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Dan Tesnjak


Head of EMEA

Read more from Dan Tesnjak

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Want to make L&D more effective? Start with data

Skills data is mission critical to economic recovery right now.

In the current climate, it comes as little surprise that resources are limited. Budgets are being slashed across the board – sadly, HR and L&D are no exception. In 2020, CFOs cut HR budgets by 5% on average, and expect to cut a further 5% in 2021. Simultaneously, the demand and need for learning has increased due to the many events of 2020.

Analysing your skills data can help you understand in granular detail what skills are most critical to your organisation now, and what’s needed in the next one to three years. 

Six in ten workers and managers feel that the Covid-19 pandemic increased their need to build new skills, with 55% stating that their daily work tasks have changed due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, 26% expect their jobs to be permanently different once the crisis passes. Failure to equip workers with the right skills can have a negative impact on productivity, with 41% of workers stating that tasks take longer to complete and 22% stating that work quality decreases.

HR and learning leaders must strike a tough balance between providing relevant L&D opportunities that push the business (and their people) forward towards recovery, and making the most of limited resources. Many have an undiscovered tool at their fingertips, however, that will help them achieve this – skills data.

Using skills data to inform L&D

Skills data can come from many different sources including HCMs, RPO and other HR and recruitment systems, learning platforms, and CVs. Many organisations already collect it in the course of their working day, but insights can only come from skills data when it’s effectively processed, consolidated, and analysed.

Analysing your skills data can help you understand in granular detail what skills are most critical to your organisation now, and what’s needed in the next one to three years. This will help you prioritise resources and build a learning programme that aligns with your business goals. In turn, this enables your L&D programme to proactively add value to the bottom line. That makes it easier to justify additional spending, reduce the likelihood of future budget cuts, and increase senior stakeholder buy-in.

Talent-sharing opportunities

It can also provide opportunities where talent can be shared between departments or redeployed. This tactic became increasingly popular during the pandemic as a way of sharing resources and retaining talent. Trade body Airlines UK, for example, partnered with social care company Cera to redeploy grounded cabin crew. Similar skill sets (caring for others, dealing with fast-paced and stressful environments, and first aid skills) made reskilling cabin crew as short as ten days.

Tailoring learning content

Learning data can also help you tailor your learning content to individual preferences and learning styles. Research discovered that 69% of UK employees find training content to be boring and disengaging – this means they aren’t taking in what’s being taught. That’s wasting their time and your resources on learning that won’t benefit their roles or your organisation.

There are many different learning formats available and, as a bonus, many are low cost or free. Online articles, podcasts, webinars and videos can help people upskill at a time, and in a way, that suits them.

Linking learning to work

A further step in improving the cost-effectiveness of L&D is in linking learning to work opportunities. Not only does this reinforce learning by offering ways for people to practice their new skills, but it also shows the tangible benefits of investing in L&D.

Again, skills data is key to this as it can help people find relevant opportunities such as stretch assignments, projects, mentoring and volunteering. Project managers who need certain skills in their teams can look at their workforce data to find suitable internal candidates.

A continuous process

Analysing your skills data cannot be an annual or quarterly activity. It must be continuous. The skills required by your business will be influenced by changes to a role, product or service, the market, business strategy, and macro factors. Skill profiles can help you to keep up-to-date with all workforce skills, by dynamically updating when a worker completes a course or reads an article. Such profiles can ‘follow’ workers from role-to-role, industry-to-industry, updating with new experiences as they work on new projects and with different teams.

This accompanying is crucial, as skills are highly influenced by role, sector, and country. For example, UK workers feel a greater urgency in 2021 to upskill in project management compared to Germans, who feel their leadership and negotiation skills need more work. Healthcare workers feel that they need more people management skills, while those in financial services want more critical thinking skills. After a tough 2020, retailers are seeking greater creativity.

It’s vital that such profiles are individually owned and led, that their creation isn’t a top-down mandate. They will be deeply personal things, covering an individual’s skills, skills gaps, and aspirations. If it isn’t worker-centric and doesn’t add value to them personally, then people won’t feel comfortable filling in a profile and they won’t engage with it.

Vital to recovery

As organisations move on from the events of 2020, recovery will be the main focus for many leaders. This cannot be achieved without the right skills, however, and this puts L&D in a business-critical position. Learning teams must find creative ways to upskill their people ready for the coming months, while dealing with dwindling resources. Investing in skills data and analytics will make all the difference, offering insights to help learning leaders hone in on the skills they need to develop now and in the near future.

Interested in this topic? Read How to adapt your talent and learning strategy in uncertain times.

Author Profile Picture
Dan Tesnjak

Head of EMEA

Read more from Dan Tesnjak

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