Learning Priorities Benchmark: Leveling Up the Workforce

New research from American Public University (APU) shows where organizations plan to focus their attention in the coming year

By Tim Harnett

According to the World Economic Forum “The Future of Jobs” Report, by 2020, more than a third of the most sought-after core skills sets will consist of those that are not yet considered critical to the job today, such as persuasion and emotional intelligence.¹ These essential business skills — commonly referred to as soft skills, which include strong social and collaboration skills — will be necessary components of any future successful L&D initiative. Many organizations are unsatisfied with their current programs. As they look to implement new initiatives, they’ll want to ensure that any new program is measurable and can demonstrate a provable return on investment.

What is the industry benchmark for learning leaders? What are CLOs’ successes and challenges? Earlier this year, American Public University School for Continuing Education and Professional Studies partnered with Chief Learning Officer for the “2017 Learning Priorities” survey to establish an industry benchmark of the challenges and needs for today’s CLOs and learning leaders. More than 400 survey participants shared their thoughts with us.

Critical Priorities

What are current organizational challenges and what content is considered most critical for addressing those challenges? Successful learning programs require a clear vision, with established priorities and accountability systems to ensure success. Additionally, many survey respondents identified the following business objectives, which the learning and development strategy directly impacts: increasing workplace performance and innovation, improving organizational culture, attracting and retaining talent and being an employer of choice.

Mid-level managers need learning the most

Since leadership development is the most critical need for organizations, we went further and asked where the need was for learning. Should learning be focused on executives? Mid-level managers? Non-managerial employees? Nearly half of all respondents said that the need was critical at the manager level. More than a third said it was critical for non-managerial employees, and a little more than 1 in 5 said it was critical for executives (Figure 1). High turnover could explain the difference.

A quarter of respondents said non-managerial turnover was high at their organizations, while 1 in 10 say manager turnover is high. Compare this to only 7 percent of respondents experiencing high executive turnover. What then are the next steps leaders should take?

Budget Allocation

When asked about content that is most critical for addressing these challenges, one area stood out: leadership development. By more than a two-to-one margin, respondents identified leadership development as not just a critical priority, but in many ways the critical priority for their organizations. No other initiative comes close to being a priority for addressing issues and challenges (Figure 2).

Recommendations for action

As we enter a rapidly transformative employment landscape, the capability to effectively prepare for future skill demands is increasingly essential for organizations to fully take advantage of the opportunities offered by this trend and to limit undesired outcomes. Given our objective to help empower CLOs and learning leaders to meet their organizational learning and outcome goals, this white paper finds three areas that are imperative for organizational resilience: L&D initiatives, Metrics, and Learning Programs. For further details, please download the White Paper: www.StudyAtAPU.com/Solutions.

Given the rapid pace of change, skills demand is evolving, as is the changing skills requirement necessary to perform tasks. Because this is happening in nearly all industries, upskilling and reskilling needs to be equally adaptable, measurable and agile, and the evolution of learning needs to change at the same pace. Moreover, because all levels of management are responsible for effectively driving organizational culture and performance, leadership development becomes even more critical.

Interested in learning more? To read the full results of this research please visit www.StudyAtAPU.com/Solutions.

1 (January, 2016). World Economic Forum The Future of Jobs: Employment, Skills, and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Report

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