This blog is
generated from the Performance Matters Podcast episode titled 2023
Learning & HR Trends: Where Workflow Learning Can Make a Difference. In
it, Bob Mosher and Dr. Con Gottfredson discuss market research gathered by
their colleague Brooke Thomas-Record and how workflow learning can help
organizations meet current and ongoing challenges.
Bob Mosher (BM): As we start 2023, we want to share some remarkable data gathering that a dear colleague of ours recently completed so that we can consider it in the context of the coming year. I think as learning professionals, we've got to strategically and intentionally think about where we're going and how we’re defining our priorities. So, I am so thrilled to be joined by two colleagues. Dr. Con Gottfredson, are you there?
Con Gottfredson (CG): I am. It's great to be with you and I’m especially looking forward to our conversation today.
BM: I am as well. We have been so fortunate at APPLY Synergies to have a remarkable lifelong friend in the industry, Brooke Thomas-Record, join us. As you'll hear in a moment, she brings remarkable insights about our industry into the work that we do. Brooke, welcome.
Brooke Thomas-Record (BT): Thank you so much. It's a pleasure to be part of this with you today and thank you for the warm welcome.
BM: Toward the end of 2022, Brooke did some wonderful work for us. I don't know about the rest of you, but I struggle keeping up with the many trends that are spread across multiple resources. Brooke took on the challenge of looking across several of those to really see where thought leaders, research folks, and voices in our industry were thinking about issues that our field is dealing with and where we are headed. So, we asked Brooke to host a conversation with us today, obviously in the context of 5 Moments of Need, performance, and workflow learning. Brooke, we’ll have you kick that off. Give us a little bit of background about what got you here and what you took on. I know there are four areas you want to highlight. Take it away, friend.
This is the culmination of some market research I was asked to do for which I used
10 different resources. I'll list them here so that everyone understands how
this information has been sourced.
- 10 Learning & Development Trends for 2022 – from HRD (theHRDIRECTOR)
- L&D Global Sentiment Survey 2022: The Long Shadow of Covid-19 – From Donald H Taylor
- 360Learning – Our 2022 Report on the State of Learning in the Flow of Work
- World Economic Forum: The Global Risks Report 2022 17th Edition
- LinkedIn Learning 2022 Workplace Learning Report
- 2021 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Special Report
- The Post Pandemic Economy: The Future of Work After COVID-19 (McKinsey Global Institute, February 2021)
- Mind Tools for Business Annual L&D Benchmark Report 2022
- NovoEd November 2022 Report: The Great Workplace Disconnect…and How to Solve It
- Gartner Webinar: Top 5 Priorities for HR Leaders in 2023
Everything you'll hear me say today is pulled from those resources.
BM: Remarkable. So, kick us off. What are some key topics that you think are important as we start the year?
BT: I picked 4 to start so I will list all 4 and then we can dig into each of them:
- Reskilling and upskilling. (It's probably not a surprise to most people that this was a big trend across all the resources I reviewed.)
- Improving the employee experience.
- Supporting internal mobility. (I think this is really tied into that employee experience element.)
- Pivoting toward hybridization. (Although COVID showed up three years ago and work has changed quite a bit since then, this shift is continuing. I think companies are still figuring out the best ways to approach hybrid work.)
- Worldwide, nearly 9 out of 10 companies are currently facing a skills gap. The pandemic sped up digital transformation and the ever-enlarging skills gap. Some 87% of executives report existing skills gaps or expect to face gaps within the next 5 years.
- While companies might be tempted to trim training budgets amid the ongoing crisis, experience should show them that investing in retraining can pay off in the long run.
- It's becoming increasingly important for companies to deliver timely and effective employee training. Workers are eager to acquire new skills with as many as 70% being willing to leave their current position to work for a company that's more willing to invest in their training and education.
- L&D sees the growing skills gap and certainly recognizes that leadership is concerned.
- 46% of learning professionals say that the gap has widened at their organizations, a percentage that has increased since 2021.
- 49% say executives are concerned that employees don't have the right skills to execute business strategy. Again, that percentage has increased since 2021.
- 53% of executives in Deloitte’s 2020 Global Human Capital Trends research expected that between half and all of their workforces would need to reskill by this year (2023) to provide capabilities needed now. A new study also by Deloitte estimates that 100 million global low wage workers will need to find a different occupation by 2030. At the same time, the demand for skilled workers is growing with 7 in 10 employers globally saying they're struggling to find workers with the right mix of technical skills and human capabilities.
- More than half of the low wage workers currently in declining occupations might need to shift to occupations in higher wage brackets that require different skills. In the US, 10% of workers in the onsite customer interaction arena (e.g., hospitality, restaurants, etc.) may need to retrain or gain additional skills or education to transition to more secure jobs by 2030.
- Speedy and effective worker redeployment will be needed, for example, by recruiting and retraining based on skills and experience rather than academic degrees. Rapid changes in working practices and the jobs people do can be accomplished quickly. The key is to focus on the tasks and activities required rather than on whole jobs. Redesigning work in this way can streamline processes, increase efficiency, and enhance operational flexibility and agility. As companies look beyond the pandemic, they have an opportunity to reimagine work, their workforce, and their workplace by focusing on specific tasks and activities vs. entire jobs.
- The change in labor demands over the next decade will require a major retraining effort as workers transition from jobs that entail mainly routine tasks that require basic cognitive skills like literacy and numeracy into work requiring more technological and social and emotional skills. But the scale of the retraining challenge goes beyond those workers who need to switch occupations, because even among workers who keep their jobs, the tasks they perform will shift.
- For instance, delivery drivers now use GPS to calculate the fastest routes and use apps to provide real-time tracking, etc.
- LinkedIn members’ skills for the same occupation changed by about 25% from 2015 to 2021. At at this pace, LinkedIn expects that member skills will change by about 40% by 2025.
- In the post COVID scenario, the greatest increase in demand is for technological skills like advanced IT skills, computer programming, engineering, and scientific research and development. In China, the demand for time spent on these skills may increase by 51% by 2030, reflecting that country's rapid move into advanced industries and digitization.
- Demand is expected to increase for adaptability and continuous learning, reflecting the need for all workers to continuously learn new skills as technology evolves and continuously transforms jobs. This will change educators and employers as there's little consensus on how to teach social and emotional skills.
- The changes brought by COVID opened the door for companies to play a larger role in retraining workers for new jobs and creating career pathways with upward mobility to ensure a supply of workers with the right skills.
- L&D leaders report feeling concerned about continuous change and ambiguity. When asked what they want, they report a desire to enhance the capabilities of their teams and to upskill foundational developmental skills like coaching
- Examples of behaviors associated with achievements in futureproofing by L&D teams include:
- Managers recognizing the value of learning in the flow of work. For low performing companies, that recognition is only 9%, but in high performing companies, it's 62%.
- People understanding how their work is linked to the organization's performance. Again, in low performing companies, that's only 25%, but in high performing companies, it's 79%.
- The learning strategy allowing for changing business priorities. That is true in 25% of low performing companies and 93% of high performing companies
- When we look at optimal educational journeys, we're increasingly seeing that they're led by individual students starting from the ground up with their motivation to learn on their own terms. Companies that want to deliver necessary skills to their workforce must respect that process and employ L&D solutions that empower learners to understand and integrate what they're taught—not just retain the bare minimum needed to pass the test.
- In the 2022 L&D Global Sentiment Survey, the data shows a shift from 2021’s grand aspiration of reskilling and upskilling programs to the harsh reality of how difficult implementing those efforts really is as we emerge in our semi post-pandemic world. Still, 79% of learning professionals say it's less expensive to reskill a current employee than to hire a new one. And studies have found that retraining existing employees with proven track records is far more cost effective than hiring new people.
- According to LinkedIn’s 2022 Workplace Learning Report, leadership and upskilling are the top 2 L&D priorities, followed by DE&I (diversity, equity, and inclusion). So, leadership and management training were in half of respondents’ top three choices, but 72% of learning professionals chose upskilling, reskilling, digital upskilling, and/or digital transformation as one of their top three priorities. So, 72% of learning professionals focused on skills. In Asia, upskilling/reskilling was rated the highest priority with 60% of learning professionals saying it's in their top three.
- There is a 10% increase in large-scale upskilling or reskilling programs that were deployed in 2022 compared to 2021.
- Scale is a big challenge. According to McKinsey & Company, more than 100 million workers in the 8 countries they surveyed may need to switch occupations by 2030. Of the 17.1 million workers in the US who need to change jobs, almost 15 million might need to find work in different occupational categories. Given the concentration of job growth in high wage occupations and the declines in low wage occupations, the required scale and nature of workforce transitions will be quite difficult.
- Only 15% of learning professionals say they have active upskilling and reskilling programs, and only 5% have made it to the stage where they're measuring and assessing results. The clear sense seems to be that L&D knows what to do, but is striving hard to obtain the resources, technologies, support, and/or engagement to make it happen. If there was a sense in 2021 that there was a lot of reskilling and upskilling work to be done, in 2022 that drive was somewhat tempered by scale alone.
- Knowing if a program has made a demonstrable impact on employee performance and the business continues to be L&D’s greatest challenge because the industry is still lacking strategic metrics and relying too heavily on qualitative feedback.
- Challenges specific to learning in the flow of work include:
- Globally, 7 out of 10 L&D decision makers are prioritizing learning at the point of need, but learners are saying their learning experiences aren't practical enough.
- Although most learners are taking advantage of opportunities at work to help them do their jobs more effectively, it seems that L&D teams need to do a better job of understanding what learners need within the context of their roles.
- Many L&D teams either don't have the resources to match learning strategies to specific roles, or they aren't invited to provide employees with crucial role-specific support and guidance. They just aren't given the opportunities they need to help people achieve more by learning in the flow of work.
CG: Now, the question is how to take all of that and become actionable. I really think it starts with us asking, “What is a skill?” and then defining it. To upskill and reskill, to measure, and to adjust to change, we need to understand and define—as an industry—what a skill really is. The fact that skill gaps are being recognized is important, but how do we see and measure those gaps? This is one of the fundamental challenges that we face: knowing we've got to upskill and reskill, but what does that mean? We know from our work in workflow learning that at the heart of any skill is a job task. That job task must be infused with supporting knowledge that helps workers adapt, adjust, and generalize. And that task can be a soft skill: it can be a principle-based task or a procedural task, but at the heart of any skill is a task. We must understand that and then put in place a system that helps us tactically attack those skills and all those challenges that you've raised, Brooke.
- In the Gartner 2023 HR priority survey, employee experience jumped from 6th place in 2021 to 3rd place in 2022.
- LinkedIn Learning is saying that learning leads the way through what they're calling the great reshuffle, which is defined as a period unlike anything in the history of work. Individuals are prioritizing flexibility and fulfillment, and their demands are steering organizations to reexamine business strategies, workforce models, values, and culture.
- L&D leaders are responding to workers’ calls for growth and purpose while helping futureproof their organizations. Learning leaders are knocking down traditional silos to collaborate on a more holistic vision for HR. They're reaching for fresh solutions to tie skill building to career paths, internal mobility, and retention, while also bringing a new sense of care and humanity to employee wellbeing, diversity, and inclusion. Organizations that prize constant learning will, according to LinkedIn, lead the world as they build the new normal.
- 81% of executives are changing their workplace policies to offer greater flexibility to their workforce.
- Having opportunities to learn and grow is now the number one factor that people say defines an exceptional work environment or culture. In 2019, that was ranked ninth in LinkedIn’s survey, so that's a big change in just a few years.
- Instead of committing to a day of training once a year, or even blocking off a little time each day for eLearning, employees far prefer to learn as they go, making the most of opportunities to speak with people and look things up for themselves. Most learners want to learn as they work, seeking solutions to issues organically at their points of need
- 3 “blocks” that L&D can address to improve the learner experience:
- Time crunch. Employees want to learn during work hours, and L&D cites time and resources as their biggest obstacles.
- Relevance of both content and timing. 41% of learners say that content is too generic. Specifically, onboarding and manager training are identified as key arenas to make sure that the timing and relevance of learning are just right.
- Technical limitations. Nearly half of L&D professionals either don't know if their LMS can support integrations for targeted training in the workflow, or they're sure that it can't.
- Care is moving to the center of conversations about reducing burnout and boosting wellbeing.
- The most critical factor in a caring employee experience is each person's manager. To that end, almost 50% of learning professionals put increased attention on manager training and support this past year.
- Employees who feel cared about are over 3 times more likely to say they're happy working for their company, and almost 4 times more likely to recommend working for their company.
- At companies that struggle with manager care, employees are nearly 50% more likely to apply for a new job. Managers need supercharged soft skills to attract and retain talent
- It's important to recognize that workers deliver more value when they're respected and invested in. If such investments include reskilling—tying back to our first trend—that will better prepare employers for the future as well
- One way to show workers the value of their contributions is to emphasize outcomes and performance management since outcomes speak more directly to a worker’s contributions toward organizational objectives.
- There's evidence that the shift toward outcome-based performance management is already underway. More than 65% of executives surveyed for the 2021 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Special Report agreed that they believed metrics would need to shift to capturing outcomes rather than outputs in the next 5 years. In that same report, when executives were asked what workers will increasingly value in the next 5 years, 86% predicted that they would value a meaningful mission and an opportunity to make an impact on that mission.
- We talked about managers being critical, but they are also at really high risk of burnout. Data shows that many learning professionals are leaning in to activate the power of managers, but there's a word of caution because managers have shown higher burnout levels recently when compared with individual contributors. Over-relying on them is a potential problem.
- 29% of learning professionals say they're delivering learning programs to managers about leading through change and change management.
- 29% of learning professionals say they're increasing the number of trainings and support for managers.
- 33% of learning professionals say they're focusing on strengthening managers’ coaching skills.
- In Gartner's 2023 HR Priority Survey, leader and manager effectiveness jumped two spots from the prior year to reach the number one spot. The problem remains that we don't know what they really need, and they're burned out. Managers feel squeezed between senior leaders’ demands and expanded responsibilities. Burnout is real.
- CEOs care more about the workforce than ever. In terms of business priorities, it's risen from 5th in 2020 to 3rd today. For the first time ever, it's higher than financial concerns. So, it's good that the CEOs recognize the importance, but they're focused on it because they're worried. HR strategy needs to be better than ever and support the business strategy with a solid people strategy. Of course, everyone's managing multiple tradeoffs, like cost savings vs. business requirements, talent investments vs. employee needs, etc.
- Outcomes. I love the emphasis on shifting to outcomes vs. output. Outcomes are measured through understanding workflow and designing workflow learning.
- Enabled learners come from learning in the workflow and being empowered with intentional tools, methodologies, and deliverables that let them feel trusted, valued, and empowered.
- Having enabled learners solves part of the manager problem, because it takes the emphasis off of the manager being the tip of the sword and focuses instead on the employee.
- 54% of people surveyed for the LinkedIn Learning report agree that internal mobility has become a higher priority at their organization since COVID hit.
- Career mobility and growth is a huge concern for the HR leaders who responded to the Gartner 2023 survey, and 44% don't believe they have compelling career paths.
- Employees who don't feel that their skills are being put to good use are 10 times more likely to look for a new job compared to those who do feel their skills are being put to good use.
- Cultivating a culture of internal mobility means giving employees access to on-the-job learning opportunities that can include mentorships, shadowing, new jobs, etc. And the benefits are increasingly obvious: retention, engagement, and agility, plus reduced costs and hiring time.
- Companies that excel at internal mobility can retain employees for an average of almost 5 1/2 years. That's nearly twice as long as companies that struggle with mobility, whose average retention span is just under 3 years.
- Most workers want to be empowered where it matters most, which is in the work that they do and advancing their careers. By providing internal mobility through opportunity marketplaces, employers may be able to satisfy workers’ desire for empowerment by putting them in control of their careers.
- Roughly 20% to 25% of the workforce in advanced economies could be as effective working remotely 3-5 days a week as working from an office. If remote work took hold at that level, 4 to 5 times as many people would work from home at least part of the time compared to before the pandemic, which would have a profound impact on all kinds of things like urban economies, transportation, consumer spending, etc.
- Hybrid remote work models apply mainly to computer-based office work because it's the arena with the lowest requirements for site dependent work. In this arena, 70% of time could be spent working remotely without losing effectiveness.
- Remote work presents a potential opportunity to be a great equalizer.
- In one survey, only 27% of remote workers say that they feel less connected to coworkers since the pandemic began regarding producing quality work.
- A 2017 two-year study by Stanford University shows that, on average, remote workers are 13.5% more productive than their office-based counterparts, 9% more engaged in their jobs, and 50% less likely to quit.
- The recent American Opportunity survey by McKinsey & Company revealed that when given the option, the vast majority (87%) of employees across industries and job titles would choose to work remotely.
- 47% of HR leaders surveyed believe hybrid work worsens employees’ connection to culture, and just 1 in 4 employees today reports feeling connected to their culture.
- 54% of workers feel less connected than before to their organization when it comes to everyone working toward the same business goals.
- 65% of senior managers say they feel more connected to their company and aligned with common goals.
- Only 42% of middle managers and individual contributors feel the same. Employees who are lower on the food chain find themselves consuming scraps of information delivered to them more slowly and sporadically than before. Especially in remote and hybrid situations, middle managers and individual contributors are unable to connect as quickly as they could in an office environment with the context, the nuances, and the clarity of work roles and goals coming down from senior managers.
- Today, L&D leaders are reporting that attitudes towards learning are at their lowest point in 3 years. Employees aren't as engaged as they were during the height of the pandemic, and the appeal of digital learning is wearing off.
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