Gartner: Workers apply 54% of the new skills they learn

Dive Brief:

  • The number of skills required for a single job is increasing by 10% year-over-year, but workers are applying 54% of the new skills they learn, according to an analysis by Gartner published Aug. 19.
  • Meanwhile, 33% of the skills workers needed three years ago are no longer relevant, Gartner said, and disruptions like the COVID-19 pandemic “continue to amplify the need for new skills as business strategies shift and employees adapt to new ways of working.” As a result, the firm said nearly two-thirds of HR leaders have taken a reactive approach to address these shifts, which in turn leads to a lack of skills application by workers.
  • But predicting and committing to a set of future skills can lead employers to focus on the wrong ones, Gartner said. Instead, the firm advocated a “dynamic skills approach” that anticipates skills shifts as they are occurring and adapts to them “in an interactive, course-corrective way.” This strategy also asks employers to utilize “skills accelerators” — using existing content, personnel, skill adjacencies and other resources — to develop solutions faster, and it calls for “two-way skills transparency” between organizations and workers.

Dive Insight:

According to several observers, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed deficiencies in the ways organizations develop talent. During the announcement of a global skills initiative, Microsoft President Brad Smith said that the pandemic “has shined a harsh light” on a widening global skills gap. An April report from the nonprofit National Skills Coalition found that workers in major industry sectors like health and social work, manufacturing, construction, retail and hospitality particularly lacked needed digital skills. NSC said such gaps may pose a challenge as workers in essential industries respond to the pandemic.

So far, organizations have largely shifted to online learning formats during the pandemic. Recent research by the Association for Talent Development found that e-learning made up 21%-40% of the median organization’s learning portfolio, while 99% of surveyed organizations offered some form of e-learning. Gartner previously estimated that nearly 85% of L&D functions shifted in-person training to virtual in recent months.

But others have taken a position, similar to Gartner, that delivery isn’t the only aspect of L&D that needs to change to meet the current moment. In a recent opinion piece for HR Dive, WorldatWork President and CEO Scott Cawood said that changes encountered upon reopening will challenge organizations’ resilience and commitment to reskilling employees. Cawood advised HR departments to be prepared to make reskilling the “new normal every six to 12 months,” among other changes.

L&D professionals and consultants previously told HR Dive about the need to focus on business transformation as a means of not only defending department budgets during the current downturn, but also as a path forward for improving current training initiatives. Employers could turn to partners including professional organizations — as Lincoln Financial did — to determine how jobs might change and what skills their workers might need to prioritize.

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