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Josh Bersin’s 3 keys for tackling today’s talent challenges

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Josh Bersin
Josh Bersin writes HRE’s HR in the Flow of Work column. Bersin is an analyst, author, educator and thought leader focusing on the global talent market and the challenges and trends impacting business workforces around the world. He can be emailed at [email protected]

Retention and turnover. Skills gaps and talent shortages. Business transformations. Economic slowdowns and uncertainties. These are just a few of the major challenges ahead for HR in 2023. While there’s no silver bullet or Marvel superhero to miraculously solve these wide-ranging problems, there are a few good places to start: offering your employees relevant and meaningful learning, ideally in the flow of work; ongoing skills and capability development tied to your business needs; and career growth opportunities.

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Those of you who have read my predictions for 2023 will spot an underlying theme for the trends discussed. Whether you’re looking to revamp your leadership model, ramp up employee productivity and performance, prepare for major business changes or develop hybrid work models, some form of learning is required. This is why I advise all HR leaders to be very involved in their companies’ learning strategies and initiatives.

Like everything in our professional world, corporate learning has become sophisticated, highly complex and expensive. (The global training market was valued at more than $345 billion in 2021, with the expectation that it will reach more than $493 billion by 2028.) In just a few years, learning organizations have moved beyond learning management systems, off-the-shelf course libraries and content-creation tools to talent marketplaces, capability academies and career pathways. Learning in the flow of work—a phrase I began using many years ago—is now a fact of business life thanks to integrations with productivity tools such as Salesforce and Teams. And now, AI-powered tools are emerging.

See also: What a skills-based hiring approach can mean for the ‘Great Rebalancing’

Certainly, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to effective corporate learning. But, in this article, I will distill for you what I and my analyst team have discovered from our conversations and research over the past months.

  • Of all the practices we studied, creating extensive career growth options delivers the highest impact. When companies go beyond traditional training and development to facilitate employee career growth, they are much more likely to have higher-performing and engaged employees and build skills for the future of the business.
  • Internal talent marketplaces help employees build skills through special projects, mentoring relationships, networking and special assignments. They also significantly foster internal talent mobility. Companies such as HSBC, Nestlé, Mastercard, Unilever, Novartis and Schneider Electric use talent marketplaces to build digital and other future-forward skills. Northwell Health created Flex Staff, an internal staffing agency, to give nurses and other employees the opportunity to take on temporary assignments to gain new experiences, expand their skills and earn more money.
  • Another way to foster employee growth is through capability academies that focus on developing comprehensive, strategic business capabilities. The best capability academies are those with strong business partnerships to ensure that resources, assignments and activities are aligned with the evolving skills and capabilities required for specific functional areas. Sales and leadership academies are common examples, but capability academies can also be used for software development and IT, marketing and other functional areas requiring high levels of business knowledge and specialized skills. Early on, we saw the power of capability academies, which is why we created the Josh Bersin Academy for HR professionals and teams.
  • Career pathways with tuition-free education or specialized training can help employees move into higher-paying jobs while simultaneously addressing talent or skills shortages. While tuition assistance has been a common benefit for many years, companies are upping tuition benefits in order to attract, retain and reskill workers. Taco Bell, Walmart, Chipotle, Starbucks and Verizon are among those now offering substantive, if not full, educational assistance for certain degree and certification programs. We also are seeing innovative career pathway partnerships between businesses. For instance, Providence Health has developed a partnership with Amazon to reskill warehouse workers for careers in healthcare.
  • Although most companies invest significant sums in various types of learning content, few have a clear idea of what is of true value to employees, what is best aligned to meet short- and long-term business goals, and where dollars should be spent or cut. (Consumption metrics are a start, but they alone are not enough.) Indeed, today’s L&D challenge is not finding content, but rather curating content to ensure its relevance to the business and applicability to actual work, while also being engaging to employees. Utilizing AI, content intelligence solutions can help L&D teams efficiently assess content resources across multiple platforms and libraries to better tailor learning to business and employee needs and make informed financial decisions. Interesting fact: Employees use free internet resources more frequently than content libraries.
  • According to our research, collaborative learning—where learners study together and interact in discussions or projects—is part of the L&D strategy at most high-performing companies. Studies repeatedly show that collaboration increases knowledge retention and application. Collaborative learning is almost always part of capability academies, but it can also be incorporated into in-person or live, online classes. Cost-efficient, easy-to-use creator tools give employees the ability to create content on their own and share it with team members and others. Ad hoc collaboration can also happen in the flow of work with productivity solutions such as Teams, Salesforce and Slack.

The above is really just the tip of the iceberg; there’s much more to discuss and share. The primary takeaway is that business success in 2023 will hinge on embracing new approaches to learning and development closely aligned with near- and longer-term business and employee needs.

For more, tune in to my HR Tech Virtual keynote (11 a.m. EST Feb. 28), during which I’ll touch on the exciting innovations—and disruptions—in L&D technology and explore how they fit into today’s HR tech ecosystems. I also invite you to check out our recent L&D research and case studies on joshbersin.com.