The Future of Learning and Talent Management
What Bluewater is seeing across industries and enterprises
This year has brought great transformation to the learning and talent industry and, specifically, to companies looking to thrive and transform as the world changes around us. This was apparent even in January before everything was affected by COVID 19.
The rapid change in business and the competition for talent are driving significant demand and activity within learning and talent departments. In a recent survey I conducted of our clients, we found that most learning and talent departments are running 125% activity compared to the same time last year.
That is a significant increase for organizations that were already running at full speed in 2019! I have found that these increases are coming from three main areas:
- Rapid Business Transformation
- Skills-Based Learning
- Data-Driven Decision Making
We know that we must all execute today, yet it is a priority to focus on the future as change is coming quickly and, in most cases, it has already arrived.
Rapid Business Transformation
2019 began to show us what business transformation needed to look like, and 2020 added jet fuel which created hyper-transformation. In some cases, we are seeing great success where learning is the key component of communication messages to employees, clients, and partners.
We all know business is changing and the skills required to complete daily tasks are evolving, but this evolution is not set in stone.
We see three specific factors for our clients in the changing skill requirements:
- Increased automation and machine learning are changing how business is conducted. Humans are still required, but the skills necessary to inform the machines are much different.
- The speed of communications has increased 100x since I entered the business world in the late 80’s due to the availability of information and data. However, accessing the right data is still a problem. The data required for proper decision making still lags behind what is needed for agile decision- making. Those who are able to move quickly will have the greatest opportunity for long-term success.
- Our human interaction with one another has changed forever. For me personally, I have been a 150,000-mile traveler for years. I was always on the move and love meeting with clients in person. Conferences and events were also a great source of learning and personal connection. Now, countless Zoom/Teams meetings threaten my sanity. One thing is for sure: this has also increased the speed of our communication. We have nearly on-demand access to anyone in our business ecosystem.
To manage this transformation in integrity, I believe the number one method for conveying and accomplishing this change is through learning, training, and talent development.
We know the speed of business transformation is rapid, thus the change in our approach to learning has to change at the same pace. The need for new employee skills is today…not tomorrow. From my conversations with clients, there are two camps on skills-based development: those who have already started the process and those who are trying to understand how to start the process. Skills-based development is providing a more granular approach to learning. Our clients are taking learning and breaking it down into consumable segments that can be taught in shorter sessions or as ‘learning in the flow of work’.
The move to skills-based learning is a process and cannot be accomplished all at once. This is a migration. The key is the development of a plan and framework for skills-based development and ‘learning in the flow of work.
The first step is to understand talent supply and demand. This analysis will produce an understanding of your skills gap.
You have three elements from which to build your strategic plan:
- Skills Supply – understanding the capabilities of your workforce
- Skills Demand – understanding the needs of your business
- Skills Gap – the opportunity for learning
Only after understanding these elements will you be able to evaluate the learning needs of your business.
Please do not start with content. Please start with understanding your business; content can and will come later. This process is the pathway to meeting the rapid change in the business.
Data-Driven Decision Making
And last but not least, we need information to make the right decisions to support the transformation of business. The primary value of learning and talent systems is to gather data. This data will provide the right information to the right people to make the right decisions about your people and your business. People data is incredibly valuable in business decision making. However, it is some of the least reported on information in business today. Why?
- There are gaps in the data collected which hinders the ability to provide the right information to executives, managers, and employees. Getting the right data and running the right reports takes time and, worse, often times the information is only presented to executives instead of the front-line managers who need it the most.
- Organizations are not sure what reports they should be generating.
- Reporting tools for Learning and Talent Management are either too complex or not sophisticated enough to provide the right data without manual external processing. You need a simple process to move the right information to the right people.
When the right data is in the hands of decision-makers its value is immeasurable. How do we begin to solve these issues and get the right data to the right people? First and most important, focus on simplifying the issue. What are the most valuable elements of information that your front-line managers need to support and make decisions about their people? Find the right set of data to support and validate the transformation of your business. Keep it simple and focused.
I believe the future of Learning and Talent organizations will be found in the data. Your success will be about the development of your people for the future of your business. Now let’s see if we can wrap all three elements together.
The right mechanism is needed to support this break-neck change through the proper evolution of learning and talent. We can find the short- and long-term solutions to transformational support through skills-based development and learning in the flow of work, and we can make the right critical decisions to develop our people and measure change through Data-Driven Decision Making. All elements work together. If we only focus on one or two items, we will miss the opportunity to revolutionize the way we develop people and the way we work.
The Team and I at Bluewater are very focused on your future. It’s our mission to partner with you to care for and develop your people for the future of your business and the transformation of the world.
We see the opportunity to support the transformation of your business through uniquely positioned activities and services. First, we must establish a baseline in this transformation, and we do that through a program called Decision Analytics. Decision Analytics works to help identify key areas of focus for the Learning and Talent programs, identify data required for decision making and provides remediation for gaps in the current program. Decision Analytics will also provide a roadmap for the future, so the transformation is not only about today but also tomorrow.
Second, our Workforce Planning program will help define your own internal skills-based economy and help you understand the skills supply and skills demand within your organization.
Finally, our Analytics and Reporting Team is evolving the way people look at data through data cleansing programs, reporting and analytics strategies and custom report development engagements.
I see a bright future for Learning and Talent organizations. A bright future for the businesses who invest in their people and in the future. At Bluewater, we want to be a part of your future and look forward to developing strategies and approaches to connect at the speed of change so that your business can transform today and tomorrow.
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