strategies for guiding your junior employees’ learning.

  • upskill
  • August 07, 2020

Your junior employees are the future leaders of your workforce — and how you guide them, especially during this formative stage of their development, can be a make-or-break factor not only in their success, but in the continued success of your organization.

And yet, upskilling and other development initiatives for junior-level employees aren't nearly as wide spread as they should be: Approximately half of U.S. companies do not have formal strategies in place to address skills gaps in their workforces, according to one study, even as 79 percent of CEOs have indicated that a lack of key skills will threaten their organizational growth going forward.

Let's dig into that paradox in a bit more detail, examine why many organizations are finally taking action — and then turn to a few resources to help you build a best-in-class learning program for junior-level employees today.

the current state of employee learning

There continues to be a notable disconnect between the kind of training, upskilling and development opportunities that employees crave, and what their employers are actually offering them. For example, research from Randstad revealed the following:

  • A full 67 percent of U.S. employees say they feel they need more training and skills to stay up-to-date and contribute value.
  • Yet nearly 40 percent say their employers have neither offered nor paid for anything related to upskilling.

That's a clear disconnect — but what's the view from the other side? According to our research, it's much the same:

  • Just 22 percent of human capital and C-suite leaders say they provide training or reskilling to meet business needs.
  • At the same time, 91 percent believe it is their company’s responsibility to do.

Clearly, then, this is a disconnect that leading organizations recognize they redress, now more than ever.

Why now? At the moment, working from home remains the new normal for highly valuable contributors across functions and sectors. For organizations, in turn, that's creating a welter of problems, particularly around how to best engage with their newly distributed team members.

In that context, offering curated, high-impact upskilling opportunities, which allow employees learn at their own pace and make the most of downtime, are an especially attractive option. In fact, if COVID-19 lockdown can be said to have anything like a silver lining, from the standpoint of human capital development, this may be it.

To help your organization take advantage, let's pivot to look at how you can put together a best-in-class upskilling curriculum, get the most out of new digital tools and empower your teams to succeed.

key resources for your upskilling curriculum

When it comes to developing an effective upskilling curriculum, two words should be top of mind: flexibility and accessibility. These are especially prized among millennial employees, who are forecast to represent roughly 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025, and they're essential ingredients for keeping newly distributed workforces engaged.

Of course, there are also a lot of different platforms and tools to choose from. To make that process of choosing the right one a little bit easier for you, let's look at two platforms — Udemy and Coursera — that stand out from the rest.

udemy

Udemy is the leading global marketplace for teaching and learning, with a proven history of success connecting millions of people with the skills they need to thrive — in the old normal, as well as the new one. Better yet, Udemy recently released the Udemy Free Resource Center, which gives individual learners access to a curated collection of over 150 courses (all of them free). In other words, this is an easy way for you to help your junior-level colleagues learn new skills, develop in their careers and contribute more value down the line — all while staying safe and healthy at home.

coursera

Every course on Coursera is taught by top instructors from world-class universities and companies, so there can be no doubts about the quality of the instruction on offer, and there are literally hundreds of free courses available, too. Why not give your junior-level colleagues access to on-demand video lectures, homework exercises, community discussion forums and more — all with limited (or no) financial outlays for the organization? Of course, if you do choose to invest, there are paid courses as well, some of which even come with recognized industry certifications upon completion.

Finally, one more thing to bear in mind: Along with augmenting your organization's learning and development capabilities with these platforms and tools, powerful though may be, clearly communicated personal development plans are key. Managers, if they aren't doing so already, should work closely with junior-level employees to identify specific competencies and skills they want to improve on. By giving employees a voice in that process, your team members will feel more like they've had an active hand in choosing their development pathway — as opposed to simply being told what they need to learn.

Online learning platforms can contribute a ton of value, as we have discussed. But unless this kind of one-on-one, customized human capital development is going on in parallel, you won't see optimum learning outcomes or the most value from your investment.

key takeaways

The longstanding deadlock around upskilling — in which employers bemoan skills gaps, employees lack development opportunities and no one taking responsibility for uniting their interests — appears to be finally unravelling. To whatever extent it required a global pandemic to catalyze the necessary action, this outcome is certainly long overdue.

Now, it's time to take action at your organization. Start with the resources we've outlined, and be sure to pair these learning platforms with structured guidance around skills and career pathways, as well. It's your best bet for successfully guiding the learning and development of junior-level employees, while safeguarding the future success of your organization, too.