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Mike Bollinger


Global VP, Strategic Initiatives

Read more from Mike Bollinger

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Tomorrow’s world: The skills we needed yesterday

The L&D predictions that fell short, and where we’re headed next.
Tomorrow's skills

If we look back in time at predicted vs. actual trends in learning and development, it’s clear that not all predictions actually come to fruition. Whether technology advances quicker than expected or we’re thrown unexpectedly into a global pandemic, learning and development is constantly evolving to keep up with the modern way of work.

Leaders, however, are still faced with the same challenge – how to train and retain the best talent. It’s time we move on from the ‘great resignation’ and instead focus on ‘the great re-prioritisation’ – what are the skills of tomorrow and how can we train our workforce accordingly? 

What did we get wrong?

The first prediction that saw itself falling short is the idea that "e-learning is a fad". Whilst the term e-learning is broad, with both good and bad forms, it’s hard to deny that it has dominated the L&D space since the pandemic began.

The skills we need today won’t necessarily be the skills we need tomorrow, never mind in a years’ time

With lockdowns and furlough in our rear-view mirrors, we have seen a clear shift in mentality, with many employees opting for a hybrid approach to work, where online learning is available to help them stride towards their career goals. This just goes to show that we can never truly know what new trend is around the corner – complacency is a killer in L&D and leaders should always be preparing for the future.  

It was also predicted that "gamification will change everything". Whilst this may have been on the road to being true back in 2015, gamification seems to have fallen off the tracks. It seems as though the attractiveness of the concept outweighed the underlying complexities. To do gamification right requires a huge amount of work, and success is never guaranteed. Besides, once games become compulsory, are they still considered fun? They do say never to mix business and pleasure…

Priorities for the future

There are three key priorities that HR departments should focus on in the next year. The first, a focus on the “skills of the future”. This is an evolution rather than a revolution, and we need to find a way to keep skills evergreen. Technology can help us to do this, acting as our very own skills engine, but we still need skilled workers to keep organisations agile and flexible.

The skills we need today won’t necessarily be the skills we need tomorrow, never mind in a years’ time. Unfortunately, a learning and development crystal ball is yet to be created, so it is up to HR leaders to adopt a forward planning mindset. 

Secondly, data is not just pervasive. As we’ve seen a shift to automation, it’s important we focus our reskilling and upskilling efforts on those more complex skills that are less likely to be automated. Actionable insights are what get you in the door. Data is everywhere, but it is how you make sense of that data and turn it into knowledge to gain valuable insights. You don’t need perfect data; you just need to use the data you have wisely. 

Lastly, business acumen is central to the L&D role. You need to understand what is going on in your business. How do you measure success? What insights can be drawn from these measurements? And how can these be aligned to the goals of the wider business? HR is not a static role; it encompasses many moving parts and leaders need to be able to juggle these effectively. 

While we cannot accurately predict the future of L&D, we can put measures into place to help soften the blow of change

What should you consider when building a learning strategy for the future? 

It’s no use trying to solve all your problems with technology, nor is it going to work trying to solve your problems in silos. Many businesses don’t even consider L&D part of the macro-challenge of retention and engagement. It is time to re-focus our priorities when building a learning strategy this year, and these steps are a great place to start:

  1. In order to maximise impact within a business, leaders must create a connected experience for businesses and employees. Aligning employee’s career goals to strategic business goals will create a shared vision of success throughout the business. 
  2. Leverage AI to streamline your approach and gather baseline results to work from. Once data has been consolidated and a baseline established, HR teams can gather valuable insights such as where the skills gaps are in an organisation and who would be best suited to fill them. Digitalising these processes saves huge amounts of time and allows HR leaders to focus their efforts on targeted improvements within the company. 
  3. Learning and development should be seen as a business priority, not just a learning priority. A business is only as strong as the workforce behind it. Strengthen the workforce and you strengthen the business. Learning should be at the heart of every strategic business decision. 

While we cannot accurately predict the future of L&D, we can put measures into place to help soften the blow of change. Leaders should aim to create a connected experience between the business and its employees while gathering and analysing skills data that improves productivity and deepens insights. Working with technology can revolutionise the way a business functions, and 2022 is the year for learning and development to show how powerful it can really be.

Interested in this topic? Read Three important reskilling essentials to support sustainability.

Author Profile Picture
Mike Bollinger

Global VP, Strategic Initiatives

Read more from Mike Bollinger

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