Employers failing to future-proof employee skills – but is HR to blame?

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A new survey has revealed more than a third of HR leaders believe their workforce is ill-prepared for the skills the work environment demands.

HR consultancy Lumesse found that 80% of the 769 HR decision-makers surveyed globally agreed employees have to learn more and develop faster to succeed in their role than they did five years ago.

Half of HR leaders confirmed they are some way from delivering to their full potential when it comes to providing employees with the right training and knowledge for their role.

Thomas Berglund, director of learning at Lumesse, said: "With 75% of HR leaders agreeing that organisational change is happening much faster than just five years ago, HR professionals are being asked to achieve more with less and do it right now."

Locally, Tim Legge of Learning Seat commented to HC that a significant shift in the skills required in the workplace has caught some employers off guard.

“Twenty or thirty years ago employers hired people based on an assessment of whether they had the experience to do the job; today the jobs we are desperately trying to fill are the ones that didn’t exist only a few years ago, so finding someone with experience is not an option,” he said. 

Today these roles are being filled by hiring people who employers believe have the capability to learn how to do the job; they are knowledge workers, he added.

“This makes the L&D function more critical to business success than it has ever been,” Legge said. “What tools and resources are we going to provide these knowledge workers to facilitate their development? What learning strategies are we going to put in place to accelerate their productivity? And perhaps most critically, how can we leverage the use of technology to deliver these strategies?”

The Lumesse survey also found that only 10% worldwide believe employees see HR as an "extremely useful partner" for skills development. Over 70% of HR leaders believe that employees see HR as providing little or no learning. And 40% of HR leaders believe that employees would not seek help from HR if they needed to develop new knowledge or skills quickly.

These global results have been borne out by the 2011 National Learning & Development Index (NLDI), a collaborative effort between AHRI, The Australian Institute of Training & Development and Learning Seat, which canvassed the opinions of 1,164 people, predominantly from HR or L&D-related backgrounds.

The NLDI indicated that few organisations conduct skills audits or assessments of core skills required by the organisation. In addition to the performance review process (92.3%), it’s self-initiated interventions (75.2%) and compliance requirements (75.3%) that determine the L&D activities for an employee – not quite the proactive approach required to drive business results.

The NLDI survey indicated that over half of all L&D sits within the HR function. Legge noted that this shouldn’t necessarily be an impediment to quality outcomes but often it can be. “The HR function is often dominated by management of cost and risk – negotiating EBAs, managing compliance, managing poor performance etc. If companies are not careful, these activities can often divert attention away from L&D.”

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