Bridging the skills gap

For employees—Millennials and non-Millennials alike—obsolescence is a bigger concern than layoffs. But as the chart below shows, only 19% say economic uncertainty is a concern, meaning their worries are likely skills-related.

Employee job concerns

Employees are not confident in their current skill sets, especially in the Americas, where fewer than 40% say the skills they have today will be what is needed in their jobs in three years.

Employee skills in three years

Technology skills in particular will continue to lag. The need for skills like analytics, cloud, and programming/development will grow sizably over the next three years, but less than half of employees expect to be proficient with most of these key technologies.

Better training and education opportunities would benefit employees and businesses alike. Today, less than a quarter of executives say they offer education as a benefit, and incentives for pursuing educational opportunities are also uncommon. With more incentives to pursue education and participate in supplemental training programs, employees would expand their skill sets and likely inspire peers to do the same—with the added bonus of making employees happier and more engaged.

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Building a stronger learning culture

Our Workforce 2020 surveys show that, around the world, employees are unsatisfied with the learning culture at their companies. Fewer than half say their company retains, updates, and shares knowledge, and even fewer say their company offers incentives for pursuing further education.

Learning culture

Executives may not think their employees value learning and development opportunities, but our data shows otherwise. In fact, employees rank supplemental training programs as the top benefit after cash-based incentives like compensation, bonuses, and retirement plans. What’s more, companies’ youngest workers are concerned about their futures—36% of global Millennials say a lack of opportunities for advancement is a top job concern, and just 39% say their company has outlined a clear career path.

What is the way forward for businesses looking to build strong learning cultures? To start, companies can provide more opportunities (even informal ones) for training and skills development, offer incentives to employees for pursuing relevant educational opportunities outside the office, and create an environment in which information-sharing is encouraged and rewarded. The companies that get this right will have better-trained, more engaged employees—and a better shot at success.

The Millennial career path

People are afraid that their jobs are going to leave them behind. Obsolescence is a serious concern for employees everywhere—even for Millennials just starting out in their careers. 40% of Millennials say this is a top job concern, and fewer than half say the skills they have today will be what’s needed in their jobs in three years.

Millennials are no more likely than non-Millennials to say they will have advanced skills in key technical areas like cloud, analytics, and programming and development—but they are looking to improve their performance through feedback and other development opportunities. In fact, Millennials expect feedback 50% more often than other workers, and many say development-related benefits would increase their loyalty.

Millennial development

Skills development for Millennials is a key part of planning for the workforce of tomorrow, closely tied to leadership and succession planning. For more on the wants and need of Millennials—and how companies are preparing to meet them—register for Wednesday’s webinar on the Millennial Misunderstanding.

The learning imperative

Companies are having a hard time finding skilled employees. In fact, nearly half of the firms we surveyed have trouble recruiting employees with even base-level skills. These challenges in the talent marketplace suggest that companies should focus more on identifying and developing talent from within—yet most of them are not doing so.

Fewer than one-quarter of executives say their companies widely offer education as a benefit to keep employees loyal and engaged, and less than half say their companies have a culture of continuous learning. What’s more, employees may not be motivated to develop skills on their own time, as most companies are not sending the message that there is room for advancement: only 31% of executives say when a person with key skills leaves, they fill the role from within the company.

As globalization makes the task of managing a workforce increasingly complex, businesses need to create broad, sustainable learning cultures. This may start with incentives for pursuing education, continuous training opportunities, or stronger mentoring programs (but beware tedious, impersonal, and mandatory development programs). Providing employees with a clear career path and allowing them to develop key skills will increase loyalty among employees and build a stronger workforce that can take the company forward.

Leadership and learning across the world

Companies everywhere are struggling to develop leadership and learning cultures—this is even more true in certain regions. We surveyed executives across North America, Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East and Africa and found that workforce strategies are different around the world—as are the outcomes. For example, in the Middle East and Africa, companies are more likely to struggle with leadership and learning.

EMEA leadership Oct 30

As the chart above shows, leadership is lackluster everywhere; just over one-third of companies say leadership talent is sufficient to drive global growth. But the situation is even worse in the Middle East and Africa, where just one quarter say so. Lackluster leadership often points to a lack of learning, as companies that are not motivating employees to learn and develop skills are not preparing them to be the leaders of tomorrow.

EMEA learning culture Oct 30

It makes sense, then, that the Middle East and Africa also are behind when it comes to learning and development. While the region is ahead in mentoring, it lags in retaining, updating, and sharing institutional knowledge; in creating a culture of continuous learning; and in offering incentives for pursuing further education. Meanwhile, executives in North America are ahead—though even those numbers are not as high as they should be. 56% say their company has a culture of continuous learning, and 47% say their company offers incentives for pursuing further education.

Workforce strategies vary by region, but everyone could use improvement. To better meet workforce goals, companies need to focus on learning and development. Finding better leaders who can drive global growth and manage an increasingly diverse workforce starts with developing talent.

The loyalty paradox

Executives say they value loyalty in employees—but the realities in the workplace are more complicated.

Our global surveys reveal misunderstandings between employees and executives over what is most important at work. While there are substantial variances by country, executives overall value loyalty in their employees more than job performance. And while employees believe the ability to learn and be trained quickly is the most important quality to their bosses, executives say the most important quality is a high level of education or institutional training.

Executive survey: What employee attributes are most important to you? Choose top 3.Employee attributes - Oct 13

Executives are not only more likely to rank loyalty among top employee attributes than qualities like diversity and leadership ability, they also cite lack of employee longevity and loyalty as a leading barrier to meeting strategic workforce goals. Despite these concerns, they do not seem to know—or are not focused on—how to engender loyalty, given that in most cases they are not offering the benefits and incentives most important to employees.

But loyalty is a two-way street. Employees focused on career development can show their managers and higher-ups commitment to the company through self-directed learning and other development initiatives. These efforts to learn and grow will show managers when employees are committed to moving up in the company—and in the meantime, they might assuage some fears of obsolescence.