Based on some recent research, Jeff Matthews has high hopes for 2019 and beyond.
Reading time: 4 minutes.
Employment in the UK has hit a record high, and this milestone gives the expression ‘war for talent’ a whole new meaning. With such a tight labour market, businesses are having to work harder than ever to fill vacancies and find new ways to woo talent.
At the same time, the rise of automation and artificial intelligence means that the skills businesses need and look for are changing as well.
All of this is happening within a context of political uncertainty, and data has shown that since the referendum Britain has lost market share of skilled immigration.
As a result of these trends, businesses are taking a fresh approach to their talent strategies. New research reveals that it is L&D teams that are playing an increasingly central role in workforce planning. But how are these teams tackling the rigorous challenges that face their businesses?
The growing power of L&D teams
This pace of change in the talent market is unprecedented, and is consequently influencing the role of L&D professionals within organisations. But, to better understand the impact, I spoke to L&D professionals across Europe to learn more about their experiences and plans for talent development in the year ahead.
It’s not just financial support that is on the up – executive sponsorship is increasing, with over three quarters of teams reporting that their leadership actively support learning programs.
The findings reveal that the L&D industry is at a tipping point. The budget constraints felt by EMEA L&D teams have almost halved in the past two years (from 49% in 2017 to 26% in 2019), while at the same time, over a third (37%) reported that their talent development budgets are increasing in 2019.
And it’s not just financial support that is on the up – executive sponsorship is increasing, with over three quarters of teams reporting that their leadership actively support learning programs.
These increased budgets and executive support are paving the way for L&D professionals to play a more strategic role within businesses. And with this additional backing, L&D teams are able to not only make a greater impact in the day to day development of staff, but they are also better equipped to tackle larger, more proactive issues facing their wider workplaces.
Tackling the skills gap
With the market for talent still incredibly tight and the shelf life of skills steadily decreasing, the number one priority for 2019 highlighted by L&D professionals is to help identify, assess and close critical skills gaps. Identifying and assessing skills gaps focus has grown by 32% year-on-year in EMEA.
Research also found that L&D professionals are taking a multi-pronged approach to identify and measure skills gaps. Performing internal skills assessments is the number one method of choice, used by 73% of respondents, closely followed by monitoring business KPIs (63%) and attending meetings with executives (61%).
But, while much is made of the value of hard, technical skills – particularly in conversations around the future of work – The Talent Trends Report found that 92% of UK talent professionals believe that soft skills are in fact as or more important than hard ones.
The top in-demand soft skills in Europe are creativity, persuasion, time management, adaptability and collaboration. And it seems that L&D professionals recognise the value of such skills, as training for soft skills is ranked as one of the top five areas of focus.
Additionally, L&D professionals are also taking a multi-stage approach to actually measuring the achievements of their learning programmes. Two thirds (66%) look to whether they’ve closed known skills gaps, 64% look at whether they’ve increased employee engagement with learning resources, and 62% attend meetings with executives and senior managers to receive their feedback.
A new way of learning
The final significant shift in the L&D industry is the shift from instructor-led training to online learning. Nearly two thirds of talent developers (61%) report spending more on online learning over the last year, fuelling their ability to scale L&D across the business.
And over two-thirds (68%) are using externally created content to give them access to a much wider range of learning resources tailored around specific skills.
Given that the research found that such courses will appeal particularly to Millennials and Gen Z, who are especially seeking independent, self-directed and more mobile and social learning opportunities, it becomes apparent that these trends are set to shape the L&D landscape for the foreseeable future.
The L&D industry is at a tipping point – and I, for one, am excited about the more prominent role talent development teams are set to play in 2019, and for years to come. This shift has come at a critical time, with employment reaching historic highs and skills gaps widening, leaving businesses more dependent than ever on the unique position and capabilities of L&D teams.
About the author
Jeff Matthews is head of LinkedIn Learning EMEA.