress site to gut a largemouth bass.

Train leadership at the rate of change

2016 will be the year when mobile collaboration really comes into its own, as companies fully embrace the flexibility of cloud-based technology tools to communicate and retain knowledge based on proven models of how we learn and engage most effectively.

Mobile technologies are quickly allowing leadership to engage with employees and partners through content–building a more efficient skills supply chain in the process. Managing this shift will require investing in innovative cloud-based solutions that flip the traditional model. Instead of relying on an LMS-style push model, your workforce will engage with content on a pull model, grabbing content that tells them what they actually need to know at that particular moment. With always-available, mobile L&D tools, your employees can quickly ramp up their knowledge base and optimize their skill sets over a period of months, not years.