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Training Magazine

november 08, 2023


How to Future-Proof Your Workforce By Partnering with Employees

When you ask an employee what causes them to look around for a new role, the answer might surprise you. A better salary? An enhanced flexible working policy? Being able to take your dog into the office? Interestingly, none of these apply – instead, a recent McKinsey study suggests that a lack of career development has become the top-ranked factor driving employees to leave their current jobs.

This is a fascinating insight, and employers need to seize this opportunity to partner with their employees on career and skills development – or they risk losing valuable talent.

But it’s a big ask. Many businesses have data on what their employees achieve – sales calls, closure rates – but how many have data on their employees’ skills, aptitude, potential, and aspirations? And more importantly, how many know how to use that data to drive true career progression? What they need is the right data – data that will enable a business to understand the skills an employee has now and empower them to identify, learn, and achieve the new accredited skills that will be essential for their career today and in the future.

This is an urgent problem. The World Economic Forum anticipates over 1 billion people will require reskilling by 2030 to match evolving economic and societal demands. Employees are willing to leave organizations that don’t support progression and clear career paths. As employees take greater ownership of their careers, it’s more essential than ever that employers identify the skills needed for their workforce to thrive and focus their investment in those areas. Simply put, they have to act now.

Human skills rank most in demand

But the big question is where to invest. What are the power skills employees need – the capabilities that will power the world’s economy and people’s careers today and tomorrow? To understand global talent management trends and challenges, Pearson analyzed workforce and census data — including over 20 million job listings — in four major economies. The findings highlight employers’ most sought-after skills and how technological change drives evolving job requirements.

Technical skills remain essential to the modern workforce. Employees understand that they’ll need to update their technical skills regularly. The results of Pearson’s Skills Outlook on Power Skills, however, underscore the value of people. The five power skills most in demand for today’s workforce are all human skills:

  • communication
  • customer service
  • leadership
  • attention to detail
  • collaboration

Human skills never go out of style — Pearson projects these particular skills will remain in high demand from now through at least 2026. These interpersonal skills have true longevity because they transfer to nearly all roles. The value of strong human skills will continue to grow, helping power the world’s economy and people’s careers today and tomorrow. That’s why we believe they are the Power Skills all employees need.

The Rise of Hybrid Work and Automation

Many factors have contributed to the increased value of human skills.

A few years ago, the mention of automation sparked visions of machines and algorithms supplanting human workers and prompted concerns of a future employment crisis. Increased automation has instead demonstrated the vital importance of human skills, such as critical thinking and leadership. Artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies complement human workers’ abilities. Automating mundane and repetitive tasks, which machines complete quickly and effectively, has revealed the responsibilities most needing a human touch, increasing the value of the skills required to excel at those tasks, provided we invest in them effectively.

Consider also the massive shift to hybrid and remote working models. In 2022, half of the U.S. full-time workforce — about 60 million workers — reported they could do their job remotely, at least part of the time. While important work like brainstorming and collaboration often occurs spontaneously and organically in a physical environment, we have all learned that the more structured and artificial world of hybrid working can hinder such activity. Encouraging staff back into an office environment to re-engage in high-value collaboration is part of the solution, but hybrid work is here to stay. Collaboration and innovation can and do happen in a hybrid working environment but require the right intention and, above all, human skills.

Employers Must Invest in Human Skills

Pearson’s Skills Outlook uncovers a broader issue: Some businesses have failed to adequately invest in leadership, communication, and collaboration as dynamic skills. Employers expect well-honed human skills but don’t provide opportunities to nurture them. Employees can perceive human skills as innate, with no room for growth or improvement. Many technical skills factor into ROI discussions, but human skills rarely make the list.

Organizations must focus on human skills to drive better business outcomes and equip their workforce. Training in these interpersonal skills should expand beyond best practices and panel discussions to allow employees to showcase what they can do. Finally, it’s not just about providing L&D opportunities – it’s also helping employees prove their mastery through selecting training that offers verified skills credentials.

Proven, Not Assumed Skills

Verified credentials capture an employee’s learning – whether through internal or external development opportunities – in one place. It used to be a certificate framed on the wall in the past, but today, credentials are digital. They enhance learning and development efforts and offer additional value to employees and employers.

Why? As a visual, metadata-rich representation of learning outcomes, credentials offer proven insights by mapping an employee’s abilities to their next role. Rather than inferring someone’s skills based on past positions — which can be inaccurate — credentials provide verified details about the tasks, assessments, and materials an employee has mastered, allowing existing or potential employers to base decisions on proven competencies.

Digital credentials give employees agency over their career development thanks to their portability and shareability. Digital credentials support learning as cumulative and lifelong rather than isolated within a particular role or industry. Credentials equip employees with a clearer view of their learning achievement while driving a mindset shift for employers — to value employees for what they “can do” rather than only what they “have done.”

The success of any organization depends on the success of its employees. In this crucial moment, employers and employees are pursuing a shared goal. Both parties want to anticipate and plan for future skills needs. Employees have reiterated their desire to drive their careers forward in the face of new work models, technological advancements, and economic uncertainty. These ambitious workforce members want to learn and grow and seek an organization willing to partner with them for greater achievement. Organizations accepting the invitation to invest in their employees’ success will reap the benefits of a future-fit workforce.

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