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Tips to Build the Workforce of the Future

Skills mismatches around the world are growing. According to a 2012 McKinsey study, by 2020 the world may have a global shortfall of as many as 40 million skilled workers.

What’s more, in many mature economies there is high structural unemployment alongside growing job vacancies. In the McKinsey study, almost 40 percent of employers report a lack of skills as being the main reason for entry-level vacancies. Moreover, 36 percent of employers said the lack of skills was causing problems with cost, quality and time.

Meanwhile, across Europe and most developed economies, the nature of work has steadily shifted to higher skill and higher value-add jobs. This is the result of the growth of the services sector and the knowledge economy together with the automation or outsourcing of more routine and low-skill jobs.

In Europe, estimates project that during the next 10 years there will be growth of up to 18 million higher-skilled jobs versus an equivalent decline of 11 million jobs in low-skilled work.

When Oxford Economics, on behalf of recruitment consultancy Hays, asked companies what they are doing about the skills gaps, findings varied from further training of existing team members (25 percent) to expanding the candidate search outside the immediate region. Only 12 percent of those surveyed reported they were looking at “appointing people who do not currently have the skills for the role, but show potential to learn and grow.” Hays described this approach as a “teachable fit.”

One of the most important factors in building the workforce of the future is how organizations develop and train the skills needed in the workplace. This goes beyond formal training and learning; it extends to how to build a learning culture, learning on the job and using technology to deliver embedded learning experiences. In this context, the critical role of learning and development professionals in driving impactful learning strategies becomes clearer.

To increase impact, learning leaders need to understand future business strategy and skills needs. Learning leaders need to up their game in understanding and measuring the impact of learning on performance outcomes, so that they can make the strategic business case for investment in learning programs, tools and capabilities.

Learning leaders also need to be taking responsibility for determining the next steps that follow from the focus on recruiting for attitude as much as for aptitude.

To achieve this, learning leaders must focus on outcomes, not just on methods of delivery. That will increasingly mean fearless appraisal of methods and a better understanding of the mix between social and on-the-job learning and instruction.

Learning leaders will also need to encourage greater emphasis on lifetime learning as opposed to short bursts of training. By championing a mindset of continuous and adaptive learning leaders can help to create an appetite for agility and innovation. This will require a focus on behaviors and culture, not just competence, and will require CLOs to champion the value of insight.

Peter Cheese is CEO at the CIPD, a professional association for human resource management professionals. He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.