TODAY, CO -EXISTENCE OF A QUASI-MACHINE/HUMAN WORKFORCE SUCCESSFULLY WORKING TOGETHER IS A FAMILIAR FEATURE. BUT DESPITE THE ‘ROBOTIC WORKFORCE’ TAKING THE LOAD, WE ARE STILL FACING A SERIOUS SKILLS SHORTAGE AND A GAP THAT IS PREDICTED TO WIDEN FURTHER, AS THE AVAIL ABILIT Y OF SKILLED L ABOUR CONTINUES TO CONTRACT. THIS POSES REAL CHALLENGES FOR ORGANISATIONS LOOKING TO FILL ROLES, PARTICULARLY IN EMERGING SECTORS.
While process over people may be the prevailing trend on the production side of many businesses, when it comes to the development of employees, management and leadership, the need to prioritise a people over process-driven approach has never been clearer than with the changing employer/employee dynamic we see today. The increasing scarcity of labour, the shortening typical tenure of employees and the rise of the gig economy, has made companies step back and consider how they train and develop their employees. While this should undoubtedly place greater expectations on employees to take ownership for their development and a need to keep their skills relevant, it also heightens the need to motivate and retain talent and to provide good quality development opportunities, if an organisation is to achieve its own goals.
Unlike machines, the ‘deal’ is more important to people and this starts with understanding what you need as a business and what employees want in return. There is a clear pathway towards employees desiring greater work/life balance or ‘time sovereignty’, as it is now more accurately characterised. From an employer perspective, the two greatest needs from employees have become productivity and innovation, while the employees are demanding flexibility and autonomy. Both of these needs are symbiotic and, if managed well, can lead to a win/win situation. However, when looking to develop people capable of working autonomously, within your defined boundaries, a one-size solution simply does not fit all needs. Instead, it is crucial that businesses invest time and expertise in a skills gap analysis, to understand what they need to truly address and how best to achieve it.
The past method of employers ‘sheepdipping’ large cohorts of employees through a training programme is being replaced by employees themselves deciding what development requirements they need to keep them updated and motivated and prepared for their own career progression goals. This will mean training and development initiatives must no longer look to solely address traditional company objectives, requiring months of development and implementation at scale. Rather, training and development programmes will become more fluid and will need to provide agile training, tailored to the individual and delivered at the time of need. Content and models – the mainstay of traditional L&D programme – will be less important, as access to generic content becomes more ubiquitous through free on-line portals. Similarly, traditional measures of success – such as Kirkpatrick or other large performance and results-based measures – will become less pertinent than individual goal and KPI achievement. What could be interesting is the shift in ownership for learning, with the onus being in the hands of the employees, whom will become responsible for their own development, understanding the needs of the business, recognising their own skills gaps and proactively looking to address them. Organisations must – and will – increasingly become the facilitators and enablers, authorising training and signposting employees to available resources. The world of work and its use of technology is changing, twas ever thus, but it is the rate of change – allied to the ever-evolving demands of employees – that must shape people development planning.
*From the advertising campaign for the Fiat Strada (1979)