L&D and the shifting skills demand

Written by Stephanie Morgan on 30 October 2018

The World Economic Forum has predicted that the demand for soft skills will rise by up to a third by 2020, and LinkedIn’s latest workplace learning report supports these predictions with data showing the #1 priority for talent development in 2018 is soft skills. 

However, you define it, there’s no hiding from the fact that the business landscape is shifting underneath our feet. We are now facing the fourth industrial revolution – and like those before it – we’re having to adapt the skillset of our people to remain relevant and successful.

And this time, the focus is on the soft skill. Technology, organisational change and the introduction of new generations to the workforce are three of the reasons why the demand for soft skills is rising so drastically.

Innovations in technology 

Developments in technology including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are accelerating at a record pace. The last few years in particular have seen some significant progression as different technologies are now building on and amplifying one another, and this is having a real impact on the demand for soft skills.

The media would have many believe that AI will replace jobs, but for a large part of the workforce, jobs will simply start to change. Job roles will become more reliant on the things AI can’t do – and that’s soft skills.

The media would have many believe that AI will replace jobs, but for a large part of the workforce, jobs will simply start to change.

Organisational change 

Geopolitical developments such as Brexit, new consumer driven business models like Netflix, Uber or Deliveroo are just a few recent developments that have led to substantial organisational change. The frequency of organisational change is having a ripple effect on what skills businesses require from their people.

Businesses need a workforce who can remain productive in a VUCA world. Because of this, organisations are prioritising developing soft skills such as resilience and leading through times of uncertainty, to ensure their people can cope with change.

Millennials and Gen Z 

It’s suggested that millennials have developed fewer soft skills compared with previous generations, leaving businesses with a lack of supply and a high demand for this core skill set. In a recent McKinsey study, 40% of employers said they are already experiencing difficulties filling vacancies because younger workers lack soft skills such as communication and teamwork.

By 2020, not only will the demand for soft skills grow, but millennials will become the largest working generation - leaving businesses with a much larger shortage and demand for soft skills than first anticipated.

So, what does this mean for L&D?

If you’re a learning professional with lots of ambition, the next few years will provide you with a great opportunity for achieving results.

All of the data and research is pointing towards the need and demand for soft skills development. All we need to do is make sure we’re successfully identifying and closing the soft skills gaps within our organisation.

Now really couldn’t be a better time to be in L&D, as some of the top performing businesses are realising the crucial role of talent development.

The World Economic Forum is even suggesting that businesses need to invest in a strategic HR function and ensure HR/L&D has a prominent seat on the board if they want to gain a competitive edge when entering the fourth industrial revolution.

To put it plainly, anticipating future learning needs is critical for business success, and it’s our responsibility as learning professionals to make sure they get there.

If you want to find out how you start preparing your organisation for the shifting skills demand, our recent whitepaper preparing for the rise of the soft skill set out some inventive yet practical tips and approaches to help get you started.


About the author

Stephanie Morgan is director of learning solutions at Bray Leino Learning



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