The learning mandate for retail companies

Our Workforce 2020 data shows that executives across industries are facing similar challenges when it comes to finding the talent they need. Like executives in financial services, consumer goods, healthcare, and other industries, retail executives are having difficulty recruiting employees with the right mix of skills—and are feeling limited by it.

Retail executives

Retailers should consider developing employees from the inside rather than looking outside for the right candidates. Employees today are dissatisfied with the training and tools available to them, and many say that more development opportunities would increase their loyalty and engagement with their current job.

Retail employees

Well-trained employees with up-to-date skills are essential to building stronger companies. By providing more opportunities for training and skills development, offering more opportunities to pursue educational opportunities, and creating a culture of learning, companies will be able to better-equipped to engage and retain their best employees—and build a leadership pipeline for the future.

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Companies struggle to cultivate talent

As the war for talent heats up, companies will have to put more work into finding, recruiting, and retaining talent.

Our research shows that currently, most are not doing what it takes to keep their employees at the company—and in fact, most do not seem to expect them to stay for long. Executives are not filling roles from within the company, and most do not consider loyalty an important part of their talent strategy or plan for continuity in key roles.

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Executives may be underestimating employees’ willingness to follow a set career path within the organization: our survey shows that many employees are concerned about a lack of opportunities for advancement within their companies and are looking for more learning and development opportunities from their employers.

The first step for companies looking to cultivate leadership may be to better understand what employees’ career goals are. Setting up mentoring programs—formal or informal—as well as regular meetings to discuss development opportunities may help define a career path and show executives which employees are most suited for advancement within the business. In the long run, those companies who cultivate loyal, skilled talent from within will have a better shot at success in the war for talent.

Training the workforce of the future

Our Workforce 2020 surveys show that companies are having a hard time finding employees with the right skills. For example, the need for skills in areas 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 in that time. And abilities in vital specialties such as cloud and mobile lag compared to other technologies like programming/development and job-specific software.

Technology skills

This is a large-scale issue; in fact, US Vice President Biden recently published a report on federal education, workforce, and training programs that emphasizes the need for strong skills development opportunities.

In order to develop the technology skills they need within their organization, companies will have to focus more on supplying the right technology and training to their employees. Currently, less than half of employees say their company provides ample training on the technology they need, and less than one-third say their company makes the latest technology available to them.

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.

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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.

Employees’ number one concern? Obsolescence.

When we asked our employee respondents what concerned them most about their job, fully 40% said their top concern was their position changing or becoming obsolete—far more than the number who answered economic uncertainty or layoffs.

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What’s more, employees don’t feel confident that they are developing the skills that will be needed in years to come, and very few say their company is helping.

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These findings caught the eye of Josh Bersin, founder and Principal of Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting LLP. You can see his post, which expands on the problem of skills obsolescence and offers some recommendations to employees looking to reinvent themesleves, on LinkedIn.

Among his tips? Take the initiative to develop your skills, whether through reading, going to conferences, talking with experts, and watching online videos. While being in charge of our own development may not be ideal for some employees, it may be one of the only ways to ensure continuous learning and development.

Employee education and the skills gap

Job descriptions are changing fast. Employees need new skills to keep up as technology evolves and new ways of doing work—even the threat of being replaced by artificial intelligence—loom. Employee respondents to our massive global survey are concerned with their own obsolescence and want opportunities for development and a clear career path—that goes for Millennials and non-Millennials alike.  

Executives are also worried about the growing skills gap—many say it is difficult to find employees with base-level and specialized skills. Despite their concern, our survey results point to a lack of understanding and effort from strategy-setters when it comes to investing time, resources, and technology in training and development for employees—executives and employees both report limited opportunities for skills development.

Investment in training and development will be increasingly important as the skills companies need become increasingly advanced and technology-based—just one of the changes that is sure to come in the 2020 workforce.  

Millennial myths

Results of our employee survey show that many of the conventional beliefs about younger workers may not be true. Millennials—who made up half of employee survey respondents—are thought to care more than older workers about making a positive difference in the world through their work, achieving work/life balance, and leaving for their next job—none of which may be accurate. It isn’t that Millennials don’t care about these things—it’s that other workers care just as much.

But Millennials do need to be managed differently in terms of feedback and development. Nearly one-third say they expect more feedback than they currently receive, and without the advantage of having many years’ worth of contacts, they rely on mentoring and development at work instead of outside the organization.

Accommodating Millennials’ desire for more feedback and development opportunities would not just satisfy Millennials—it would help push companies forward and prepare for the workforce of the future.