A skills-first approach to managing a learning and development strategy offers organizations a more targeted, strategic, and efficient way to fund building the necessary capabilities for success. As budgets tighten yet the pace of skills requirements hastens, it is an opportune time to evaluate the skills-first approach to managing the learning and development programs.
While skills-first is a fairly new approach, it offers many advantages over traditional ones. Before diving into how to implement it, let’s first weigh the benefits:
When adopting a skills-first approach to learning and development strategy, the focus is on identifying and developing the specific skills required to meet organizational goals. Let’s take a look at a step-by-step guide on how to set a learning and development strategy at an organization taking a skill-first approach.
1. Define organizational goals:
Engage with senior leadership and key stakeholders to gain a clear understanding of the organization's strategic goals and objectives. This shouldn’t just be an inward exercise. It’s also important to evaluate the market and industry landscape, including competitors, and other factors that can influence changes like emerging technologies, policies, etc.
In identifying the key skills the organization will require to achieve its goals and compete, consider both hard/technical skills and soft skills. Also account for the organization’s mission, vision, values and align them.
2. Gather an inventory of skills in the workforce:
By gathering an inventory of skills in your workforce, you'll have a baseline understanding of the skills that already exist within the organization. This information will serve as a foundation for conducting a skills gap analysis and identifying areas where skill development is needed to align with organizational goals.
3. Conduct a skills gap analysis:
Now, this step has a few sub steps in it. That’s because this is the crux of the learning and development strategy - identifying the true skills gaps, properly understanding the severity of the gap, and only then can it be addressed.
The skills gap is the delta between the skills currently available in the workforce and those needed to achieve the organization's goals. This analysis forms the basis for prioritizing skill development initiatives and designing targeted learning programs that address the identified gaps.
3.1. Prioritize skills gaps: Firstly, create a prioritization by evaluating the impact and urgency of each skills gap in relation to achieving organizational goals.
Factors to consider are the criticality of the skills for success, and the availability of external resources or expertise to fill that gap. As well as the potential risks associated with the gaps.
Prioritize the skills gaps based on their importance and the resources available for addressing them.
3.2. Determine skill development needs for the skills gaps: Next, evaluate the depth and breadth of knowledge and proficiency required for each skill.
3.3. Validate the analysis: Finally, seek input from relevant stakeholders, such as department heads, team leaders, or subject matter experts. Incorporate their insights to ensure a comprehensive and accurate skills gap analysis.
4. Design learning programs:
With those prioritized skills gaps and targeted proficiency required for them, develop personalized learning programs based on the:
The optimal learning program offers both practical and hands-on experience to reinforce skill acquisition and application. These programs can include a combination of training workshops, online courses, mentorship programs, job rotations, or external certifications. Be sure to incorporate opportunities for continuous learning and skill enhancement in the workplace.
5. Provide resources and support:
Allocate the necessary resources to support the learning programs. This can mean helping employees to carve out regular slots of time during their work week to engage in learning. Invest in appropriate learning technologies, platforms, or tools that enhance the learning experience and facilitate skill development. And provide acess to relevant learning materials, job aids, or resources that support skill acquisition and practice.
6. Monitor progress and evaluate impact:
Regularly track the progress of employees' skill development initiatives. Use metrics and key performance indicators to measure the effectiveness of the learning programs.
Collect feedback from participants, managers, and other stakeholders to assess the impact of acquired skills on individual and team performance. Analyze the data to identify areas of improvement and make informed decisions for future learning and development initiatives.
7. Continuously iterate and adapt:
Stay abreast of industry trends and changes to identify emerging skill requirements. Adapt the learning and development strategy as needed to address evolving skill needs and align with changing business priorities. Encourage employees to provide feedback and suggestions for improvement to ensure the strategy remains dynamic and responsive to their needs.
Core to a skills-first approach is a strong culture of learning. Be sure to foster it.
Adopting a skills-first approach to learning and development strategy is essential for organizations aiming to align their workforce with their strategic goals. By defining organizational goals, gathering an inventory of skills, and conducting a thorough skills gap analysis, organizations can identify the specific areas where skill development is needed. Prioritizing skills gaps and designing personalized learning programs ensures targeted and effective development initiatives. Providing resources, monitoring progress, and evaluating impact allow organizations to track the effectiveness of their initiatives and make informed decisions for continuous improvement. Finally, a commitment to continuous iteration and adaptation ensures that the learning and development strategy remains responsive to evolving skill needs and changing business priorities.
By embracing a skills-first approach, organizations can unlock the full potential of their workforce, bridge critical skills gaps, and achieve their strategic objectives. This approach not only enhances individual employee growth but also contributes to the overall success and competitiveness of the organization. With a strong culture of learning and development, organizations can position themselves for sustained growth, innovation, and adaptability in a rapidly evolving business landscape.