Why Collaboration Between HR and Learning Can Close Skills Gaps Faster

Recent reports suggest that we are fast-approaching a “Goldilocks” economy, where unemployment remains low–and economic growth is neither too hot nor too cold. But as the labor market tightens, “Goldilocks” has earned a very different connotation for hiring managers struggling to find “just right” candidates.

As a result, hiring managers are tapping the potential of powerful HR technology that enables better candidate matching with jobs. They are also tapping into the insights and experiences of their L&D neighbors to close skills gaps faster–and take new hires from good to great.

Hiring managers may, for example, overlook internal talent, unaware that relatively low-cost investments can help to upskill candidates. But L&D know that accelerated training programs can cultivate hard-to-find skills among job-seekers with relevant domain expertise or cultural fit. L&D can also partner with HR to hone the capabilities of candidates that might have the hard skills HR is looking for, but lack soft skills that L&D knows how to build.

So while the tight labor market may be causing headaches for recruiters, it also presents opportunities for improved collaboration between HR and L&D. Here are four reasons why there’s never been a better time for recruiters to look to talent developers as strategic business partners:

Better data: Talent transparency is gaining steam. According to LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report, the number one priority for talent developers is to identify, assess, build, and track competencies among their workforce. It’s a marked shift even from just last year, increasing as a priority by 32% among learning professionals. Better data means learning and development is coming to the table with deeper insights into where gaps exist, and the role that they can play to help close them.

New options for personalized and accelerated learning: As training moves online, upskilling is becoming more efficient. In 2019, 59% of talent developers reported increasing their budget for online learning compared to three years prior, and 39% say they now spend less on instructor-led training. The combination of skills transparency with advances in online learning is enabling organizations to make more targeted investments in training efforts. Content can now be curated and personalized to close individual gaps.

Creating opportunities and expectations for ongoing learning as early as onboarding also sends a powerful signal to candidates in an era where employer investments in training pay dividends in retention and recruitment. Nearly 80% of employees say that when searching for a job, it is important that the employer offers a formal training program to their employees, and according to Glint data, new hires who reported a poor onboarding experience were eight times more likely to be disengaged in their work. More than half of all working adults also now acknowledge the necessity of training throughout their careers, and 93% of employees say they would remain at a company longer if it made investments in them. Millennials, currently the largest working generation, view development as a top corporate benefit.

The arrival of Gen Z:  While Gen Z is expected to bring an unprecedented level of technical skill to the workforce, organizational leaders express apprehension about their interpersonal and communication skills. Our research suggests that nearly two-thirds of L&D leaders believe that Generation Z will require extra support for the development of soft skills.

A smaller, but still significant, number of L&D leaders think Gen Z will need support in other areas as well, with 41% believing they will need additional help to develop technical proficiency. These needs will only increase with the emergence of new technologies: The World Economic Forum predicts that more than half of all employees will require “significant reskilling” by 2022.

Active collaboration between HR and L&D can create clearer priorities for hiring and a better sense of the skills that can easily be taught on the job, to better prepare employers for a generation that will arrive with both major assets–and major gaps.

Proven models for upskilling new hires: HR leaders are struggling with today’s shrinking talent pool and skills gaps, which are especially prominent in some of the U.S. largest cities, including New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. And the problem is growing–a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management showed nearly half said skills shortages have worsened over the last two years.  The good news is that there have never been better options for effective upskilling, meaning that L&D leaders hold the key to solving some of HR’s most pressing challenges. In fact, the very same study concluded that starting or expanding training programs to help improve the skills of new hires was one of the five most effective remedies for closing skills gaps.

Not all skills are created equal. Historically, HR has lacked insight into which skills are must-haves in the hiring process, and which can be easily acquired through workplace learning. But as a tight labor market puts pressure on recruiters to find new candidates, and as a new generation of young workers begins to enter the workforce, there’s never been a better time for L&D to collaborate with HR to design efficient learning pathways that can attract, retain, and upskill talented workers.

Tanya Staples
Tanya Staples is the vice president of learning content for LinkedIn Learning. She previously served as the chief of staff and senior vice president of content and production for Lynda.com, which was acquired by LinkedIn in 2015. Send questions or comments about this story to hreletters@lrp.com.