Corporate Training and Development, 2021 and beyond: Challenges and Opportunities – Part 2
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February 8, 2021

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Learning and development challenges and opportunities 2021

There are very few world events in our collective memory that brought tectonic shifts in how we live, communicate, and conduct our businesses. Today, it is vital to have a broader viewpoint around learning and development challenges that organizations face-taking into account disruptions happening across multiple domains. Every organization has its approach to recruit and manage talent – some predominantly recruit fresh graduates and train or recruit talent with good work experience, a few run successful enterprises with a predominant mix of on-demand talent.

This series’ previous blog post looked at how disruptions in the education value chain are deepening a skill-gap crisis and talent availability. The accelerated demand for digital transformation across industries is also an area of concern as there is a shortage in skill sets in emerging and high-demand fields.

Future of workforce composition and today’s skill mismatch across industries

A shortage of talent in emerging and high-demand fields is both a digital transformation challenge and an impending workforce development challenge.

Need for higher cognitive skills in addition to technical skills

discussion paper from McKinsey Global Institute published in 2018 discusses massive skills shortage in various work functions due to the widespread adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA). The paper indicates organizations will struggle to find resources with critical thinking, information processing, creativity, decision making, etc.

Interestingly, the discussion paper published in 2018 stated a 15-year timeline between 2016 and 2030 for this to happen. Post-COVID, one can only imagine how much this timeline will have shrunk.

Disruption to education systems worldwide has a direct and long-term impact on talent output; L&D leaders and training managers will have to have a holistic approach to problem-solving while navigating the upcoming L&D maze.

The current scenario has presented us with an opportunity to stress-test existing methodologies and future-proof training frameworks that can withstand a possible future standstill like the one we experienced. Starting now will give organizations a competitive edge in the future.

Social and emotional skills, a must in the workplace of the future

In a 2015 article on “Why Are There Still So Many Jobs? The History and Future of Workplace Automation“, David H. Autor, Ford Professor of Economics at MIT and the associate head of MIT’s Department of Economics, puts forward his perspectives on how industrial automation and technology disruptions have created new types of work. Considering the acceleration in digital transformation that the COVID crisis has triggered, we will see a rapid increase in many new roles in organizations across industries while replacing many existing ones.  

The McKinsey Global Institute’s discussion paper cited above mentions a vital shift in the future workforce’s skills requirement- social and emotional skills. Social-emotional learning (SEL) is an education domain that has been advocated for almost four decades now but is gaining attention in the last five years. SEL is the process of developing self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills from early childhood through teenage that can have a lifelong positive impact on all walks of life.

McKinsey’s workforce skill shift model predicts a 24% increase in demand for a workforce with strong SEL skills. However, we should be aware the model would not have accounted for a variable like COVID.

In the emerging new norm of a distributed “workplace”, the need for collaboration, empathy, problem-solving, and communication will become more pronounced. Focusing only on technical skills would only deepen the challenges organizations would face when dealing with a mix of full-time employees, on-demand talents, and a new workforce that may have adopted alternate education streams.

The current situation adds a sense of urgency for L&D and training managers to strategize for the future, considering the disruptive changes the education systems are undergoing today.  

An organization’s success is only as good as the people who work towards its common goal. L&D leaders will have to look for creative ideas to help prepare an organization’s existing workforce and the future talent mix in the emerging norm.

What’s next

In a follow-up to this post, we will attempt to curate a list of ideas that various leading voices in the corporate L&D and training domain are suggesting.

[If you landed on this page, here’s your link to the first part in this series: Corporate Training and Development, 2021 and beyond: Challenges and Opportunities – Part 1]

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