Training is key to compliance

Managing HR compliance is like a game of Whac-A-Mole, Michelle Lanter Smith claims. “As soon as you master an employment law in one jurisdiction, another one pops up,” she writes in a blog post for HR Executive. “Furthermore, the perils of noncompliance are fierce: fines, penalties, potential class-action lawsuits—not to mention the hit to your company’s reputation.” Lanter Smith says training managers and employees is one of the key steps to maintain daily HR compliance. “Don’t assume that your managers—even experienced ones—understand the complex ins and outs of labor compliance,” she writes. “Make sure you have a comprehensive training program in place to keep them up to speed on new legislation and periodically refresh their knowledge.”

A culture of lifelong learning leads to long-term sustainability

The traditional model of a three- to five-year higher education spent learning technical skills is no longer serving the needs of businesses, and smart leaders are already integrating learning into the overall employee experience, Jen Jackson claims. According to Glassdoor, the average business in the U.S. spends $4,000 per hire and takes up to 52 days to fill a position. “It makes sense to keep good people, transitioning them out of redundant roles and reskilling them to fit new positions, rather than adopting a cycle of firing and hiring,” Jackson writes in Insurance Business. “People are being valued on cultural fit and human skills, more than the ability to perform a specific technical task.” Jackson believes organizations should invest in building training capabilities. “They should be empowering people with the skills needed to teach each other,” she writes. “Good leaders know their people better than anyone, and are in the unique position to deliver ongoing personalized learning based on individual strengths and skill gaps.”

Why humans are companies’ biggest competitive advantage

“People are an organization’s most significant source of competitive advantage,” Accenture’s HR chief Ellyn Shook told Business Insider at the World Economic Forum’s 2020 conference in Davos. “Technology will be able to do a lot of work that humans are doing today, but it’s the human skills, it’s the creativity, it’s the collaboration, it’s the communication that sets [people] apart from computers.” She told BI about Accenture’s innovation challenge asking employees to automate their work in business process services. “It became very obvious to us early on, almost six years ago, that automation and other intelligent technologies were going to be able to be applied to the work that a lot of our human beings do,” Shook said. “We initially thought people [were] going to run for the hills. Instead, 16,000 employees took us up on the offer to be reskilled and for new career tracks and now report higher job satisfaction across each of the new five tracks.”

Top corporate learning trends

2020 will be the year for organizations to transform their current learning culture into an agile, competitive machine that drives engagement and development, according the HR Exchange Network’s editorial team. In this blog post, the team shares the top learning trends to focus on in 2020: 1. Creating and sustaining a learning culture that allows employees to continuously seek, share and apply new knowledge and skills. 2. Creating a future skills economy that prepares employees for the future of work with AI. 3. Making learning more accessible with a customized approach. 4. Immersive technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality can be more effective than traditional methods. 5. Learning retention strategies such as retraining and coaching from managers. “HR and learning leaders need to do an audit of their current learning culture status. Put it in context of the business and the industry. Just like with employees, personalize the strategy and go forth,” the article concludes.

Why effective training is critical to retention

The link between employee training and retention is clear and supported by much research, argues Lin Grensing-Pophal. In an HR Daily Advisor blog post, Grensing-Pophal cites several statistics: 1. 51 percent of employees are considering a new job. 2. Turnover can cost organizations anywhere from 16 percent to 213 percent of the lost employee’s salary. 3. Companies lose 25 percent of all new employees within the first year. 4. 69 percent of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experienced great onboarding. 5. 72 percent of candidates are driven by career advancement opportunities—the number one reason people change jobs. “Given the impact of employee training and development efforts on employee retention, companies need to reconsider the old-fashioned training paradigm that many have been utilizing for decades: minimal training that is provided at the start of employment as routine onboarding by designated trainers who may or may not have a solid grasp on the trainees’ job roles or the material they’re training,” Grensing-Pophal writes.

How to develop a successful soft skills strategy

Soft skills—creativity, problem solving, empathy and adaptability, to name a few—are in top demand yet low supply, argues Jason Richmond. In an Oracle blog post, he talks about the challenges talent management professionals face when it comes to developing soft skills. “First, although there is overlap as to the skill priorities, there is enough variation to create confusion (how are you doing with dealing with ambiguity right now?). Second, it can be challenging to assess employees’ soft skills in an objective manner,” he writes. “Third, there are deep-seated beliefs that such skills are hard to train and even harder to measure.” Richmond outlines a six-step process to help develop a more successful soft skills strategy: 1. Determine the right development team. 2. Begin with a focus on business needs. 3. Determine the soft skills most relevant to those needs. 4. Consider the importance of empathy. 5. Plan your curriculum and delivery methods. 6. Measure progress and results. “Many researchers have proven empathy to be a requirement for successful leadership but a skill that’s often missing,” he writes. “No matter what your other business needs are, you can safely assume this gap exists in your organization.”

Accenture’s training progress highlighted

Here at Accenture FS Talent & Organization, we discuss upskilling and reskilling quite a bit as a part of our reporting on the future workforce. This India-based Economic Times article underscores how we put our words into action: “Accenture is spending $1 billion in re-training its employees every year as the company sees its customers are increasingly demanding newer technology-led services,” Ayan Pramanik writes. “The tech services major said it has trained nearly 80 percent of its technology services employees in technologies such as data analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing—broadly referred as digital technologies.” The article notes that Accenture employs 170,000 people in India, mostly in technology services at delivery centers. “The delivery centers were built on five pillars: cost, scale, skill, quality and productivity,” Bhaskar Ghosh, group chief executive, Accenture Technology Services, told ET. “Five years back we changed that (and on top of the existing ones) we created advanced technology centers with five focus areas: innovation, intelligence, industries, new IT and new skill.”

Upskilling can help with tech skills gap

The need for skilled IT workers continues to be a challenge, and it’s time for organizations to upskill their existing workforce to keep pace with technology, argues Bethany Mily. “Many organizations likely employ people who would like to upgrade their skill set in order to climb the ladder, and there is an opportunity to leverage their interest in tech skill to fill talent gaps from within and drive the business,” she writes in Training. Mily cites the findings of two surveys. One found that 60 percent of U.S. employers are facing tech vacancies lasting 12 weeks or longer, costing organizations more than $800,000 annually. Another showed that 84 percent of workers believe they have been affected by the skills gap. She recommends companies upskill their own staff with either online courses or in-class training programs. “Trainees aren’t just learning how to code,” she notes. “Organizations are training/investing in the future leaders in their companies and these managers are going to require more than just tech skills.” Mily believes it is also important to teach employees to hone soft skills such as creativity, problem solving and communication. “Having a well-rounded employee who is able to find creative ways around problems and communicate effectively is an added incentive,” she writes.

The benefits of upskilling the workforce

Upskilling is crucial in a time of rapid technological changes in the workplace, and can be beneficial to both employees and the business, claims Jayne Jones. “By investing in staff training, this shows you are committed to your employees and are keen for them to develop,” she writes in a blog post for Insider Media. “Having training plans and progression routes is key for motivating your staff; this can increase productivity, a sense of achievement, confidence and drive.” Jones believes that upskilling can also improve employee retentions rates and reduce overall hiring costs. “When an employee leaves your business, you’re faced with having to spend time and money recruiting for a replacement,” she writes. “By upskilling staff, there is no need to go through the interview process and subsequently having to train the new hire.” Other benefits include employee engagement, improved productivity and customer satisfaction. “It is essential to stay ahead of the game and understand the importance of employee training and professional development,” Jones concludes.

Our “Reworking the Revolution” report covers how to ‘new skill’ the workforce to do more valuable work.

In 2020, focus on training and employee engagement

Training is key to keeping employees engaged, productive and loyal, claims Greg Furstner. “Far too many companies believe it’s cost-prohibitive to train employees,” he writes in Forbes. “Some employers fear that if they invest in learning and development, employees will then leave for better positions elsewhere. But if they don’t train their employees, companies will have an underskilled workforce.” Furstner notes that there has been a recent shift in attitudes toward employee training, and more companies are increasing their training budgets. “Employees tend to be the most satisfied and productive when they’re trained for the skills and knowledge they need to perform their duties,” he writes. “Confident employees are engaged and enthusiastic, and they feel valued.” In addition to providing relevant and positive training opportunities, Furstner claims, top-level leaders must commit to an engaging culture. “The foundation of an engaged culture is purpose and meaning,” he writes. “When employees understand how their work directly affects the company’s goals and vision, they are more engaged with the organization and its purpose.”

Four ways to foster a culture of learning in the workforce

Learning is often overlooked as a driver of employee engagement and happiness, argues Tanya Staples, vice president at LinkedIn. According to a recent LinkedIn study nearly all (94 percent) of employees say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development. Learning opportunities are especially important to younger workers, the research found: millennial and generation Z employees say learning is the number one thing that inspires them and makes them want to work harder. In this Fast Company article, Tabaka shares four ways to foster a culture of learning: 1. Provide on-demand learning opportunities. 2. Make learning social and interactive. 3. Create manager champions to engage teams. 4. Help learners build their soft skills. “With the rise of AI and the looming skills gap, creating an always-on learning culture has never been more important. By supporting learners in the moments that matter to their careers and making learning a valuable use of their time, you’ll not only have happier employees but retain them as well,” she concludes.

L&D works best in small bites

Learning at work isn’t about how many hours people put in, it’s about getting the right information to the right people at the right time, argues Laszlo Bock. “Simply put: you learn best when you learn less,” he writes in this Harvard Business Review article. Bock notes that in 2018, companies in the U.S. spent roughly $90 billion on learning and development (L&D) efforts, putting training at a cost close to $1,000 per person. “This is a staggering sum, especially when you consider that most of that money and time is wasted,” he writes. “Training and development programs aren’t necessarily the problem. The problem is that there is often no measure of what’s learned or what behaviors change as a result of such massive investments.” Laszlo believes that one way to boost the effectiveness of L&D programs is to keep them small. “Breaking bigger goals into mini-milestones makes it easier to build the skills you need to reach those goals,” he writes. “In trainings, break lessons down into small, digestible pieces, and encourage employees to practice them over and again back in the real world.”

The importance of team development

Strong team development is an essential element of any successful workplace or organization. This CMO Australia article describes the five stages of team development (forming, brainstorming, shared vision, performing, adjourning). “Throughout the five stages, leaders will witness a number of things, both positive and challenging,” the article states. “If the five stages are used as a framework, leaders will experience more positives than negatives.” The most notable positive outcomes of successful team development include increased trust, communication and productivity. “Trust matters in the workplace. When people trust one another, they’re more likely to share ideas, collaborate effectively and make the right decisions for everyone and the project,” the authors write. “Teams that don’t communicate don’t succeed. Poor communication can lead to lower morale and missed opportunities for understanding and growth.” The article defines increased productivity as the ‘core purpose’ of team building—to enable individuals to work together to produce something great.

How to improve employee satisfaction

A key driver of engagement is how employees feel about their prospects for career training, advancement and growth. When the Swiss banking giant UBS ranked below industry standards in employee satisfaction with learning and career opportunities, its executives jumped into action. Stefan Seiler, group head of HR at UBS, shares the five lessons they learned in this Fast Company op-ed. 1. It starts with the manager. “We’ve found that employees who rate their line managers positively are more likely to say they plan on staying with UBS,” he writes. 2. Prioritize internal mobility. UBS uses a tool to identify internal candidates for open roles, and makes it available to all employees. 3. Give feedback. Get feedback. Repeat. “Companies need multiple tactics to ensure the flow of feedback is frequent and strong,” Seiler writes. 4. Up your learning game. UBS created a digital curriculum, featuring curated learning playlists on specific topics and for specific roles. 5. Go big or go home. “Sometimes trying to make changes in a large company can feel like trying to make a cruise ship as agile as a kayak,” Seiler writes. “But our journey since 2017 has shown that organizations of any size can shift employees to greater engagement in a short time.”

Five ways to improve employee training

Forty percent of employees receiving poor or no job training leave their positions within the first year. This how-to article from Troy Media has a list of tips to enhance employee training and development processes. 1. Learn from competitors by analyzing employee reviews on websites such as Glasdoor and Indeed. 2. Harness the power of eLearning. It’s more efficient than traditional learning methods and has helped 42 percent of businesses boost their revenue. 3. Align employee training with management’s operating goals. 4. Survey your employees. Asking employees for their feedback will make them feel more valued. 5. Measure results and optimize accordingly, like you would with a social media campaign.

Pivot to the future with reskilling and diversity

“Pivot to the Future: Discovering Value and Creating Growth in a Disrupted World,” a new book by Accenture’s Omar Abbosh, Paul Nunes, and Larry Downes, tells the story of the company’s transformation “to the new”. In an excerpt in Business Insider, the authors reveal how Accenture, facing disruption of its core consulting business in 2014, embarked on a massive reskilling of its workforce as part of its strategic pivot to a “digital-first” future. “Management’s responsibility, we agreed, was to make sure our people would have the skills they needed to serve current and future clients,” they write. “So since 2015 we’ve invested approximately a billion dollars in employee education every year.” They also highlight the importance of diversity and inclusion for success in a wise pivot. “Here, Accenture has experienced tremendous gains in recent years, thanks to the singular and uncompromising leadership of our then-CEO, Pierre Nanterme, who made inclusion and diversity a priority,” the authors write. “By 2018, we had increased the number of women in our workforce to 42 percent. Women now comprise more than 45 percent of our new hires, putting us well on the way to our goal of gender balance by 2025.”

Personalized training is key to attracting millennials

From ringtones to news feeds, music selections and coffee orders, millennials have grown up with personalized services, and now expect that in the workplace, too. “There is a demand from this highly mobile millennial workforce for learning that reflects what everything else in their life looks like…which is a personalized experience,” Jeremy Auger, an advisor to Canada’s Future Skills Council, told TechaPeek. “In learning and skills development, what we are seeing from millennials is this: the number one reason why they go to or stay at a particular job is the opportunity it presents for growth and development.” Auger believes companies need to invest in digital training tools that keep pace with the ever-changing technical world, especially video technology. “Let’s say you hire a sales rep and you need to get them ready to do a sales pitch. You can easily record it and share it with peers, managers and sales enablement coaches and they can watch and at different points in time they can give feedback,” he says. “Traditionally that would have to be done in a face to face setting. This lets it be asynchronous and facilitates broader peer feedback and can be done on a global scale.”

The UK’s upskilling gap 

Less than half of employees (46 percent) in the UK think they are getting enough help and support to develop skills for the future, according to new research by City & Guilds Group. The survey of 2,000 UK workers found that 81 percent believed the skills they needed to do their job would change over the next five years, yet a quarter (24 percent) were not getting sufficient feedback from managers on what they should be focusing on. The survey identified three top barriers to learning new skills: 1. Taking time away from the day job (42 percent). 2. Lack of investment in training and development by employers (29 percent). 3. Lack of funds to invest in training outside the workplace (28 percent). “As working lives get longer and the age of the workforce increases, now is the time for employers to prioritize upskilling and reskilling people at all ages and stages within their current workforce and to recognize the value and potential of every employee,” Chris Jones, City & Guilds group chief executive, told People Management. “However, our data clearly shows that people aren’t receiving enough employer support to develop the skills they need today, let alone those they may need over the next five years.”

Five insights about the future of work from Davos

The future of work was an important agenda topic at the recent gathering of the World Economic Forum, with many experts continuing to analyze the key components that emerged from Davos. London Business School’s Lynda Gratton shares her top five insights in this Sloan Review article. 1. The world is in the middle of a major transition, and most people will have to upskill and reskill. 2. It is vital to undertake upskilling and reskilling quickly. 3. The gender gap in technology jobs needs to be addressed. 4. Flexible working is becoming the norm. 5. The great hope is inclusive education that will deliver the skills needed for the future of work. “Overall, conversations and ideas have moved a long way from the simple “robots will take your job” headlines of a few years ago,” Gratton writes. “There is a growing awareness that we have to act now, and at scale.” She argues that corporate and government leaders must make training and development a priority, and make education a promise to all. “The future of work is one of the most burning platforms of the next few years. Time alone will tell whether the anguish will convert to action,” Gratton concludes.

A case study in reskilling

The future of work and reskilling the workforce were among the trending topics at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, last month. Business Insider interviewed Accenture’s head of human resources, Ellyn Shook, about our large-scale internal job-retraining program. She explained how Accenture reskilled nearly 300,000 employees over four years by investing about $1 billion annually in training, and using a “Job Buddy” program that assesses which roles will be automated and which adjacent roles can be learned. “I think the thing that organizations really have to start doing, quickly, is move from workforce planning to work planning and really understand what work is going to be done by machines and what work is going to be done by humans, and make sure that you are investing in your people, to understand how to work with the technology,” Shook told BI. “And I think that’s how you’re going to future-proof your workforce.”

How to encourage continuous learning for the workforce

Speaking of learning being key to the future of work, this Forbes Nonprofit Council article shares tips on how to foster an environment of learning for your team. 1. Bring training in-house to make it more convenient for your staff. 2. Prioritize open, honest communication to discuss strengths and weaknesses. 3. Train employees in new areas and disciplines that may not directly relate to their job duties. 4. Invest in your employees by acknowledging hard-working members for optimum engagement. 5. Offer tuition reimbursement, even for less formal webinars. 6. Encourage problem-solving skills to help your employees identify areas where they need additional help and training. 7. Bring in guest speakers and experts. 8. Share professional development resources. 9. Use every resource at your disposal to keep your team abreast of the latest information critical to their work. “The pace of change is fast! But when people are curious and looking for new solutions, they will keep learning,” says Magdalena Nowicka Mook of International Coach Federation.

Managers are key to making learning initiatives work 

What makes training stick? This HR Dive article emphasizes the importance of supervisors and team leaders being active in learning and development (L&D) initiatives. “It is absolutely critical that L&D buy-in doesn’t stop at the executive level,” Karen Hebert-Maccaro, chief learning experience officer at O’Reilly, told HR Dive. “While executive support sets the tone, it takes managers and leaders across the organization to turn it into action.” Hebert-Maccaro recommends that frontline managers demonstrate a commitment to open dissent and debate, debrief mistakes and failures and model the importance of learning. The article also notes that leaders are critical to designing training and setting the agenda. “It takes a little more effort but matching interests to opportunities is likely to make your team member feel that you are focused on their development and that is likely to increase retention, loyalty and engagement,” Hebert-Maccaro says. 

Financial services needs to improve training for frontline employees 

A new study finds that most frontline employees in financial services are unsatisfied with their training and that’s why customers leave. Chief Learning Officer reports that a survey of 400 frontline bank employees and insurance advisers and 1,300 customers in the U.S. and Canada revealed only 13 percent of employees feel equipped to answer questions from customers and 60 percent indicated they are not completely satisfied with the training they receive. On the customer satisfaction side, the survey, conducted by Axonify and PMG Intelligence, found two out of five customers switch their primary financial institution and a majority (51 percent) do so because they received poor customer service or didn’t feel valued. “Frontline workers now must be trained in a way that ensures they can keep pace with change and deliver superior customer service in the face of much more informed clients,” Axonify CEO Carol Leaman told CLO 

10 onboarding tips to make employees feel more welcome

Bruce Eckfeldt, founder and CEO of E&A, thinks while many companies spend considerable time and resources finding the right talent, they do not exert as much effort in making them comfortable when they arrive. Here are his 10 onboarding tips to make employees feel welcome and more productive: 1. Let your team know by announcing the new hire and the role they are filling. 2. Send the recruit the org chart with photos and names so they understand who is in what role and which department. 3. Have their space ready to give them a sense of personal space. 4. Don’t swamp them with paperwork; give them a tour or take them to lunch instead. 5. Give them a checklist of the activities they will complete in the first few days and weeks. 6. Have them come in late, so everyone else on the team is ready to meet and greet them. 7. Send them home early with the paperwork to complete and policies to review. 8. Give them a map of the office and the surrounding area, highlighting shopping, eating and parking. 9. Assign them a buddy, someone who joined the organization in the last year and remembers what it’s like to be new. 10. Create an FAQ that covers standard questions.

How to build a data-driven team

In this Harvard Business Review article, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic outlines three key talent management recommendations to help your team become more data-driven: 1. Foster critical thinking. “As organizations turbocharge their ability to gather more and more data—and it’s not so much about size, but rather about quality—what matters most is having people who can ask the right questions to the data,” he writes. “Human curiosity and critical thinking are needed to identify the main problems that AI and data can help to solve, and this process starts with you.” 2. Invest in training. “This does not mean turning everyone into a data scientist, but leveraging the vast universe of virtual resources that exist within and outside of organizations,” Chamorro-Premuzic writes. He cites the free online courses offered by many top universities and Google on AI, data visualization and data science, and encourages company leaders to take advantage of them. 3. Hire the right people. “Individuals with higher quantitative or numerical ability levels will find it much easier to pick up any training related to data analytics,” he writes. “There are also other psychological qualities determining whether individuals will learn to think more empirically and quantitatively: being high on openness to experience, curiosity and learnability will enhance people’s willingness to learn and think more rationally, as will their general level of motivation and conscientiousness.”

Five techniques to improve workplace training

“Technology is revolutionizing the learning and development of professionals across a wide range of industries and sectors,” writes Irma Hunkeler in this TrainingZone blog post. “There are also many more tools, techniques and platforms that can be used to deliver staff training in a more convenient and engaging way.” She highlights five techniques that HR professionals can use to boost employee development: 1. Microlearning delivers learning in bite-sized chunks and makes it easier for employees to fit training into their hectic schedules. 2. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have the potential to deliver safe and controlled on-site training in a diverse range of applications and give employees access to locations, situations and equipment which would otherwise be dangerous and cost prohibitive. 3. Gamification introduces a bit of friendly competition; rewards for employees who achieve top marks can help to improve the skill-acquisition of employees. 4. Social learning through instant messaging, video chat and other platforms allows employees to build job skills and working relationships. 5. Collaboration with suppliers, clients, vendors and other stakeholders can boost their knowledge of business practices at different stages of the supply chain and improve their level of service.

What design thinking can do for L&D

While cloud-based learning and development (L&D) offers great potential to employers, those benefits are not yet materializing because employees are not engaging with the digital learning, according to Armin Hopp. In this guest blog for The Record, Hopp explains how design thinking can help improve learning delivery. “Design thinking is user-centric, emanating from the user experience (UX) discipline. The goal is to get inside the user’s head, understanding everything from how the user logs in to start with, through to how relevant, engaging—and navigable—the user is finding the learning content,” he writes. Hopp says smart learning systems can predict what will interest and engage each person using artificial intelligence software. The software also analyzes each employee’s response to learning, the speed at which they learn and how successfully they are assimilating new concepts. That analysis forms the basis of algorithms that can customize learning delivery to suit each person, leading to more active learning experiences that stick. “The user-centered approach of design thinking, starting with a deep empathy with each user, their needs and pain points, will drive individual learning experiences that achieve the desired results and meet organizational goals,” he writes.

Best practices for learning and development

Study after study shows that the lack of career advancement or learning opportunities is among the top reasons why employees are likely to resign. This HRZone article covers the best practices for employee training. “Each company is unique, what works for one organization might not work in yours,” the article notes. Here are the top three best practices of employee training, according to the article: 1. Teaching time management for better productivity and efficient use of time and resources. 2. Teaching effective communication, not only among colleagues but those in other departments too, for a steady business flow. 3. Updating skills with effective training programs. “Providing effective training has always been one of the hardest aspects of a business. Take note that humans are complex, and you’ll be dealing with a whole lot of complex minds. As an employer, you have to know how to approach these complex minds and make sure that they learn what has to be learned,” the article concludes.

Four steps to convincing the C-suite to make learning a priority

If the above statistics on millennials’ thirst for on-the-job training aren’t enough to persuade the C-suite about the importance of learning and development (L&D), this TLNT articleoutlines four ways L&D yields real benefits to companies: 1. L&D creates agile employees, which results in companies staying ahead of the competition. 2. It improves retention and recruitment by making the employees more interested and engaged. 3. It can help address the growing skills gap to have the right talent for tomorrow’s work. 4. L&D reduces workplace distractions that impact productivity. “The smartest companies are rethinking how they prioritize learning and development in an age of continuous innovation and change. By engaging workers, helping them build careers within the organization, and equipping them with the knowledge and opportunities they need to innovate, employees and businesses alike can reap the benefits,” the article states.

How banks can close the digital skills gap

Finding qualified IT professionals is an uphill battle for banks, writes Meg Conlan in this BizTech blog. She cites a Peak 10 study, which found half of banking institutions have a difficult or a very difficult time filling positions in data analytics, user experience design, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and other areas. Conlan outlines three steps banks can take to overcome hiring challenges. 1. Outsource IT tasks, especially cybersecurity: “By handing off the monitoring and management of security technologies, in-house IT teams can spend less time putting out security “fires” and instead focus on projects that further core objectives and promote innovation,” she writes. 2. Be open to workers with alternative IT training: Conlan points out how traditional degree programs are no longer the only path to a career in IT. Alternative education programs, such as coding boot camps, provide immersive training over a shorter period of time. 3. Develop tech talent from within: “Promote and train existing workers to build an in-house team that can keep pace with fast-paced technology changes,” she suggests.

Skills gap remains a top concern for U.S. businesses

According to the annual JP Morgan Chase Business Leaders Outlook report released last week, American business owners feel better than they have in years, but they are nervous about finding the skilled workers they need to grow as older workers retire. “Businesses of all sizes are concerned about the supply of qualified candidates: 45 percent of midsize business executives are extremely or very concerned about it, as are 31 percent of small business executives,” BusinessWire reports. On the up side, the report recorded some of the highest levels of optimism about the economy. Among midsize businesses, 69 percent are optimistic about the global economy, more than double last year’s number. Among small businesses, optimism about the global economy increased 10 points from the previous year, reaching 51 percent. Midsize businesses also indicated they are likely to boost spending on hiring and pay: Hiring of full-time personnel went up 7 points to 64 percent, and compensation went up to 76 percent, up 5 points from last year.

Building an agile learning culture

In this PeopleMatters article, Sharon Lobo discusses the importance of developing an agile learning culture for the workforce in the face of evolution and digital disruption. She recommends following these four key steps to creating the right learning culture: 1. Mapping learning programs to individual needs; 2. Creating a cloud-based research resource pool; 3. Appreciating, rewarding and incentivizing learning; 4. Encouraging peer learning and group activities. “Companies must concentrate on a people-driven business model to build an agile learning culture and leverage its advantages. Not only does it make human resources in the organization more efficient; it also gives them a sense of belongingness as they feel valued in a thriving ecosystem,” Lobo writes.

Millennials want VR in the workplace

Smart offices cannot come soon enough for millennials, argues Andrew Arnold in this Forbes Under30 blog post. He refers to the key findings of a 2016 study: Millennials believe workplace technology is far behind what they have in their homes and are more likely to quit a job that has sub-standard technology in the office. More than half (58 percent) of millennial workers prefer high-tech office perks, such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), as opposed to traditional offerings such as free snacks and ping pong tables. “But the biggest overall reason that millennials want AR/VR products in their professional lives is that they believe it will increase their productivity,” Arnold writes. Millennials want to use VR for training, collaboration, and developing and testing new ideas, according to the research. But more interestingly, Arnold points out that VR can help improve focus and privacy and provide meaningful recess time. “While AR/VR has been slow to move into the workplace, they are the future of businesses that intend to attract millennial talent. Millennials ‘get it.’ In the near future, they will be demanding it,” he writes.

WEF unveils ‘Reskilling Revolution’

At the 48th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, reskilling the workforce was one of the “two massive macroeconomic trends,” writes Jason Bloomberg in this Forbes column. During the gathering, the organization announced the IT Skills Initiative, a new tech-reskilling drive targeting one million workers in the next three years. “We need responsive solutions and coordination from all parts of society – governments, citizens and private industry alike – to re-envision an educational system based on lifelong learning that can fully prepare workers for the jobs of the future,” said Klaus Schwab, WEF’s Executive Chairman. “This initiative is a clear example of industry leaders taking concerted, collective action to address a major social challenge at scale.” The initiative was conceived by the WEF’s IT Governors community, of which Accenture is a founding partner.

Google’s solution to filling IT jobs

Last week, Google announced a new certificate program through the Coursera platform to give people the basic skills to get an entry-level IT support job in one year. “Natalie Van Kleef Conley, former head of Google’s tech support program, was having trouble finding IT support specialists so she spearheaded the certificate program,” reports Kim Hart for Axios. “It’s also part of Google’s initiative to help Americans get skills needed to get a new job in a changing economy.” The program will match certificate holders with not just Google, but others such as Bank of America, Sprint, PNC Bank and GE Digital. Hart notes that entry-level IT jobs are typically higher paying ($62,670 in 2016) than similar roles in other fields. “A lot of companies struggle to fill these roles,” she writes. “This certificate curriculum is an acknowledgement from these employers that they’re going to need to train Americans for those jobs, since the administration has made it clear it will make it harder to rely on foreign talent.”