Advances in how businesses operate today mean that employees are being asked to learn new skills more often and faster than ever before. Additionally, the sheer number of skills needed in roles across IT, finance and sales have increased by nearly 25%, from an average of 17 skills to 21 skills. Of these, at least 8 of the skills were not previously required, according to an analysis by Gartner, a national research and advisory organization. And at the same time, 29% of the skills from a typical job posting may no longer be required next year.
“The skills needed to succeed in today’s work environment are shifting rapidly,” Harvard Business Review noted in a November of 2021 article. And organizations are facing this challenge while competing for talent in a tight hiring market.
The rapid changes in skill sets required for many of today’s business roles are three-fold.
1. Changes in technology. Technology drives operations, so when technology advances, workers need to the skills to get the most out of that new technology.
2. Remote work. Handling business operations through remote work adds a layer of technology for employees to learn. And teaching new skills remotely or to a partially remote team is another challenge.
3. General business disruptions. Supply chain issues, employee demands, pandemic health and safety precautions, and a changing consumer market greatly impact organizations in unpredictable ways. So a workforce that can quickly learn and adapt is more critical than ever.
Boost Midwest finds benefits in using the dynamic methods to teach new skills into the 21st-century best practices. Dynamic skills building is characterized by constant change, activity and progress. So a huge benefit is that training methods can quickly evolve as needed.
Most organizations rely on two standard methods for creating job descriptions and training methods. However, the basis for these methods may not match today’s business needs.
Companies take the reactive approach when they rush to build new skills as needs arise. The challenge for human resource leaders is to keep up with the demand placed on businesses to develop new skills in their employees. Yet for some organizations, the new skills required can change faster than it takes to implement and complete training.
“In organizations with a reactive approach, employees apply only 54% of the new skills they learn after 12 months. These organizations are simply too slow to get the skills to employees at the times they’re needed most,” Harvard Business Review also noted.
This is the “crystal ball” approach. It attempts to put an organization ahead of the skills curve by anticipating future needs and investing in those skills. However, while recent research shows slightly more than half of business leaders favor this approach, the outcomes are often worse than using the reactive approach: wasted training investments and outdated skills. The Gartner study found that employees apply on average only 37% of new skills learned using this approach.
The Society for Human Resources Management agrees with these findings, advising that “the way forward to ensuring a sustainable and relevant organization in a post-pandemic world lies in a dynamic skills approach to organizational and employee development.”
And as this faster pace of change becomes standard in business, the lifecycle of learned skills and knowledge becomes shorter than in pre-pandemic times.
So forward-thinking leaders have learned from the pandemic of 2020 and 2021 that employees who can quickly learn and adapt their knowledge and skills form the backbone to successfully meet the unknowns of 2022 and beyond.
Principles of Dynamic Skills Development
The strategy behind the dynamic approach is fluid, not static. It accepts ambiguity and imperfection while empowering employees with the information they need to build new skills as business models and methods change.
And organizations using the dynamic approach find their employees apply 75 percent of new skills they have learned. This is a big jump in new skills applied in organizations using the reactive or predictive approach.
Boost Midwest recommends these three steps to business organizations ready to meet the skills challenge with the dynamic approach:
1. Create a “skills-sensing” network.
In standard business methods, managers and leaders identify new skills needed and then turn to HR to implement solutions. By bringing in additional stakeholders to map the skills needed avoids identifying the wrong skills gap and overlooking important needs.
A skills-sensing network regularly gathers input from employees, departments, customers and any additional stakeholders. This allows for a constant monitoring of any changing needs in the company and prepares employees for them.
One approach is through creating a skills dashboard that tracks employees’ current skills and what’s in place to meet the skills-need of the business.
The skills-sensing network first identifies skills gaps and then brings department- and company-wide-level solutions.
2. Leverage existing expertise and resources.
In order for businesses to move quickly, formal training programs for new skills is usually too slow for in-demand skills. The demand may have changed by the time training is completed. So leaders in the business world are turning to skills accelerators. This method leverages existing resources and knowledge within the company for fast solutions.
The solutions don’t strive for perfection but to solve the problem right now. This “good enough” model of skills learning fits the current business world because it’s fast, agile and recognizes the continual need for teaching — and learning — new skills. This can take the form of:
Developing peer coaches that are ready to teach new skills to employees when the needs arise.
Building shortcuts from employee’s current skills to new skills by identifying adjacent, “stepping-stone” skills.
Using HR data to deliver learning when the skills are most needed.
3. Emphasize transparency.
Best practices point to transparency between organization leadership and employees in the dynamic approach to new skills development. This is a two-way street where employees may create and update skills portfolios as part of their employee file. At the same time, leadership shares the evolving needs of the organization, even if those needs are uncertain, and the impact on specific roles within the organization.
This allows for flexible development opportunities for employees. Some organizations have created connector managers, who can match the right people and resources when needed most.
The continuing challenges in business ask organizations to develop new processes and methods across the entire spectrum. That team members can quickly learn new skills as needed may be the greatest challenge they face.
At Boost Midwest, we believe in merging best practices with new, data-driven methods that can give organizations an edge. The dynamic approach to skills building may be the right next step for meeting the challenges of 2022 and beyond.
Ready to learn more about how Boost Midwest can help you optimize your project management and operations? Schedule your free consultation call with us today using our Quick Schedule Link here.