Earlier this year, the World Economic Forum predicted that a staggering one billion people will require reskilling by 2030. This article explores the skills dilemma currently faced by corporations, delving into the evolving landscape of hiring practices, the persistent demand for specific skills, and the challenges of identifying and developing essential yet hard-to-quantify abilities.
Similarities Remain Across Top Required Skills:
In ’22, Pearson ranked Communication, Collaboration, and Problem-Solving in the top ten skills organisations searched for. By this year, not much had changed as skills related to creativity, analytical thinking, communication, innovation and the ability to work as part of a team continued to be listed by reports conducted by Pearson and others including the World Economic Forum (WEF) in whose ‘Future of Jobs’ report published earlier this year, the skills shortage was a key factor. The WEF detailed the top five most sought-after skills across sectors: 1. Analytical and 2. Creative thinking with Resilience is in third place, followed closely by Motivation and Curiosity.
The Complex Nature of Skill Development:
The skills identified as companies’ top priorities are simple to include on a C.V. but lie in the components of a person not easily quantified through previous experience. Traditionally, the way we hire identifies that qualifications are met, knowledge has been acquired and sometimes whether a candidate would be a ‘good fit’, but these practices have contributed to organisations having to manage the results of a lack of focus on these coveted skills. A survey by CodinGame and CoderPad found that up to 47% of those involved in recruiting described trying to identify or evaluate ‘soft skills’ as the biggest challenge they face in remote hiring, and some companies even aim to discount traditional aspects of hiring in their search for essential skills. These coveted skills that companies seek to identify can come naturally to some or grow over time. However, in most cases, if a skill is not intentionally identified as necessary, it may never be developed. The way these skills are acquired or learned is complex compared to standardised educational techniques or systems. For example, communication with various people can come naturally to some; presentation skills required to pass a degree can help develop communication skills. However, a person can comfortably present to their classmates and still buckle if a presentation is conducted for clients or stakeholders. You can find the best data analyst, but if you need them to contribute findings regularly to your product team and active communication is an area they need help with, this will pose many issues over time. Most skills that fall into the ‘soft’ bracket are acquired and developed through personal experience.
Limitations in Training:
One of the most advanced ways in which companies are attempting to support employee upskilling is the use of learning experience platforms – these technologies, which were born out of a necessity for a more tailored learning experience from their predecessors – the ‘learning management systems’ (LMS) – allow potential or current employees to complete skills assessments which then indicate to the user which training they should undertake based on their results.
According to the WEF ’23 report, companies planned for 41% of employees to complete training to bridge their skills gaps, with the highly sought after ‘Analytical Thinking’ accounting for 10% of these initiatives, but how do you train someone in ‘Analytical Thinking’ exactly, and how can companies correctly or accurately suggest that someone cannot think analytically or need to develop it? Revisiting what we mentioned at the beginning of this article, the skills workplaces attempt to develop are challenging to quantify, and development practices still need to follow trial and error no matter how ‘tailored’ the experience. Training is an expensive practice, and Ebbinghaus’s forgetting curve tells us that employees will inevitably forget up to 70% (or even more) of what they learn in a corporate training session (due to how information is lost over time when there is no attempt or application to retain it) the
ROI on corporate training is, again, challenging to quantify. Formal training faces increasing challenges, with attention divided among various factors hindering its effectiveness. There is also some research to suggest that how we train is not conducive to how we learn.
Gauging Desired Skills using The Five-Factor Model:
The most widely assumed theory in personality research, The Five Factor Model of Personality, consists of five traits; ‘Openness’, ‘Conscientiousness’, ‘Extraversion’, ‘Agreeableness’, and Neuroticism’. In the past year, researchers have identified correlations between these traits and the skills deemed paramount for organisations. Researchers who took a group of over 1,000 university students found that an individual’s ability to think critically reduces with a lowered ability to manage higher feelings of stress, while levels of the trait openness were directly linked to communication and creativity, as was conscientiousness. Participants’ extraversion score was an indicator of their ability to collaborate with others, along with, again, a higher openness scoring. Similarly, Kevin Stanek, a Human Capital Researcher at Gilead, along with Deniz Ones, and other researchers, including volunteers, spent 14 years conducting a meta-analysis of over 1,300 studies of global datasets shown which represented links between these personality traits and intelligence. Amongst their findings were correlations between the previously discussed research; Openness and Extraversion were correlated with an increased ability to incorporate and retain new information.
Despite the (LXP’s) algorithm, which collects data to refine the ‘indicative’ process of applying the correct learning for employees to upskill in a particular area, these processes will never compare to the rigour involved in the scientific space when validating a theory. This rigour makes the Five-Factor Model of personality a reliable indicator of an individual’s skill set and predictive success.
The skills dilemma corporations face demands a shift in hiring, identifying and training paradigms. As the demand for these essential skills persists, organisations must navigate the complexities of identifying and developing these abilities. Embracing innovative technologies, indicators designed using the Five Factor Model of Personality, and reassessing traditional training methods can pave the way for a workforce equipped to thrive in the future job landscape.
In a previous article, we discussed challenges faced by organisations attempting to recruit and cultivate in-demand skills, specifically, discussing what companies can learn from research which correlated traits of the five-factor model of personality the five-factor model of personality to the most consistently coveted skills and the efficacy of training and its limitations. This article explores the intricacies surrounding training and development, how we learn and retain, how effectively individuals can acquire and then apply the attained knowledge, and how to design development practices that benefit company objectives while prioritising employees’ growth and positive experience.
How we learn: The Power of Engagement
‘Nothing taught by force stays in the soul’ – Plato.
Learning requires engagement; engagement is necessary for memory creation and retention. For a subject to be engaging, it needs to be of interest. So, how do we make learning enjoyable?
Creating engagement first requires understanding where the learners are – where does their current knowledge lie? Learning and developing too familiar content inhibits engagement as the mundane is tedious to interact with. At the same time, something that is too foreign or outside of our scope of understanding is difficult to engage with, so facilitators want to aim for ‘not so foreign that it’s difficult to understand but just enough that it keeps learners wanting to know more.’
More often than not, employees’ development is dictated to them – almost always with the best intentions – but these practices can lead to disengagement when people are allocated learnings that they struggle to relate to or understand. With three of the top five reasons people consider leaving their roles related to a lack of learning support, companies can’t afford to ‘tick boxes.’ Keeping clear communication with employees about their personal goals before aligning with the workplace’s objectives is the best option to establish the correct employee training. Clear communication is not limited either to verbal conversations. Companies can create clear and consistent understandings of employees’ goals and how they align with their skill set through low-cost, consistently updated tools and software.
Engagement fosters motivation: The Neurological Dance
Part of what happens during engaged learning is the release of the excitatory neurotransmitter Acetylcholine (ACh)’ which is involved in attention, focus and memory consolidation in the Hippocampus (the brain area involved in learning and memory). The release of ACh prompts attention and focus on the learning task, reinforcing motivation and engagement. Doing so contributes to synaptic plasticity and consolidating information received into long-term memory. But this consolidation in our Hippocampus of what we are exposed to during learning happens following the teaching, meaning the actions we take or scenarios we involve ourselves in following the education can directly impact the brain events associated with which the actions of ACh contribute to retention and most notably in the context of organisational development; memory retrieval long-term. The consolidation of the memories required for long-term retrieval is enhanced through revision and repeated application of learning closely following the learning. The neurotransmitter Dopamine is released when we encounter something novel or exciting, and the interplay of both neurotransmitters contributes to the process of neuroplasticity that solidifies the formation of the new memory.
Factors that inhibit information retention:
Applying what is learned closely following learning is excellent for solidifying that information we’ve just learned into memory, but this is only sometimes practical in the workplace. In leadership development programmes, for example, learners foster future skills. Commonplace, what is learnt in corporate training is intended to be remembered and applied months or even years later. An issue Micro-Learning trends aim to tackle through bite-sized momentary skills development.
It is commonplace for organisational development to be squeezed into tightly packed schedules, where individual workload is only sometimes considered or reduced per the time required to complete the training. Resulting in extended working hours, skipped rest periods, and, as a result, higher bursts of stress. The stress hormone Cortisol can prevent the consolidation of memories in the Hippocampus, so if your company tends to operate in a ‘high-pressure environment’, this is not conducive to information retention. It’s less likely that employees will retain what they have learned.
How we train: Adapting to the Modern Landscape
Organisations utilise various training methods, including online tools (LXP, LMS). The challenge is aligning training to individual requirements to ensure learnings convert to retained information. Even in the context of the LXP, which aims to tailor development through skills assessments, it is compounded by the fact that engagement rates within companies are often suboptimal, with 60% considered the best that companies can hope for, diminishing the return on investment.
Challenges in the Virtual Realm: Practical Learning Concerns:
Virtual training sessions bring their own set of challenges. Technical limitations, such as The rise of broken cameras and internet instability, contribute to the challenge of practical learning in a virtual environment. Portions of a company’s training budget may be lost due to information needing to be communicated to participants.
Utilising How We Learn To Support How We Train
At Attain, indicated personal traits are a core consideration to decipher suitable learning on the periphery of the employee’s already attained knowledge. However, defining acquired traits or skills is only sometimes the case. In many circumstances, employees’ development is dictated to them – almost always with the best intentions – but these practices can lead to disengagement when people are allocated learnings that they struggle to relate to or understand. With three of the top five reasons people consider leaving their roles related to a lack of learning support, companies can’t afford to ‘tick boxes.’ Keeping clear communication with employees about their personal goals before aligning with the workplace’s objectives is the best option to establish the correct employee training. Clear communication is not limited to verbal conversations. Companies can create clear and consistent understandings of employees’ goals and how they align with their skill set through low-cost, consistently updated tools and software.
Creating effective organisational development strategies requires consideration of how we engage with, learn and retain information through a multi-approach that incorporates valid techniques and supportive software for a tailored development approach to employees’ specific needs. Organisations can secure and foster talent that drives their future sustainability.