From education to employment

Building a Personalised Professional Development Programme to Close the Global Skills Gap

Juliane Sterzl, SVP EMEA, CoachHub

The skills gap remains a primary concern of business leaders worldwide, with 86% of large organisations currently said to be facing skills shortages. As digital technologies continue to transform job requirements at every level, organisations face a divergence between the existing knowledge of their staff and the knowledge which is required for success in the current environment.

In addition to the ongoing skills shortage, business leaders are experiencing a range of new pressures that impact their HR priorities. Headlines of economic downturn are dominating the popular narrative, as inflation hit a 40 year high of 7.9% in May 2022, according to latest ONS data. As such, businesses must walk the line between filling the skills shortage and remaining financially conscious. Business leaders must invest carefully in skills development programmes, prioritising in accordance with their organisational needs.

Bridging the gap between existing skills and new requirements

Many businesses remain stuck in a cycle of offering blanket, standardised e-learning programmes that they have used for years to their employees. Indeed, at present less than half (45%) of HR leaders offer programmes with content focused around both soft and hard skills, highlighting a lack of innovation in their learning and development mix. This trend could result in businesses investing in people development programmes that aren’t meeting their needs, which in the current financial climate, could be a costly mistake.

It can be tempting to hone in on hard skills as a priority when designing people development strategies, especially considering the importance of continuous upskilling as new processes and technologies take root within businesses. Yet, soft skills are equally crucial to roles at every level of all organisations, encapsulating competences such as strong communication, good teamwork, a knack for problem solving, the ability to be empathetic in the workplace, and much more.

Soft skills are a vital investment for any business, even in periods of financial difficulty, as they are crucial to driving employee productivity. These are interpersonal skills that dictate how individuals work across the board, rather than being concerned with how they carry out individual tasks, as is the case with hard skills. Soft skills bring a range of benefits to an organisation, including higher retention rates, enhanced employee wellbeing, and a more inviting company culture, and should therefore be valued by leaders.

Curating personalised professional development strategies

Not only is a blended learning and development strategy crucial, but a personalised approach is equally important for success. Everyone has individual strengths and weaknesses, which when combined with rapidly changing job requirements, means that employees require targeted learning experiences for their unique needs. The one-size-fits all approach to learning and development doesn’t respond to the requirements of today’s businesses, and also isn’t enjoyable or stimulating for employees.

Personalisation should therefore be the driving force behind the redesign of learning and development programmes, but in order to do so in a cost-effective way, businesses can consider introducing digital technologies into their offering. As many as two thirds (67%) of businesses still rely on blanket e-learning programmes for their staff, which largely imitate the physical classroom and encourage passive information consumption.

Now that organisations have access to the latest technologies, such as artificial intelligence, HR leaders can seamlessly create more interactive, personalised approaches to learning and development. For example, Artificial Intelligence has been applied to the practice of digital coaching, and allows providers to automatically match coachees with coaches who can respond directly to their needs. By eliminating time-consuming manual processes, organisations can offer coaching to a wider range of employees, thus responding to their real needs right now.

Investing in the power of digital coaching

When determining the relevant tools to include in a revised learning and development mix, leaders should take stock of the broad range of platforms available on the market. In an environment where a skills deficit reigns, companies should build an HR strategy that responds to the individual needs of everyone, and this often requires engaging with a variety of different providers.

One strong tool for skills development in today’s market is digital coaching. Business coaching has existed for decades, but today’s advancements in coaching technology allow the practice to become increasingly accessible for the whole workforce, rather than being constrained to the executive level. Coachees can now connect with coaches through digital platforms, offering advantages such as reduced costs, streamlined admin, and access to a diversity of coaching experts worldwide. This gives organisations the opportunity to offer coaching to employees at all stages of their careers, allowing everyone to reap the rewards.

Digital coaching contributes to narrowing the skills gap by ensuring that employees have personalised, targeted support to reach their goals. The coaching relationship is highly personal, meaning that employees can direct their learning and development in a way that suits their needs and learning style. Digital coaching also brings a renewed sense of purpose to the individual, as well as improvements to mental wellbeing. When combined with a range of learning and development provisions, digital coaching is a strong support in closing an organisation’s skills gap, and setting them on the path to success.

By Juliane Sterzl, SVP EMEA, CoachHub

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