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Professional Development: The New 401(k)

Rachel Reed
2/26/20 5:04 PM

The nature of work itself is changing as technology inserts itself across every industry and job function. As leaders work to become more agile, they recognize the critical value of providing employees with professional development and continued learning opportunities as a benefit to employer brand, organizational success, and employee engagement. 

In fact, improvement of learning and development topped the list of priorities in both Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report and Gartner’s Top Five Priorities for HR Leaders in 2020 report. 

Gartner surveyed 400+ HR leaders across 35+ countries and all major industries to assess their priorities and expected challenges in 2020. The top priority for 66% of HR leaders overall and 86% of HR technology leaders is to “build critical skills and competencies for the organization.” 

86% of respondents to the global survey rated professional development important or very important, with only 10 percent of respondents feeling “very ready” to address it. (Deloitte)

Of HR leaders surveyed, nearly half (48%) say they lack the skills they need to drive future performance, and 37% say their learning culture doesn’t support effective new skills development. (Gartner)

While plenty of leaders (HR, in particular) don’t feel equipped with adequate resources to fuel L&D change on a large scale, just as many have been quietly expanding departments to support the initiative: 

77% of organizations are increasing their learning team’s head count, elevating learning to the second-fastest-growing role in HR. (Deloitte)

Kraft developed a corporate learning and development platform, Ownerversity, where the organization enables employees to “learn like an owner” so they can increase their impact, contribute to a culture of learning, and ensure learning is a part of their everyday lives. 

Toy giant Mattel recently launched the Ruth Handler Mentorship Program, designed to advance career growth across the toy industry through mentorship, coaching, professional development and learning. 

Learning and work are two constantly connected sides of any job, especially in the hyper-connected, always evolving technological landscape we’re all part of today. Professional development enables cross functionality among teams and departments. The very act of taking an industry-specific course holds value: learning is a skill itself. Employees who can adapt to evolving workplace demands are an asset as your organization works to become agile. 

Employees Agree

Only 1 in 5 employees say they have the skills they need for their current roles and their future careers and 70% say they haven’t even mastered the skills they need for their jobs today. (Gartner) People now rate the “opportunity to learn” among their top reasons for taking a job, and business leaders know that changes in technology, longevity, work practices, and business models have created a tremendous demand for continuous, lifelong development. (Deloitte)

Over half (55%) of respondents to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends report stated that the acquisition of new skills are not tied to incentives–an opportunity for easy improvement. Tie learning and training completion to your recognition program as an achievement to further incentivize development. Employees will not only be equipped to adapt to rapid technological advancements, but also more engaged in doing so. 

Provide development opportunities to skill workers for the future of work (which is actively happening). Doing so will not only boost engagement levels, which are sparse to say the least, but also keep your organization collectively agile and equipped for change.

According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workforce report, “13% of employees are engaged in their jobs, while 63% are not engaged and 24% are actively disengaged” across 142 different countries. That’s to say nearly 70% of the American workforce is disengaged–meaning they view their jobs as simply a means to an end. Empowering employees to learn and develop skills can curb dismal engagement scores.

Connect employee tasks to skills Connect employees with the support networks and resources required for their success — and for that of the organization. Professional development not only demonstrates value to employees, it also serves as a powerful investment in your organization’s future, provides value to employees, and creates an opportunity for boosted employee engagement. 

Download: How Employee Recognition Influences Attitude & Behavior in the Workplace 

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