As we begin 2023, you may be asking yourself “What does it mean to be a future-focused workforce?”
First, we should define a future-focused workforce: Future-focused means how adaptable is the organization and its employees; what are their internal capabilities to scale and find new ways to innovate and stay current; and what is their ability to grow the organization and their people?
“As we kick off the new year, we know there will continue to be constant change, attracting and retaining employees will remain a factor, and the ability to innovate and shift will remain the same. How do you plan to address this within your organization?”
So how do organizations continue to build a future-focused workforce? According to LinkedIn’s 2022 Workplace Learning Report: The Transformation of L&D , the top four areas of focus for L&D programs in 2022 were:
- Leadership and management training
- Upskilling and reskilling employees
- Digital upskilling/digital transformation
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion
Focusing in these areas will help to build the key skills for organizations to be future-focused.
Leadership Development and Essential Skills
Since the pandemic, whether you call it soft skills, power skills, or essential skills, the importance of leadership development and essential skills has shifted dramatically. The need to work in a remote or hybrid environment, ability to maintain and enhance productivity, build organizations that are diverse, equitable and inclusive, and to innovate and stay relevant is a challenge. Employees who are agile and have a growth mindset can make effective decisions, work collaboratively with diverse and, often, virtual team members, will be successful in today’s continually shifting business environment. The ability to think critically, problem solve, or influence decisions can impact an organization’s success from the bottom of the organization all the way up to the top.
Organizations should look at providing learning opportunities to everyone in the organization, no matter what the role. Everyone is a leader and can leverage leadership skills. Helping employees gain, or have access to developing, these skills is essential to the success and growth of the organization. Communication and interpersonal skills help individuals work well with others while time management and problem solving can make employees more valuable and productive.
Here are some few areas to consider:
- Communications – Good communication encompasses many facets such as listening, conciseness, body language, open mindedness, and understanding the correct medium to use. Good communications, whether verbal or written, provide clarity and direction, can prevent, or resolve, problems, build better relationships, or increase engagement, build trust, and promote productivity.
- Time Management: The ability to meet deadlines and excel, particularly in a remote environment, is based on good time management. Having good time management skills will help to reduce stress, create better work life balance, increase productivity, and provide greater focus.
- Critical Thinking – There are several benefits to critical thinking. It reinforces problem solving skills by helping individuals and teams more effectively diagnose problems, help resolve conflict, encourage curiosity, and foster creativity.
- Problem Solving – This applies to any position or industry. No matter what the business is, problems consistently arise and need to be addressed. Some competencies of problem solving are emotional intelligence, creativity, lateral thinking, and resilience.
- Interpersonal Skills – We interact with individuals and teams constantly including peers, managers, cross-functional team members, etc. Having effective Interpersonal skills will foster valuable communication, build trust, create and maintain meaningful relationships, demonstrate social awareness, and highlight leadership qualities.
- Growth Mindset – A growth mindset is about how a person will adapt and evolve when facing challenges, is learning something new, or has a setback. This is beneficial for both an employer and employee as it helps you and the organization become more adaptable and open to learn and grow, become resilient and continue to move forward, and foster a positive work environment.
Upskilling and Reskilling Employees
Future skilling employees can be tricky due to continual and rapid changes in the business environment. It’s particularly hard in the tech sector and with general technology since technology changes so quickly. Each organization will need to understand those functional or technical skills that will be required for their specific industry. To keep up, companies need to continually assess and define key skills for one year, three years, five years in the future. This should not be a one-and-done assessment. It should be reviewed to adjust to the changing business environment. Once the assessment has been completed, organizations need to work with L&D to develop learning journeys and adopt good learning systems.
Organizations can work with their HR Department, Talent Department, or they can hire a consulting firm to conduct a skills gap analysis. This will help with strategic workforce planning, foster employee engagement, and assist with recruitment and retaining the right talent.
Steps to take in a skills gap analysis include: Assess and prioritize the common skills needed for all employees and the top specialized skills needed for each role. Map out what learning solution is needed for each of those skills, should it be part of a career path, and determine where and how the content will be delivered. And then create multiple approaches to learning.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Learning programs and tools should be looked across the entire organization and inclusive to reach all employees instead of following traditional talent identification processes which may exclude or miss hidden talent and skills. This approach builds an inclusive environment, increases employee engagement and retention, and builds a sense of belonging.
Company culture is also key to engaging and retaining employees. According to LinkedIn data  opportunities for learning and growth is the #1 driver of a great culture. A way for employees to grow is the opportunity to apply their skills and talent beyond just their job descriptions. Forward-thinking organizations want and encourage their employees’ interests. Organizations should embrace these desires and allow for internal mobility and fluidity among their employees. This could mean moving into different areas/roles within the company or, perhaps, just enhancing skills to stay relevant within their current role. Opportunities should be made available to participate in stretch assignments or strategic initiatives or to take on responsibilities that are not defined within their current role. By offering advancement and career growth, this not only saves time and money in recruitment efforts, happy and engaged employees are more likely to stay and recommend working at their organization.
As we kick off the new year, we know there will still be constant change, attracting and retaining employees will remain a factor, and the ability to innovate and shift will remain the same. How do you plan to address this within your organization? Connect with CARA to learn how we can help you build a future-ready workforce. In the meantime, check out this two-part article on how CARA leveraged learning personas to build out an emerging leader program for a locally based client build their future-ready workforce.