January 19, 2022

Skills gap: Why organisations should build a culture of learning and development

Editorial Team
Skills gap: Why organisations should build a culture of learning and development

It’s the best way to future-proof your organisation in the post-Covid world

Two years after the WHO first declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, organisations worldwide are still navigating uncertainties of the Covid-19 crisis. Amid the numerous uncertainties, however, there is one certainty: The new normal will be nothing like the old normal.

While this statement could apply to several aspects of our post-pandemic lives, in this blog, we will focus on the workplace, specifically skills.

So what are the changes and uncertainties the pandemic has brought to the workplace?

Besides accelerating trends such as automation and digital transformation, the Coronavirus crisis has led to a significant change in the skills needed at work, leading to predictions that skills gaps will remain high in the run up to 2025.

There are two main changes with regard to skills. First, the skills expected to be in high demand are skills that automation cannot replace such as soft skills – critical thinking, complex problem-solving, resilience, flexibility, creativity, originality, emotional intelligence and social skills. Second, it is no longer good enough or even feasible for individuals to learn a few skills and flog them for the rest of their work lives. Everyone in the global workforce needs to continuously upskill to stay relevant in the evolving post-Covid workplace.

Moving forward

In this scenario, what are the implications for individuals and organisations?

For individuals, let’s use a software analogy. Just as software is constantly upgraded – a patch here a version there – individuals will also need to regularly upgrade their existing skills to stay relevant.

Similarly, organisations will do well to encourage a culture of continuous learning. There are two very good reasons for that. One, it will help them build a flexible workforce ready to pivot to meet any new challenges, enabling them to be successful. Two, it has always been more costly to hire new people – according to research, hiring new employees can be twice as expensive than upskilling or retraining existing ones – and one can safely say this will not change post-Covid. Given that skills gaps are a very real threat over the next five years at least, organisations that commit to learning and development will be ahead of the curve.

Several organisations have already embraced the challenge. Fifty-eight per cent of respondents of a McKinsey survey published in 2021 say that closing skill gaps in their companies’ workforces has become a higher priority since the pandemic began while 69% of respondents say that their organisations do more skill building now than they did before the COVID-19 crisis.

What can you do?

Here are three simple steps organisations can take to build a future-proof workforce:

  1. Establish a baseline: Document the skills you have currently by conducting a skills-mapping exercise. Do remember, you must map skills and not roles during this exercise.
  2. Assess future skills: Keeping your long-term strategy in mind, technological innovations as well as industry developments, assess the skills you will need to stay competitive and relevant over the next 10 years.
  3. Ensure learning and development is a continuous process: Establish upskilling programs to fill skill gaps and ensure that learning and development programs are embedded in the rhythm of your organisation instead of a one off thing that employees are forced to sign up for once a year.
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