Skill Development’s Strategic Importance for Employers and Employees

According to new research, skill development has demonstrated its value to businesses and people over the past year, and is being positioned for a younger, more diverse workforce.

2021 is well under way, but the unprecedented changes experienced by employers and employees over the past year are still being felt. The landscape of work is shifting, but what remains is the strategic importance of skill development in the workplace. According to new research, skill development has demonstrated its value to businesses and people over the past year, and is being positioned for a younger, more diverse workforce.

The Strategic Business Imperative for Skill Development

According to a new report from a survey of 1,099 HR professionals and 1,142 employees across eight countries and 20 industries, the importance of skill development is top of mind for many around the world. After a whirlwind year characterized by unprecedented changes, skilling is an endeavor that employers view as imperative to adapt to evolving business needs. This was felt across organizations of all sizes, but particularly with large companies (those with 10,000 or more), with 80% viewing skilling as a way to help employees adapt to new business challenges. Further, almost 70% of HR leaders reported that they would require employees to skill or reskill.

There continues to be a strategic business incentive for skilling, too. Almost all respondents (98%) said that the skills gained by employees have benefitted the employers’ organizations, while a majority (57%) said that employees have been able to fully deliver value for their employers through their newly developed or revamped skills. Employees see value as well, with the majority (75%) reporting that their new courses have been useful, while a staggering 94% reported putting their new skills to work.

Skills to Fit the Changing Landscape of Work

Of course, skills continue to evolve alongside a changing landscape of work now characterized by the new normal of remote work. With some jobs made easier through automation, this frees up employees’ time to focus on soft skills. HR respondents reported that 67% of their employees took courses on such skills as communication, leadership and collaboration, while such soft skills as adaptability, communication and problem-solving were identified as the top 3 most important skills to have.

While soft skills are growing in importance, hard skills remain just as vital to employees as companies continue to adapt to the remote work environment and a business environment dominated by digitalization. Half of companies (50%) reported that employees took information technology (IT), software or programming courses, while 44% took business-focused courses. Over the past twelve months, 44% of employees took tech-related courses to sharpen their hard tech skills.

Skill Building for the Next Generation of Talent

We know that skills are strategically important to employers and employees alike, but skill development is an area that’s primed for the next generation of talent as well. According to LinkedIn Learning’s annual Workplace Learning Report, the number of Gen Z learners increased by 2.5 times the usual amount last year, while 69% of Gen Z respondents reported that they’re taking more time to learn. Career-minded to their core, 83% of Gen Z respondents want to learn skills that will help them better perform in their current role.

This tells us that learning and development can help tap into a new generation of talent who are eager and ready to dive into learning experiences. Not only will L&D help businesses grow, but it will foster the growth of fresh talent, and set them up for future success along the way. The report also pointed out that L&D professionals are aligning their priorities with diversity and inclusion programs, demonstrating that learning is being positioned to respond to the needs of younger and more diverse talent entering the workforce.

The world of work continues to adapt to changes brought on by the pandemic, the acceleration of technology, and evolving needs of the workforce. Learning and development demonstrates that prioritizing the skilling, upskilling, or reskilling of the workforce can not only boost business, but foster the growth of employees no matter where work is going.

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