by Shayne Thomas
23 May 2019
Stop Recruiting and Start Skills Training
Why constant learning and development can be the key to finding your next best employee (who likely already works for you!)
The job market today is in a constant state of flux. The skills and the roles needed now are not necessarily those that will be needed in the next five years–much less in one year. As technology shifts the very nature of “work” itself and the world around us continues moving at a faster pace, finding the talent of tomorrow, for many HR professionals, especially those managing teams in small- to medium-sized businesses, may seem like a truly daunting task mired with a slew of unknown variables.
To make matters worse, this also comes at a time when it’s been predicted that a whopping 42% of the skills deemed important today will likely become old news by 2022—and roughly within the same time period, the world will be ready to welcome with open arms approximately 133 million new job roles into the workforce that don’t even exist yet. (Yes, let that sink in.)
So, how can HR professionals like yourselves prepare for the future when so many of the roles and resources your business will need in the future are still somewhat unknown? The traditional response to this question might be to start a recruiting spree in order to find and hire these soon-to-be-reality job roles. But is that really the most effective plan of attack? And even if you started recruiting now, do those employee profiles even exist yet?
Think about it like this: recruiting, hiring, and onboarding takes time and money. With such a large amount of uncertainty around these future roles, why would you want to dedicate resources to finding a “unicorn”—and likely spinning a lot of wheels to do so—when you could take an entirely different and much more sustainable approach: future-proofing your current workforce through learning and development and skills training.
The truth is, the future employees you may be hiring for in the next year or two are probably right under your nose (without you even realizing it). Yes, you heard me right, they probably already work for you—and that’s a beautiful thing. Just because the world around us is changing doesn’t mean we have to take an “out with the old, in with the new” approach in order to keep up with this ever-evolving demand. It’s simply not a sustainable or smart way to do business.
However, developing your current workforce with soft skills and other valuable skills training for the job roles of tomorrow is. Not to mention, it’s a fool-proof way to invest back into your business by creating a learning-based culture whereby your employees can grow, thrive, and, ultimately, be more successful and happy for years to come. Investing in the lifelong education of your employees is honestly the best way to prepare your business for the future.
This just involves adopting a culture of learning from day one. Studies have shown that it only takes a mere 101 days of learning per employee to master new skills. Therefore, seize this as your opportunity to help your current employees meet the challenges and demands of tomorrow while also saving your HR team the pain and suffering of having to recruit, hire, and work through the learning curve of onboarding tons of new employees all at once.
Here are a few tips to get you moving in the right direction:
Carve out time for learning and development
It’s very easy to talk about the importance of learning; it’s another thing to make it an intrinsic part of your business’s fabric. Learning in the workplace is much more than simply helping employees acquire and build new skills to be more effective in their current jobs. It’s also about helping them navigate their careers paths within your business, using learning and development as a foundation for setting goals and objectives to work towards. For example, at Cornerstone, we implemented something we call the “5 for 20 challenge.” In short, we make it a priority to allocate five percent of employee time to learning and development. Why? Because that relatively small five percent has been shown to increase employee engagement and, even better, decrease turnover by as much as 20%. It’s a win-win across the board.
Develop soft skills
Still not sure how to prepare your employees for the jobs of tomorrow? Start with what you know will always be useful: soft skills. These are things like communication, teamwork, critical thinking, leadership, and problem-solving. You might be thinking to yourself, “Shouldn’t our employees already have these skills?” In an ideal world, yes. But there are always new tricks to the soft skills trade emerging every day. Even the most consummate professional can use a refresher every now and then—and these agile skills will always be in demand in today’s skills economy, regardless of how the job market ebbs and flows. What it really comes down to is empowering your employees to communicate clearly, be solutions-oriented, and work together to reach—and hopefully surpass—your business’s key goals and objectives. Helping your employees continually develop their soft skills can definitely help speed up this process. Embrace self-directed learning Advocating for learning and development from the top-down is practically a prerequisite for instilling a culture of learning within your business.
However, you don’t necessarily want to rule over learning with an iron fist either. At the end of the day, if you want your employees to embrace this culture of learning you’ve created, skills training should be fun for them—and also something that they can take ownership of (after all, it is a way for them to invest in their own future, too!). So, while you may offer a required list of courses for all your employees to take, why not offer your employees an open library of engaging, high-value content and interactive self-directed coursework—for example, around those soft skills mentioned above—that they can tackle on their own? It’ll make learning and development feel a lot more like an incentive to shine. Even more important given that 71% of millennials today say they’re likely to jump ship within two years if their companies aren’t helping them grow or develop their leadership skills. Therefore, learning and development is now a real business imperative in many ways.
Put the right systems in place
It should come as no surprise that creating a true culture of learning requires building a cohesive program around it. You really can’t do that effectively if you don’t have the right tools and systems in place to manage and publish content, track employee progress, build community, and a whole lot more. As a starting point, you’ll need to invest in building out two key components of this program: a learning management system and a library of courses. Once you’ve got these essential elements in place, it’ll be a lot easier to scale and grow your learning and development program over time. And if you’re just starting out, take the time to invest in these tools upfront; it’ll save you a lot of time, money, heartache, and pain down the road.
Ready to start investing in your employee’s future by building a learning and development program that can conceivably future-proof your workforce from the challenges that lay ahead? Cornerstone can help.