With digital transformation, increased workplace automation and uncertain work placements driving the demand for a highly skilled workforce, businesses stand to gain multiple dividends from investing in employee skilling.

However, while ensuring employees are proficient in all the advanced technical skills is a key priority, it is equally critical for employees to have the necessary skillset to adapt and evolve with the ever evolving workplace demands.

The Future of Jobs report from World Economic Forum suggests that over five years almost 35% skills thought of as critical today will inevitably change. While, technical skills or hard skills will no doubt remain in high demand, organizations will also need to look at investing in soft skills, like communication, critical thinking and creativity; as automation and the human workforce will be expected to complement each other, than competing for relevance.

Role of L&D in Upskilling in 2021

According to a report from Accenture – ‘Paradoxically, the truly human skills, from leadership to creativity, will remain highly relevant and winning organizations will strike the right balance by leveraging the best of technology to elevate, not eliminate their people. Creating the future workforce now is the responsibility of every CEO. Those leaders who make their people a strategic business priority and understand the urgency of this challenge will be the ones that make the greatest gains in growth and innovation.’

Soft skills like learning and adaptability stand to help ‘create a foundation for learning all other skills’, while also driving career development and helping employees ascertain long term professional stability. By devising innovative and diverse learning programs, and leveraging off-the-shelf eLearning courses (in addition to any existing training material) L&D teams can engage and motivate employees to upskill and reskill, based on business priorities as well as latest skilling trends in 2021.

However, there are several barriers that can often obstruct soft skills development process. One of them being - organizations would rather hire newer ‘skilled’ individuals than take up behavioral coaching and cognitive skills development that, in a way, shows little to no tangible outcomes once the training is completed.

However, going by that route, it is critical to note that today’s modern employees (especially millennials) prefer organizations that care about their career development, whereas organizations that just don’t want to invest in the skilling of an employee if s/he will take those skills elsewhere within two years of employment.

While there is no definitive answer to this conundrum, a majority of the responsibility still rests on L&D professionals to find the right balance where employees feel engaged, secure and committed towards their professional development as well as the development of the organization.

Leveraging Off-the-Shelf Courses

There are several steps L&D professionals can take to solve the critical challenge of soft skills development by focusing on improving the capabilities of existing employees, thereby minimizing the necessity of hiring external talent. Learning technology solutions like innovative Learning Management Systems (LMSes) and high-quality off-the-shelf courses can further drive soft skills development.

Towards Maturity Learning Benchmark report suggests that soft skills like problem solving, critical thinking and teamwork stand a lesser chance of being delivered online or electronically than courses on IT, compliance, health and safety etc., it also states that ‘high-achieving’ organizations prefer using technology to deliver these skills.

Here are few of the most important soft skills that will soon become the future must-have skills -

  • Creativity
    Creativity is the bedrock of innovation, and without innovation there cannot be progress. However, it is important to note that a growth mindset is a prerequisite for a creative mindset. While continuous learning paves the way for a growth mindset, learning technology is a perfect enabler of continuous learning, and together they can foster limitless creativity.
  • Critical Thinking
    Where machines can do a task much quicker, humans have the advantage of critically thinking about the possible outcomes arising out of it, which eventually lends itself to good problem solving skills. Learn-tech solutions, especially LMes, can host ready-to-use courses (Off-the-Shelf courses) on diverse topics, including Management & Leadership, Business Skills and many more, which distill knowledge into such desired soft skills like critical thinking and problem solving.
  • Emotional Intelligence
    Empathy and understanding each other’s experiences is a strategic advantage for humans to develop products that are more intuitive and meet the demands of the future generations. And, with the help of modern learn-tech solutions like Social Learning, developing emotional intelligence in the longer run becomes easy and more efficient.
  • Teamwork
    With technology reigning supreme, we will need to collaborate and work as a team, often on a global scale with diverse people, demanding soft skills like teamwork and communication, which can be effectively achieved through an LMS that offers knowledge sharing and collaboration features.

Few jobs will inevitably be lost to automation and technology, but we must embrace the change and empower people to build a more adaptable workforce, equipped with the necessary soft skills to compete for the future of work.