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The LinkedIn, Lynda.com Deal: A View to a Skill

The recently announced deal for LinkedIn to acquire lynda.com gives insight into the disconnect between what employers want and what workers want from learning.

Employees want to learn on the job, but employers want workers who already have the skills companies need.

So what’s the missing link?

It can be found in LinkedIn Corp.’s acquisition of Lynda.com, the behemoth online educational tech company. The deal, valued at $1.5 billion, was announced April 9 and is scheduled to close in the second quarter subject to customary closing conditions.

“LinkedIn is the only organization I know of, public or private, that has the data to study long-term career outcomes of education in a broad and meaningful way. Nobody else comes close. Not even the government,” wrote Michael Feldstein of e-Literate, a blog that monitors developments in the educational tech space. “Their data set is enormous, fairly comprehensive and probably reasonably accurate.”

The acquisition, according to Feldstein, gives LinkedIn the ability to sell an add-on service — career advancement — and it also feeds its data set. It also allows LinkedIn to increase its footprint in the career training space.

“We believe this deal makes a lot of sense for the leading professional network, since it would empower employees/subscribers to develop or further refine their skills,” said Youssef Squali, an analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald, in a research note to investors, according to The New York Times.

Roughly 49 percent of employers say job-specific skills are difficult to find in a potential employee, but only 24 percent believe the lack of on-the-job training contributes to the skills gap, according to a survey by The Hiring Site. Those numbers conflict with the 60 percent of job candidates who believe skills will be learned on the job, the survey found. Essentially employers say candidates don’t have the skills, and candidates expect they’ll learn the most relevant skills on the job.

The disconnect is obvious, like a gulf separating two very different sets of expectations.

The proposed acquisition reveals that talent acquisition and talent development — which have largely been treated as different universes — are moving closer and closer to each other.

LinkedIn makes most of its money helping companies, large and small, connect with potential employees. It is the place businesses and recruiters go to find talent, including passive candidates, the people who aren’t actively searching for a job.

In the past, the majority of LinkedIn’s “skilling up’’ effort was a minor endeavor, at best. It helped people by allowing them to list expertise and skills on their profiles and allow connections to endorse and promote them — a crowdsourced way to create a signal amid all the online noise. This feature primarily benefitted those looking to make hires.

Why buy an education company, then? Simple: Hiring and skill development are more inextricably linked than they first appear.

Now more than ever in the knowledge economy the talent in your organization is what determines your success or failure. There is an unprecedented shortage of talent for some of the most demanding and highly skilled jobs.

The so-called “skills gap” is really two separate gaps. One is created by the difficulty in finding qualified people to do the job. The other occurs in finding the type of people who have the soft skills, such as critical thinking and problem-solving, needed to learn quickly and adapt.

How do you fill these gaps? With learning — or skilling up — your hires.

Companies recently learned these efforts are cost-efficient and something their millennial employees appreciate.

At least 40 percent of millennials in the United States, Europe and Africa, say they want managers who “empower their employees,” according to a survey released this year by INSEAD’s Emerging Markets Institute, Universum and the HEAD Foundation.

The survey, analyzed by the Harvard Business Review, also found when millennials prioritize their lives, they list “learning new things” as being more important than “being wealthy” by a wide margin.

At the same time, an IBM Corp. Value of Training study examined the best-performing companies and worst-performing companies to see if skills played a part in performance. The study found 84 percent of employees at the better-performing companies were receiving necessary training compared with 16 percent at the lower performing businesses.

What these surveys indicate is, if you can’t find the right people with the right skills, you should include training as part of the hiring process.

Take Uber, for example. The cab-hailing company is hiring engineers and training them on specific coding frameworks. Rather than restrict hiring to those who know the code the company is using, Uber is hiring and training people as part of its onboarding process.

Meanwhile, Hilton Worldwide is conducting its own training program, going after people to teach the skills needed in the hospitality industry.

Hilton is offering an internship program to military veterans who complete a certificate or college degree in hospitality services. If the veterans complete the internship in good standing, they are offered a job, according to the hotel chain.

With companies moving to overcome skills gaps and move business forward, a marriage between hiring and training is necessary.

Look around your organization. Do the recruiting and hiring team sit next to or near the talent development team? If not, you should re-evaluate.

Just as with lynda.com and LinkedIn, the goal should be for the two groups to operate as one to provide the best outcome for your company.

This article originally appeared in Chief Learning Officer’s sister publication, Workforce.