Invest in training efforts that go beyond internal offerings.
A host of studies indicate that employees want their employers to offer them opportunities to develop professionally. Are employers doing enough? Enabling Upskilling at Scale: Adapting to Meet the Needs of the Working Learner, a study that the online learning platform D2L published, dug into employer-provided development and how higher education and government can contribute to lifelong learning.
The study polled decision makers and employees at small-and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) in Canada and the US. The report reveals that companies on both sides of the border feel challenges with respect to talent and skills shortfalls but that the crisis is more striking for Canadian HR professionals. "Only 21% of Canadian SMEs report feeling very confident that they will have the skills and talent needed to grow their organizations over the next three years, compared with 47% of U.S. SMEs who say the same," it states.
Companies may not be offering enough assistance, and higher education institutions and governments should be part of the equation, according to the report. About half of companies in both nations provide internal training for job-specific skills development, and one-third provide funding for external training opportunities.
Some employers cited that internal training programs are sufficient so they don't provide additional financial support or time off for external training. Others simply believe it's easier to recruit new employees rather than train current ones, while others say they don't have the resources.
Three-quarters of employees said they are somewhat or very interested in external training opportunities, although only 17 percent and 12 percent of US and Canadian employees, respectively, have engaged in external training, in large part because of the associated high costs.
Among the report's recommendations are treating skills development as an investment in the organization's resilience. "With the speed of technological change, employers can't reasonably predict all the skills they will need years in advance. That's why they need to build processes that will support continuous upskilling and build pipelines of talent for jobs that may not yet exist."
Enabling Upskilling at Scale advises companies to pool resources with other companies facing similar challenges. It also encourages them to craft specific internal programs such as onboarding and project-based learning to not only prepare employees for their current or prospective roles but also empower workers to manage their own careers—for example, through job-shadowing opportunities or cross-team assignments.