8 Top Skills for L&D Professionals

There are eight essential L&D skills needed by organisations in the year ahead. So says the benchmarking organisation, Towards Maturity, in its 2016-17 Learning Benchmark Report, ‘Unlocking Potential: Releasing the potential of the business and its people through learning’.

What are those top eight skills? They are:

1. Facilitating social and collaborative learning (cited by 53% of benchmarking participants)
2. Data analytics (53%)
3. Programme evaluation (48%)
4. Supporting ongoing workplace performance (46%)
5. Virtual classroom/webinar delivery (44%)
6. Digital content development (44%)
7. Stakeholder engagement (41%)
8. Performance consulting (40%)

According to the report, these are the skills that need immediate development. In particular, organisations need skills in building social and collaborative learning. Over half say they need to develop this skill immediately, with one in five saying they need to develop this in the next two years.

This research begs the question: “Do L&D teams already have these skills?” Sadly, in many cases, the answer is no. Worse still, many L&D leaders can’t even give a definite answer about what skills their team possesses, because they don’t know and haven’t attempted to find out. Just under a third (32%) of the L&D leaders polled in the research have carried out an audit of the skills that their in-house L&D has, compared to the skills that they need.

The report does highlight the skills that are in short supply. They are skills in performance consulting, business acumen, evaluation and data analytics, marketing and communication. There is also a deficit of practical skills – only 30% have in-house skills for webinar delivery, 34% having in-house skills for digital content development and 41% having technology/infrastructure skills.

Those in the Top Deck (the 17% of top performing organisations participating in the benchmarking) are more likely to have the right skills in place. For example, they are twice as likely to have the core skills for harnessing technology. They are also three times as likely to agree that their L&D workforce is confident in incorporating the use of new media in learning design and have the right skills to design solutions that exploit learning technologies to business advantage.

How do L&D leaders intend to ensure that their L&D workforce has the right skills? Almost a third (31%) of those polled don’t know how their L&D professionals develop their own skills. Moreover, 17% expect their team members to keep up to date, with 14% saying it is up to individuals to decide if they want to keep up to date or not.

It would appear that there is a lot of onus on individual L&D professionals to ensure their skills are developed and updated. But, is that good enough? According to Sir Charlie Mayfield, chair of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, business cannot afford to take a backseat on skills development. He was quoted just over a year ago in the CIPD’s report ‘Unlocking workplace skills: what is the role for employers?’ saying this: “To realise our ambitions, some important fundamentals must be in place. In my view, “skills” is one of them. The skills and capabilities of our people are ultimately the basis for our long term competitiveness. We know the quality of our workforce in this country, when compared to other leading economies, is simply not developing quickly enough. That needs to change.”

It does not look as if business has heeded Mayfield’s advice yet. It is imperative that L&D individuals, their managers and their leaders, take skills development seriously, starting now.

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