March 6, 2018 – Soft skills are the top priority for talent development leaders, according to a new study by LinkedIn Learning, the “2018 Workplace Learning Report,” which offers a holistic overview of learning in today’s workplace.
“In the age of automation, adaptability rules,” said the report. “While maintaining technical fluency will be important, demand for soft skills will continue to accelerate. Industry experts and organizational partners agree that this should be the top focus for talent development in 2018.”
“Maintaining technical fluency across roles will be critical, but the pace of change is fueling demand for adaptable, critical thinkers, communicators, and leaders,” said the report. “As technology accelerates, soft skills are in high demand to fuel people and business growth.”
An Extensive Survey
LinkedIn Learning’s email survey involved nearly 4,000 professionals from around the world, including 1,200 learning and development or HR professionals who either influence or are decision makers for their companies’ leadership & development budgets, 400 people managers, 200 executives and 2,200 learners from North America, Europe and Asia. The respondents were LinkedIn members who were selected based on information in their LinkedIn profile.
Leadership was among the most important skill for employees to learn from L&D programs, said 74 percent of the talent developers surveyed, 66 percent of the people managers and 65 percent of executives. Communication skills were cited by 66 percent of the talent developers and people managers, and 64 percent of executives. Collaboration, meanwhile, rated highly with 50 percent of the talent developers and people managers and 55 percent of the executives.
In addition to soft skills, LinkedIn Learning said that it is critical for businesses to balance today’s challenges with future opportunities. “As the shelf life of skills shrinks, business leaders worry that talent developers are focused on training for today’s skill demands, at the expense of preventing tomorrow’s skill gaps,” said the study.
Top Areas of Focus
“Our research shows that in 2018, talent developers are prioritizing the employee development needs of today. Yet, executives and people managers say that talent development leaders should prioritize identifying the skills that will be most important to build for the future. Savvy talent development leaders will find balance in their efforts to support the employees of today and tomorrow.”
Human Strengths Touted as the Solution to Challenges of the Skills Revolution
As technology transforms organizations, skills needs are changing rapidly and companies are struggling to find the talent they need. The key to coming out on top for individuals and employers alike is to develop the best blend of technical skills …
Among the top areas of focus for L&D, according to the talent developers and people managers surveyed are: how to train for soft skills, identifying trends to prevent future skills gaps, understanding the impact of technology, consistent global training, deliver insights on internal skills gaps, how to track skill development and how to access skill competencies.
Another trend to watch, according to LinkedIn Learning, is digital’s role in the transformation of talent development. “Talent developers are depending more on online learning solutions to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse, multi-generational workforce—and there’s no turning back,” said the report.
Fifty-eight percent of the employees surveyed said they prefer opportunities to learn at their own pace, while 49 percent said they prefer to learn at the point of need, said the report.
“Talent developers know that they need to rely on digital learning solutions to cater to varied learning needs,” said the study. “A recent ATD report found that almost 90 percent of companies offer digital learning today. Our survey shows that talent developers depend more on online learning solutions than ever before—not only to deliver content, but to measure learning success.”
Across the board, every group involved in the survey pointed to “getting employees to make time for learning” as the No.1 challenge for talent development. Ninety-four percent of employees, however, said that would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development.
Reducing the Friction
“If employees can’t find the time to learn, reduce the friction,” said the report. “Meet them on platforms they are already using with messages that align to their on-the-job needs and professional aspirations.”
“The modern organization needs to meet learners where they already are – aligning development opportunities with employee aspirations, and engaging them through the platforms where they are already spending their time.”
Assessing Soft Skills to Land Your Next Top Hire
When you’re hiring a new employee, it can be easy to miss some marks during an interview and focus simply on whether the candidate has the technical skills to do the job on day one. While technical skills are important, it isn’t enough to find someone who can do the job without also assessing a cultural fit for your team.
Manager involvement, meanwhile, is a critical component to increasing employee engagement with learning, said the report. Fifty-six percent of employees surveyed said that they would devote more time to learning if their manager directed them to complete a specific course in order to gain or improve their skills.
Talent developers, in fact, said “increased manager involvement” was their second biggest challenge. “Getting managers more involved in employee learning is not the only way to see increased learner engagement, but data shows it will likely make an impact,” said the report.
Although organizations feel developing soft skills is vital, talent developers must also not ignore the need for hard skills as companies develop their talent and technical capabilities, said LinkedIn Learning.
Using data from more than 500 million LinkedIn members, the report identified the skills that companies were working hardest to fill and their related roles. The top five were: cloud and distributed computing (platform engineer, cloud architect), statistical analysis and data mining (business analyst, data analyst, statistician), middleware and integration software (IT manager, systems integration engineer), web architecture and development framework (web developer, full stack web developer), and user interface design (UX designer, web developer, UI designer).
It is also essential, said the report, for talent developers to look beyond near-term needs and balance them with strategic workforce planning. “There is only so much we can do in one year,” said LinkedIn Learning. “And while training for soft skills is and should be a top priority for talent development this year, talent development professionals should also take the initiative to prepare employees for the fast-approaching future.”
“Industry experts and organizational partners call on talent developers to focus on strategic workforce planning—to turn outward to skills trends to inform their decisions on internal strategy,” said LinkedIn Learning. “Talent developers should look to external partners and technology solutions to help them identify these trends and implement programs to proactively address skill gaps.”
LinkedIn Learning is an online learning platform designed to meet the needs of modern learners and the demands of modern business. It combines Lynda.com’s library of real world expert-led courses with the data and insights fueled by the LinkedIn network of 530 million professional to help employees engage, learn and succeed within their organizations.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Will Schatz, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media