TalentTalent DevelopmentAn age of equity of opportunity in work-based training

An age of equity of opportunity in work-based training

Advances in technology provide businesses with an opportunity to personalise training and development for their employees, ensuring learning opportunities remain accessible and flexible within the new hybrid world of work

There was no specific day or time at which it happened, but at some point, during the pandemic, for almost everyone of working age and in full time employment, there was a moment of reflection.

‘What do I want to do and what skills do I need to get there?’, they would ask themselves as they worked in the comfort of their own home, away from the confinement of the workplace.

In the United States, this moment of great reflection was followed by a “Great Resignation”, as an estimated 4 million people quit their jobs in April 2021, according to Coursera’s latest Industry Skills Report.  In the UK and Ireland, more than a third of workers (38 percent) had plans to resign within the next year.

And globally, more than half of all employees vowed to leave their roles after the pandemic, if they weren’t offered greater flexibility on where they worked from and when.

At the same time, those in senior leadership and executive positions, were forced to reassess the future of their organisations and how to take their staff with them down that different path.

This too led to some profound realisations; a report published in 2020 by the World Economic Forum revealed 4 out of 10 workers would require some form of reskilling. In addition, a global survey by Ernst and Young      recorded 80% of CEOs believed the need for new skills to be their biggest challenge.

From the great resignation to new opportunities

So in an era where employee engagement and satisfaction is more dictated by greater agency and flexibility than ever before, and organisations must rapidly retool and reskill their workforce for a changing direction, how can a balance be struck?

“With people working from home there has been a more considered view of how we create the equity of opportunity now that we are not sitting in the same room,” explains Valerie Focke, director of Global Accounts at e-learning provider Coursera.

“You are not being promoted or treated differently because you are close to your boss or play golf with them, but because of the contribution you make.”

Under this more meritocratic mode of work, the amount of agency given to an individual can be awarded on the basis of what they give back in return.

The value of this approach has proven particularly strong within the area of work-based training where advances in technology and course customisation have enabled courses to be designed to meet the flexibility desired by the worker, while still fitting the skills needs of the employer.

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One industry where this approach has been increasingly adopted is the automotive industry, where the shift towards autonomous and electric vehicles, and the ever more technology connected car, has forced a particular need for the reskilling and upskilling of existing staff.

According to Coursera’s Industry Skills Report 2021, this tectonic shift within the industry has seen it rise to third place in the overall skills proficiency ranking from its previous place of seventh.

This industry-wide upskilling has been particularly focused on technology where it is now ranked second overall for data science skills, and scored as cutting edge in five out of the ten skills within the technology domain.

Training customisation and personalisation are key

“We have seen a really sharp uptick in automotive where they are thinking about how they can reskill and source talent from within the organisation,” explains Focke.

“You cannot just displace people because the industry is changing so they are looking at how they can create training pathways that keep people within the organisation.”

The industry has historically been focused around blue-collar and manufacturing jobs – that is now rapidly changing. As a result, implementing a reskilling programme successfully relies strongly on an effective change management programme.

In practice, this means there must be a deep understanding of the base skill sets of those being reskilled which is then closely aligned to the role they are moving into.

Doing this effectively relies heavily on the individual being able to overcome any aversion they might have to change, and in some cases may not work, but in order to maximise the chance of success, companies should capitalise on the opportunities to tailor the training to the individual.

“If I am going to invest in my individual, where are the accelerators that I can take to get them there?” says Focke. “What is the right pathway for them, relative to where they are now – so that personalised learning journey.”

“You can also then influence time to productivity by presenting the most effective content, that is grounded in experience, so that they will learn quicker,” she says.

This more personalised and flexible approach to training and learning new skills might be particularly timely for the automotive sector, but it is increasingly becoming part of a wider shift across the business landscape.

With the Future of Jobs report by Coursera reporting a four-fold increase in the number of people looking for online learning opportunities, the era of training being confined to a select number of training days appears to be nearing its end.

“I see people learning languages on the tube and in coffee shops, so even those things that are quite an intense thing to do are at our fingertips in a way that is easy, flexible and accessible, and I think that is the direction we are going in,” says Focke.

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