Back when I graduated from college, one was expected to leave school with nearly all the basic skills needed to succeed in a career. Maybe your employer did a more comprehensive orientation, maybe it provided access to the occasional professional development training course, and maybe you picked up a few things passively while engaging in job responsibilities or talking with your boss or mentor. But overall, you didn’t have to go too far out of your way to learn the skills or competencies you’d need to be successful.
Today, we live in a different world. Regardless of the industry, organizations and markets are evolving quickly. The way we do things one day might not work the next. There’s no such thing as a long-term strategy. Rather, every plan must be revisited – and goals adjusted – annually to ensure they’re still relevant and applicable. And this means that individuals must keep up and master new areas for which employers are willing to pay for expertise.
Skills Gaps Are Everywhere
It’s probably not a surprise that according to research I conducted with DeVry University’s Career Advisory Board in 2017, most managers feel that employees generally lack soft skills. At all three levels of employment – entry-level, mid-level and senior-level – managers cited soft skills and traits like integrity, problem-solving, interpersonal ability and adaptability as essential but not nearly common enough in the employee population.
Here’s where it gets interesting, though. In a follow-up study last year, we asked 500 hiring managers about the skills human employees need in a world with greater machine participation. That’s when we discovered the desire for greater applied technical skills, or the ability to understand the technology available to do run an organization or do a job more productively. Of our respondents, 75 percent said employees should know how to use technology to inform and drive business decisions, while 84 percent claimed employees who know how to use the right technology tools in their fields are more effective.
The Name of the Game: Learning Agility
Both studies revealed that organizations want their people to take ownership of continuous learning and retraining when a skillset becomes outdated or a new need arises. In other words, they must be what we call learning agile. Learning agility involves openness to new information and the ability to gain and apply insights based on that information. People with this trait are naturally curious and can develop professionally from an array of diverse experiences. They are also well-positioned to be far more competitive and marketable in the future workplace.
Want to learn more about how you can guide your workforce toward greater learning agility, and how to put the pieces in place to ensure the ongoing acquisition of applied technology skills?
Check out the archived interactive How to Reskill and Upskill Your Workforce webinar, sponsored by SilkRoad.