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Transformation often involves struggle, especially for organizations seeking to adapt to emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Data Science, and Blockchain. Where will organizations find the talent and expertise to drive their businesses forward?

To better understand how organizations are keeping pace with trends in automation and changing needs, we commissioned a survey of more than 600 Learning and Development, Digital Transformation, and Innovation leaders across industries in North America to find out their top priorities for workforce development in 2020. 

The survey uncovered some key insights and also validated some of the trends that we are already witnessing today. The most important theme that stands out in the research is that business leaders are united in the belief that their organizations must reskill employees to master emerging technologies. 

Most Organizations are Aware of Their Skills Gap

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for workplace training is only becoming more of an urgent priority for enterprises. 

An astounding 87% of respondents said that workforce development is critical and that they’ve created KPIs to achieve those goals. In addition, 83% conceded that they have a troubling skills gap in their organizations

Executives admitted to having difficulties finding the right employees with the needed technical skills, both within the company and in the talent pool. 

They recognized that in order to compete effectively, they must identify the skills they need, and then create processes to train and retain employees.

Key Roles Organizations are Struggling to Fill

Even though research shows that 50% of enterprise-size companies are looking to add up to 100 roles in their Artificial Intelligence, Cloud, and Data Analytics functions over the next year, our survey results reveal that these are the very roles that are the most difficult for employers to fill. The demand to apply these technologies far exceeds the available skilled-talent pool. 

Companies are even finding it difficult to fill roles for more established skills like Programming. Workers coming from traditional, four-year computer science programs often graduate without the practitioner-level knowledge required to hit the ground running. 

Developing talent early on is key to solving the talent shortage. Cultivating talent internally is more important than ever and cost-effective as compared to hiring.

Building an Effective Employee Development Program

To develop their workforce, 61% of our respondents are already investing in training platforms. 

However, in order for workplace training to truly be effective, the programs ideally must allow employees to complete real-world projects and other hands-on exercises that lead to real skills mastery. 

Only then can organizations boost their bench strength in AI, data science, cloud computing, autonomous systems, and other “tech-forward skills,” and be fully equipped to solve real-world business problems and challenges.

Taking Work-Life Balance into Account

While industry leaders must invest in their employees’ learning, rolling out training programs comes with its own set of unique challenges. 

In our survey, 78% of respondents stated that balancing work and life is the biggest impediment to instituting an employee development program. Therefore, simply offering learning opportunities isn’t quite enough.

Managers need to support their people as they work to develop new skills and contribute to positive business outcomes. Learning must be personalized, but also relevant. Employees need to be able to work this training into their existing schedules without overburdening their personal lives.

Though unemployment has spiked due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the technical skills shortage shows no signs of abating in the near future, so the pressure is growing for companies to close the global skills gap. Organizations must shift their focus from recruiting externally for the skills they need to building these skills in-house. 

Maintaining the status quo is not an option. The time to act is now.

Dive deep and learn more about our survey results in our State of Workforce Transformation Survey Report. 

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