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WORKFORCE & LEARNING TRENDS 2021 - ACCELERATING THROUGH THE CURVE

Identifying emerging trends is especially challenging in an economy still steering through a global pandemic that has upended the way we work and learn.

We found that the training industry is blending familiar learning methods with technological twists. Learning and Development (L&D) professionals in IT are enthusiastic about education technology, but not uncritical. They look for tech that allows them to do more of the personal, high-impact instruction that effectively builds and sustains the careers of their students.

Based on the CompTIA report ‘Workforce and Learning Trends 2021: Accelerating Through the Curve’ it was found that a vastly accelerated pace of change is forcing companies to make a choice. How quickly can they transition from business and workforce continuity to business and workforce innovation — from survival to building and creating? The COVID-19 pandemic put a twist in the path, but companies that accelerate through the curve will build momentum and lean into the future of work and learning.

To do that, companies are renewing their focus on innovative approaches to:

- Worker resilience

- Including a soft skills culture

- The new personalised learning career pathways

- Alternative learning

- Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation as a strategic partner.

1. Companies Renew Focus on Worker Resilience

The pandemic tested the resilience of every organization. How employers work with their employees going forward will determine if innovation takes hold. Surveys have shown — that the pandemic created broad concern about employee work-life balance, workflows and morale. Looking ahead, 41% of employers say their companies will have a new emphasis on communication and on emerging tech skills for remote work, and 42% expect new efforts on upskilling and reskilling for incumbent employees.

2. What’s New with Soft Skills?

One point that comes up frequently in discussions about building a resilient workforce is the need for specificity. As we noted last year, the discussion of soft skills is often too subjective, and the same is true of agility and resilience. Trainers and hiring managers need to take care to identify well-defined competencies that lead to resilience.

In CompTIA’s survey, 41% of HR leaders say their organizations will have a new emphasis on soft skills for IT workers. Last year we made the point that “soft skills” were in high demand but challenging to define and strategically prioritize. Employers are often asking for a range of higher-order cognitive skills alongside dispositional traits like integrity and work ethic. If anything, the list of desired soft skills has gotten longer during the pandemic, as discussions now also often reference self-management and stress tolerance. Employers have always wanted multidimensional employees who can operate across different domains, soft skills training enables development in this area. Find out more about the soft skills MIE offers.

3. Continuous Learning Is the New Personalized Learning

The goal of a learning culture is achieved with high-quality continuous learning that is available anytime, anywhere, for any learning modality. Continuous doesn’t necessarily mean voluminous. People need more contact, not more content. Therefore, it’s important to compliment online learning with some kind of interaction and collaboration. Interaction ideally comes in the form of hands-on and experiential learning, which is especially important in technology training or in any workplace shifting to performance-based hiring. A continuous learning approach aligns with making learning a strategic initiative instead of a check-the-box operation. It turns learning into a business advantage by operationalizing a learning culture in concrete ways. It can enable learning at a greater scale.

4. Alternative Learning and Career Pathways Are Extending and Branching

The debate over the future of work confirms the many challenges of navigating an increasingly complex digital world. These forces are driving employers and workers to seek new career on-ramps and models that enable internal mobility. It seems, culture change is one of the biggest factors: 44% say it will happen if organizations are more agile in general, and the same percentage say a significant obstacle is organizational resistance to change. The trend toward retaining and advancing incumbent employees to fill critical roles may be clearer, with 50% of people from large organizations saying they plan new efforts to reskill or upskill technology staff in response to the pandemic.

5. AI Becomes a Strategic Partner of Human-Digital Teams

Automation is no longer just a tool. Human-AI hybrid team models are emerging, and workers will have to be both more creative about collaborating with AI and more analytical about what the AI is creating. First, while automation has always been with us, there has been a leap forward in the adoption of cloud-based architecture that will be the foundation of new operating models. The cloud also makes available more of the computing power needed for AI. Workers can only prepare to collaborate with their teammates — both human and digital — with effective support from L&D. That means building not only emerging technology skills but also the ability to interpret, explain, adapt, consider other perspectives and align tasks with big-picture goals.

These innovative approaches will assist in building and creating a better future for all companies and employees. A renewed focus seems necessary after the global pandemic we’ve experienced.