The talent of today counts professional development as a top priority. Recent Glint research shows that people consider learning and development opportunities the number-one factor that defines exceptional work environments. Professionals know that to remain at the top of their game they must keep themselves relevant with continuous upskilling and reskilling.

Equally, businesses worldwide are contending with a broadening skills gap and a deepening labor shortage. This talent shortage is so severe that 87 percent of companies say they either currently have a skills gap or expect one within a few years. On top of that, according to Gartner’s Leadership Vision for 2024: Chief HR Officer, 26 percent of CEOs rank the talent shortage as the top damaging factor to their business outlook. Similarly, research by Deloitte found that 73 percent of business executives expect talent shortages to continue over the next three years.

While business leaders are aware of the growing challenges surrounding skills gaps and talent shortages, skills management too often falls down the priority list. Learning and development programs that businesses do offer often lack solid learning paths and fail to provide people with confidence in their career progression. This leads to a loss of employee engagement, increased attrition, and, ultimately, a deterioration of direction and the ability to meet business goals.

To address this issue, leaders must view professional development programs as a top priority and a key part of business strategy. In turn, HR leaders must make the case for learning and development programs, proving ROI and demonstrating outcomes.

Can’t external recruitment solve the skills gap?

Let’s be clear: Companies will not successfully solve the global talent shortage purely through external recruitment. In many cases, the skills needed by modern workforces are not yet widely available, and people have to adapt in real time to changing professional demands.

That means today’s talent is building experience and skills as they go, and HR has a significant role to play in helping to shape that development. Looking at the people you have within your organization and helping them build the skills you need is likely to be a far more fruitful avenue to create your teams of the future.

However, getting your learning and development programs right is a tricky business. In recent years HR teams have had to grapple with new ways of working, from remote and hybrid work to globally dispersed teams. A burgeoning reliance on new technologies and automation tools that are set to drive the majority of processes has also stretched training resources and made rapid adaptation crucial. Meanwhile, the dawn of younger generations entering the workforce—with different expectations and demands—has forced HR teams to adapt.

Embracing a culture of continuous L&D is key to the success of modern professionals and HR leaders

Smart professionals are increasingly aware that their professional knowledge, expertise, and skills have a shortening shelf life, and that reskilling and upskilling are key to staying competitive. According to data from CNBC, 84 percent of people working expect learning and development (L&D) opportunities to be a central job perk or benefit.

Over 75 percent of the people surveyed said they’d stick with their current employer if they received higher-quality training and development opportunities, and almost 40 percent said they’d leave an employer within the year for a position that offered better L&D programs.

Shockingly, however, more than 50 percent of executives consider L&D a “waste of time.” That leaves them dangerously out of sync with today’s professionals, who understand that the global business landscape is transforming from a hard-skills economy to a soft-skills, knowledge-based economy. Embracing the necessity of providing continuous professional growth and development programs is essential for HR and business leaders to take real leadership in their industry.

Providing growth opportunities is also fiscally intelligent

Josh Bersin recently argued in an email interview that “companies have no choice but to train, develop, and advance the careers of their employees for four reasons: 1) Without training and support, no new employee can become productive. 2) Every worker I’ve ever met, and every survey shows people leave companies when they are not growing their skills. 3) Most companies are going through transformations so there is a steady need for new skills. 4.) The huge shortage of workers in roles like retail, hospitality, and healthcare means that companies need to build career pathways to help employees move into these more credentialed roles.”

However, it’s not just about upskilling, reskilling, and training. Keeping your people engaged, enthusiastic, and fulfilled via an investment in performance management and improvement lies at the core of a successful business. 

Training isn’t just about retention, but equipping your people with the skills and knowledge they need to support your business aims better and to help their colleagues do the same. L&D programs empower them to become more innovative, keep pace with emerging technologies, and use modern tools. Fundamentally, continuous professional development helps your people better understand the rapidly changing business environment.

For employers, it’s a triple benefit: Training unlocks better team member experiences, which helps them deliver better customer experiences, all of which adds up to a fiscally intelligent business strategy.

Implementing a successful learning and development program

McKinsey research shows that 60 percent of businesses surveyed intend to increase spending on L&D over the next few years, and 66 percent will also increase the number of training hours. Investing in creating, updating, and maintaining professional learning resources for your business is key to staying competitive.

The most impactful L&D programs support different kinds of professional development for people across your organization with different levels of experience and training needs. It makes sense that while a finely tuned sales training program may be highly effective for new joiners, more senior team members may require a more advanced curriculum.

The best way to build impactful programs is by talking to team members to find out what they’re looking for, what gaps they have in their professional knowledge that they’d like to fill, and anything they would particularly benefit from. 

Equally, the most effective programs take into account different learning environments to accommodate various learning styles. For example, an on-site workshop may be most suitable for certain training plans, whereas others may be best suited for asynchronous solo video or task learning.

Use HR tech to set goals, track, and optimize

Managing a genuinely effective professional development program requires clear oversight. Not only will this ensure that you’re delivering quality training to your people frequently, but it will also allow you to monitor the impact and effectiveness of your programs. 

HR tech gives you the insights you need to keep your L&D programs up to date and relevant so that they deliver the most value for your teams and business. A modern HRIS or HCM provides tools that let you set specific goals for each training initiative, track and parse training data, and review and optimize your efforts.

Crucially, these tools also allow you to gather and present insights to other key stakeholders across the organization so that you can achieve greater buy-in for these programs and prove the ROI of your existing investment.

Skills management: An essential part of business strategy

Not only are professionals themselves placing great value on an impactful learning and development program, but the ROI of effective skills management is invaluable. Helping your teams upskill, reskill, and stay engaged and fulfilled at work is key to delivering better results for your customers and tackling the global talent shortage.

As technologies evolve and teams need new skills and knowledge, keeping your programs up to date becomes ever harder. Modern HR tech can give you the tools and insights you need to make your learning and development programs a key revenue driver for your business.

Tali Sachs

From Tali Sachs

Tali is a content marketing manager at HiBob. She's been writing stories since before she knew what to do with a pen and paper. When she's not writing, she's reading sci-fi, snuggling with her cats, or singing at an open mic.