Understanding the skill development lifecycle
There’s much debate about how long it takes to master a skill. The consensus is that mastery comes somewhere between the 20-hour mark (when you become proficient) and the 10,000-hour mark (when you’ve truly become a master, according to psychology/sociology author Malcolm Gladwell).
But the "Fourth Industrial Revolution," as many call our current period of rapid technological advancement, challenges the old way of viewing mastery. Practice the same skill for 10,000 hours, and that skill might become obsolete the minute you reach the finish line.
Today’s workforce needs a different type of skills mastery. One that lives and breathes, evolving as automation and AI optimize tasks that once took employees many billable hours to complete. It’s time to embrace the way technological innovation is redefining the way we do work. Instead of letting employees fear their roles will be taken over, HR managers can inspire them with the tools they need to move their skillset into the next phase of its evolution.
The lifecycle of a skill is a skills development framework that guides organizations through the process of transforming the way they view skills, identifying what skills apply to their company objectives as industrial changes occur, and optimizing the way they enable learning and development, promoting internal mobility so that no valuable team member is left behind.
Stage 1: Align skills and objectives
Data shows that 44% of the skills employees need to perform their jobs will change and work hours performed by machines will match those of human beings by 2025. These drastic shifts are forcing many companies to rethink their strategic direction. As a result, 15% of a company’s workforce is at risk of disruption and 6% of workers are expected to be completely displaced. While job destruction is currently expected to be offset by the “jobs of tomorrow” required to enable the data and AI economy, it’s up to employers to enable upskilling and reskilling to support employees and foster talent within the organization.
This is already happening. Survey responses indicate that employers plan to transition 46% of displaced workers into emerging opportunities, in addition to providing reskilling and upskilling opportunities to almost three-quarters of their staff.
Setting an organization and its employees up for a successful transition requires analyzing company objectives and the skills necessary to meet them in an ever-changing industry. Instead of viewing talent management, company growth, learning and development, and other business operations as separate entities, aligning business goals with talent management and learning and development creates an HR powerhouse. Teams communicate and collaborate, understanding what skills they need to learn and how their daily tasks contribute to the organization’s goals.
Stage 2: Benchmark employee competencies
By 2025, 85 million roles may be displaced by technology, with 97 million new roles expected to emerge to support the transition. For employees to acquire the skills necessary to take on these new roles, they need a clear understanding of what skills they currently possess and the skills they need for their desired role.
Only 42% of employees are taking up employer-supported upskilling and reskilling opportunities. Providing benchmarks measures employee performance, giving them a goal to work towards (one they are personally invested in) and the means to measure progress acts as a strong motivator. The remaining 58% not taking advantage of L&D opportunities might engage after seeing a clear, personalized path toward the next step in their career.
Use skills mapping to create a dynamic view of the skills an organization’s employees possess, assess the gaps, then create benchmarks that motivate employees to develop new skills while highlighting opportunities for internal talent mobility.
Employees without direction should prioritize developing evergreen skills like managing, advising, decision-making, reasoning, communicating, and interacting, as well as skills relating to tech advancement in their industry.
Stage 3: Curate learning and development
The internet contains a wealth of information on every skill known to man, but only a fraction of that content is relevant to a specific organization’s workforce. Too much learning material becomes overwhelming and uninviting, rendering it ineffective.
Curation is necessary to truly help employees develop the skills they need to fill their desired roles. Content needs to be hyper-relevant to your organization/employees. L&D teams should also accommodate different learning styles by diversifying content formats.
Creating all of that content from scratch would be expensive and time-consuming. Instead, organizations can leverage technology to curate and scale existing content to be career-centered — marrying talent management and learning and development in the process. This enables employees to choose career goals as part of their L&D so that the skills they learn are catered to their desired roles.
Stage 4: Enable effective skills development
Now that business operations are aligned, benchmarks are set, and content is curated to promote upskilling, reskilling, and internal mobility, it's time for employees to develop new skills.
Traditionally, learning and development was viewed as something that takes place in a classroom. As technology evolved, online courses enabled independent learning. Still, this format focused on ensuring employees acquired knowledge rather than showing them how to use that knowledge on the job.
The truth is, employees develop more skills working in their roles than in a classroom or online learning environment. Employees encounter problems, solve them through trial and error, ask for help when they get stuck, and receive feedback from team members along the way. They sharpen their skills by using them and teaching others to do the same. Traditional learning content lacks the interactive component necessary to help people apply their new knowledge.
94% of business leaders report expecting employees to cultivate new skills on the job — up from 65% in 2018.
This massive increase in experiential learning likely results from the environment of necessity created by Covid-19. Lockdown essentially shoved organizations underwater and said sink or swim. Resilient employees were forced to develop the skills they needed to complete their responsibilities with new tools in a new environment. They were so successful in doing so that they altered the way we do work for good.
Businesses are beginning to view learning as a mix of internal and external expertise, new education technology tools, and formal and informal methods of skills development. Employers expect 39% of training to occur via an internal department, 16% to be supplemented by online learning platforms, and 11% by external consultants.
An effective skills development strategy maximizes intuitive experiential learning, analyzes it, and allows it to inform future L&D strategies. Think of it as capitalizing on the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach by figuring out what’s working and how you can create more of it.
One way of doing so could be incorporating the proven value of experiential learning into a formal learning and development setting by adding interactive components to online learning content. Another idea– make skills development more effective by adding a collaborative component. When team members tackle a problem with trial and error and lots of feedback, they learn new skills faster than they would alone.
Employees understand the need to develop new skills. Their urgency is palpable. An effective skills development program must dedicate time and space to developing future-focused skills that benefit the organization as a whole.
HR managers can encourage engagement by allowing employees the time to focus on skills development and emphasizing that the organization values personal and professional development. Let employees know the organization is investing in their new skills because their unique enterprise brings value.
A learning management system (LMS) helps your people uncover and act on upskilling and professional development opportunities. Integrating with a talent experience solution like 365Talents supercharges your LMS with skills data and puts your people at the center of your development strategies.
When you integrate your 365Talents with your LMS, your skills framework is centralized, unified and shared between your solutions to upskill your people on the right expertises.
For your employees, integration helps centralize their data on past trainings and new skills acquired, engaging them with smart suggestions for new learning opportunities based on their job and desired skills.
For managers, integration offers unique insights to better know their team’s expertise and identify what skills they are missing, to solve skill gaps before they appear.
Finally, for HR, integration can improve your employee skills and performance with cost-effective personalized training suggestions, ensuring resources are used by increasing the training completion rate.
365Talents integrates with EdFlex, 360Learning and RiseUp, among other popular LMS solutions.
The importance of the skill lifecycle
The skills that run today’s businesses won’t be relevant forever. Technology is drastically changing the way people do work. Even the skills that will likely be used every day no matter what technological advancements occur (like written and oral communication, collaboration, time management, etc.) change as culture shifts.
In the last few years alone, for example, water cooler talk gave way to private Slack channels. Stand up meetings became Zoom chats. Collaborations went remote, putting greater pressure on communication skills than ever before. Employees learned how to work asynchronously, redefining time management in the workplace by stressing outcome over output.
Employers expect to offer reskilling and upskilling to 70% of their employees by 2025. Companies that don’t prioritize internal mobility will be forced to fill new positions with talent at a time when new talent is scarce.
A business that does not move at the pace of society will inevitably get left behind. Keeping up means constantly redefining business processes through technology shifts, all while supporting loyal employees as they develop new skills to fill the gaps.
Which brings us to why the lifecycle of a skill is so important. It provides a framework for businesses to identify what skills are needed to reach company objectives, assesses the skills that currently exist within the organization, and provides effective learning and development opportunities that promote upskilling and reskilling.
Ready to chart a new course for your people at work? To learn more about an agile skills development approach to talent management, talk to the 365Talents team today.
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