How L&D Can Unlock Your Competitive Edge

How L&D Can Unlock Your Competitive Edge

One of the biggest challenges organisations face post-pandemic is finding the talent to help their business grow. So much so that a McKinsey study suggests that 87% of companies are facing a skills gap. The skills gap is causing significant concerns, with it being estimated that over 375 million people will need to change occupations to meet future workplace demands.

From technology development and market demands to employee priorities and workplace disruptions, organisations are navigating a significant challenge ahead. However, there is a solution and that lies within learning and development.

Closing the skills gap

When the skills of the current workforce do not meet the needs of a specific job, role or process, this creates a skills gap. The apparent response to this is to recruit workers with the skills the organisation needs. However, this isn’t the only option, and there are several strategies organisations can put in place.

Unfortunately, many people feel like organisations aren’t doing enough when it comes to closing the skills gap. For example, just 28% say their organisation is making effective skills gap decisions, and just 41% of organisations understand how roles may be disrupted by the skills gap.

The main reason organisations struggle to address this skills gap is the visibility of skills within the existing workforce and identifying the anticipated disruptions to the roles within the organisation. Understandably, as technology progresses so rapidly, it can also be hard to predict what skills will be needed.

This is where creating skills and competency matrices using people data can be a great place to start, alongside an organisational SWOT analysis to identify the areas that need support.

The benefits of L&D for closing the skills gap

Organisations are facing two significant challenges right now; one is seeking out talent with the specific skills they need while also managing existing employees and retention rates.

Focusing on learning and development is a way to address both of these concerns. By reskilling and upskilling, employees can help the organisation find the skills it needs in-house while prioritising professional development for staff helps to manage retention rates too.

How learning and development benefits employees

Focussing on professional development for your workforce, whether soft or hard skills, training, coaching and mentoring offers a range of benefits for staff, including:

  • Reduces burnout
  • Boosts engagement
  • Increases job satisfaction
  • Honour employee strengths

How learning and development benefits employers

While learning and development do require investment from employers, it gives distinct advantages such as:

  • Stay competitive
  • Have skills they need
  • Build a strengthened workforce
  • Allows organisations to “hire bigger”
  • Stronger employer brand
  • Attract new employees.

Proactive upskilling

One of the main issues with the skills gap is that organisations are in a reactive state. It is often not until that skill is in demand that organisations start to search for it. Unfortunately, by this point, it is often too late to identify talent within the existing workforce who can help or begin training them to be ready for that specific role.

As a result, many organisations resort to seeking the skills by hiring new people and using additional resources in hiring and training rather than investing in developing current staff.

However, by being proactive with upskilling and planning for the skills the organisation needs for the future, organisations can get ahead of their competitors in terms of being skill-ready. In addition, offering new development opportunities and skills to the current workforce can help maintain employee engagement. It shows your commitment to talent development and provides staff with the opportunities to grow and tailor their career in different ways.

Currently, it is estimated that low engagement in organisations creates a staggering $7.8 trillion cost to the global economy. However, if organisations can focus on engagement through professional development, it proactively benefits the business and increases engagement and retention rates too.

Skills gap: looking within

Many employee reviews focus on the work they are currently delivering. These discussions often need to be more open for employees to express their desires for new challenges or a different career path.

However, People data within the organisation is a great way to start mapping out the skills within and the most effective way to close any skills gap you face. Understanding the organisation’s current skills, including skills employees may be developing outside of the organisation for personal interests, can help you understand where the strengths and opportunities of the business lie.

Gathering People data, in terms of their experience, current roles, CPD, and interests, can help to create career paths and development plans for the team. With this, you can predict future movements within the business and start investing in the right areas of upskilling that individuals need or want.

It is also important to see this upskilling as an investment. These are skills that help to build employee engagement and retention, which lowers recruitment costs, but also is an investment into future business operations and opportunities. The return on investment for training your talent can be extensive. Not only this, but it builds a culture that can help to attract new talent to the organisation, creating a continual loop of talent, skills development and a positive workplace culture that gives the organisation a competitive edge.

Unlocking opportunities

Opening up the learning and development the organisation provides can create huge opportunities for your staff to harness their career path within your organisation. At the same time, organisations can reap the rewards of a highly skilled, motivated, engaged and passionate workforce.

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