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How L&D can make the most of employee self-learning

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A good appetite for learning skills is an L&D professional's dream, so now is the time for organisations to harness this growing interest and future-proof their business.

9th Apr 2022
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2021 taught us a number of lessons about the way people work – from our adaption to full-time hybrid working, to ‘the great resignation’ and left-field career changes, it was a year of discovery for businesses and employees alike. But if there’s one thing that’s become undeniably apparent in that time, it’s that people are more willing to learn new skills now than ever before. 

Change with the times

In an attempt to broaden their skillsets, remain employable during turbulent times, and keep up with the rapidly evolving needs of modern businesses, many employees used 2021 to focus on self-directed learning. In itself, the fact that workers are displaying an increased appetite for learning and development represents a huge positive for businesses and industry.

A workforce equipped with a greater number of skills is something that all employers should strive for and encourage, as the benefits it can have on quality of work and productivity are undeniable. 

It’s a critical step in fostering a workforce that continues to be agile, flexible and employable in their preferred field

However, as we start the journey into this new year, it’s important not to forget that the skills employees are encouraged to learn must be relevant and timely to ensure that learning is worthwhile. Technological development and widescale digitisation continue driving change in the demands of the workplace, so employers must encourage employees to develop skills that are most likely to be in-demand in 2022 and beyond.

It’s a critical step in fostering a workforce that continues to be agile, flexible and employable in their preferred field, while preventing large scale unemployment and skills shortages in the future. 

Making the most of employee attitude 

All good working relationships depend on both parties fulfilling their end of the bargain. Employees, for example, are expected to provide an appetite and a willingness to learn and develop to become better at their role. The trend towards increased self-directed learning shows that employees are exhibiting it in abundance – so what responsibilities do employers have to ensure they uphold their end?

Businesses should recognise this and see 2022 as an opportunity to supplement it with committed investment into their learning and development. A willingness to learn new skills is only as useful as the skills being learned; guidance from businesses is a critical to employees having the opportunity to make the most of their learning.

Employers that assess their future transformation plans, and the skills they will need to execute on them, will be best placed to direct employee learning in a way that ensures employees are equipped to face the demands of tomorrow’s workplace. 

Faethm data shows that automation is set to have a big impact across numerous industries in 2022, some more than others

Creating a path through data

A clear path to the future of work to enabling this. The demand for skills is ever-changing, and as technology develops and the requirements of the workplace evolve, employees need to be taught the skills necessary to remain valuable. In order to do so, businesses must invest in the right resources to help map out a plan for employees.

Using data analytics can help businesses identify the skills likely to be in-demand in the future, meaning they can create a clearer path for employee learning and development that prioritises these skills. Drawing insights from this data and re-training those whose roles are likely to be at risk in coming years can help to create ‘job corridors’, establishing a route to new roles for employees that are augmented by technology rather than replaced by it.

Not only could this help to prevent huge structural unemployment issues, it can also save businesses from the costly and time-consuming process of recruiting new staff compared to retraining their existing employees.   

Understanding future demand 

Faethm data shows that automation is set to have a big impact across numerous industries in 2022, some more than others. For example, almost 10% of the work undertaken in financial services and wholesale/retail have the potential to be automated next year, representing a sizeable chunk of everyday work in both industries. Whilst these numbers may be alarming, they don’t directly suggest that certain roles will soon be fully automated, with others remaining untouched.

Yes, some will be affected more than others, but the reality is that automation can be applied to a small portion of nearly all roles in any given sector. For jobs where automation will account for a significant portion of ‘work’ there is an opportunity for businesses to teach affected employees how to deal with these changes and ensure that they retain employability as the workplace evolves. 

Businesses now have a duty to their employees to guide further self-directed learning in the right direction

Take an example of someone working in the accountancy industry, a field that has a comparatively high potential for the automation of tasks. If someone in that industry expresses to their employer that they’d like to develop their skills or career further, businesses should take the opportunity to educate them on the learning paths that will equip them to deal with future demand.

There are a range of digital, cyber security or analytic skills for example, that accountants can learn quickly that can open up opportunities to transition into technology roles in the near future. 

A good appetite for learning skills is a central feature of any successful career, and employees’ concerted efforts to widen their skillsets of their own accord is a big positive to take from 2021. Businesses now have a duty to their employees to guide further self-directed learning in the right direction. Countless resources and data sets are available to ensure that employees are steered on the correct path, allowing them to not only learn the right skills, but learn how to prepare for the future – it’s up to businesses to help them do so. 

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