To improve employee satisfaction, L&D and HR teams should work together with line managers to build more comprehensive training modules, suggests John Baker.

The pandemic has offered a period for reflection. Burnout and other mental health issues have been major challenges, with many employees working longer hours and becoming dissatisfied in their roles. Now, employees are seeking greater job fulfilment, an improved work-life balance, and more opportunities to learn and grow. Most importantly, they want to feel valued.

Some businesses are struggling to retain in-house talent and develop new recruits, causing an ever-increasing skills gap. Companies have also adopted and invested in more technology than ever before to facilitate remote working, and this could potentially continue if more jobs become automated. Current staff and new hires will likely need to upskill and retrain this year. If companies are not willing to upskill their workforce, or offer alternative roles, this quitting trend could continue.


From baby boomers to Gen-Z: the multigenerational workforce

It is easy to forget that a whole new generation of employees have entered the workforce. Over the past two years, many graduates and apprentices have been forced to start their careers from home. Most will have been onboarded remotely, through rushed or incomplete training programmes, whilst others may have had their initial training programmes put on hold. Now that offices have reopened, they need to feel valued and provided with plenty of opportunities to learn and grow into their roles.

At the same time, the older workforce is at a crossroads. Most will have spent years commuting to work as part of the 9-5 and the pandemic-driven office closures may have been their first experience of remote working, providing them with an opportunity to spend more time at home with their loved ones and manage other commitments. They may now be reluctant to return to the office. According to a recent survey by PwC, parents with children under the age of 18 were less inclined to return to the office, with more than one-fifth of respondents citing their responsibilities as a parent or caregiver as the reason.


The bigger picture – the growing skills gap

On top of all this is the ever-growing digital skills gap. Salesforce’s recent Global Digital Skills Index research revealed the extent of the talent deficit, with 54 percent of workers reporting that technology is advancing faster than the workforce’s skills.

This is the first time we’ve had three or more generations in the workforce simultaneously, and each age group is affected differently by hybrid working. How will workplace skills be established, and knowledge be transferred between generations?

According to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends (2021), 70 percent of organisations believe leading multigenerational workforces will prove vital in the next 12 to 18 months, but only 10 percent report that they are ready to address this trend effectively. HR and learning and development (L&D) teams must learn how to accommodate each generation’s needs and address the skills crisis within their organisations.


Flexible working (and learning)

L&D programmes must be more tailored and adaptable to enable workers to top up their skills on a regular basis, but most importantly, to enable workers to learn on their own terms – whether in the office or at home. However, a one-off e-learning module or course does not expose employees to the breadth of learning experiences that are needed to cover the more complex skills or business challenges.

L&D will need to deliver rapid upskilling in targeted areas through shorter courses. With micro-credentials, desirable skills and competencies can be compartmentalised into different categories, and HR leads can design more tailored learning programmes for specific individuals. L&D teams can condense skills and abilities into bite-size chunks, where results can be quantified and measured. Skills can then be more closely matched to individual job roles and learner needs – accounting for personal learning journeys.

Ideally, L&D and HR teams would work together with line managers to build more comprehensive training modules that are specific to individual job roles and their business challenges. Rather than relying on peer reviews or personal objectives, a learners’ progression will be measured against real-time data, and all parties can work together to help staff achieve personalised goals.


The year of the working learner

Moving forward, companies must review all onboarding and wider training programmes. Organisations need to incentivise their workers to make them feel appreciated and valued. Any employee looking to retrain or pursue a different role should be encouraged to do so, and leaders should see if they can offer a new position internally.

The pandemic has shown that employees are looking for flexibility. Businesses must ensure that all employees – new and old – have opportunities to learn, progress and take charge of their careers. Employee wellbeing will be the one of the key metrics by which potential recruits measure an organisation when applying for jobs. A company’s success will rely on the engagement and satisfaction of their people.


John Baker is Founder and CEO of D2L.