The apparent ubiquity of flashy work perks like communal ping-pong tables, kombucha on tap, and unlimited vacation days has many employers worried about outcompeting other organizations to attract, recruit, and retain the workers they want.

However, on-site workout classes and Pizza Fridays aren’t the top drivers bringing in talent. In fact, today’s employees are much more interested in things like opportunities for tech skills development.

And yet, according to Docebo’s “2019 Tech Skills Index” report, many companies are failing to provide essential learning opportunities to their employees. With technology evolving so quickly, workers are depending on their companies more than ever to help them fill their knowledge gaps and grow alongside the business.

One in four working Americans believe they don’t have the necessary tech skill sets to grow in their roles or take on new jobs, according to Docebo’s report. This suggests businesses have a lot of room for improvement when it comes to stepping up and supporting their employees.

In order to close ever-growing technology skills gaps, organizations have to prioritize the development of their people first and foremost. Doing so requires investments in training tools that can prepare employees with the skills they need — both soft and technical — to excel in a rapidly changing workplace.

Training Is a Necessity, Not a Nuisance

The general feeling of underqualification and uncertainty plaguing American workers is caused largely by inadequate on-the-job training. One in five US employees don’t receive any technical training at all, according to Docebo’s report. When workers are lucky enough to receive technology training, it’s not necessarily effective, and 46 percent of US employees regret not receiving more tech training.

We should be clear: The onus here is on the company, not the worker. Employees are the most important core asset of any business in any vertical. A failure to invest in the company’s employees is a failure to invest in the company itself.

Many employers ask, “But what if I train them and they leave?”

The better question is, “What if you don’t train them and they stay?”

Organizations in every vertical are investing in new technology solutions to help grow the business and make it more efficient. However, most employees don’t currently have the skill sets to operate this new technology effectively. Without adequate employee training, a business cannot see a return on these vital technology investments because there simply won’t be enough manpower behind them.

The entire economy is going digital, and tech skills are necessary no matter the industry. Amid these great upheavals, companies need to provide employees with opportunities for growth and reskilling. If companies don’t do so, their best talent will leave for places that do offer such opportunities.

For more expert HR insights, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

Learning Shouldn’t Be Lonely

Learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum. People acquire knowledge best when among peers, as in a school environment. Unfortunately, many employers approach training in a highly siloed manner, and employees are encouraged to do trainings alone and on their own time.

Knowledge retention and social learning go hand in hand. Moreover, knowledge is not effective if it only lives in one person. Rather than training a single employee in some new skill set, organizations should seek to democratize learning. That means promoting new skills among a wider variety of capable workers, which happens best when employees are able to share new knowledge with less skilled workers and help one another better execute and innovate on behalf of the business.

Organizations should seek to implement social learning opportunities where a company’s internal subject matter experts can share their knowledge and skills with other employees. Allowing employees not only to train themselves but also to share that knowledge with their peers provides a cost-effective way of delivering education that employees are more likely to retain. An employer’s dedication to collaborative learning sets a positive cultural example for employees, who will in turn feel more motivated to explore their own curiosities, thus creating an environment of organic, continuous learning.

Leverage AI to Identify Skills Gaps

Organizations need to offer their employees training opportunities, but those opportunities will only be effective if designed to close the particular skills gaps present in their workforces. Artificial intelligence (AI) can be a key tool that helps businesses identify skills gaps, as well as track employee progress in real time.

Not all employees need the same kinds of training to stay current. For example, when it comes to tech skills adoption, baby boomers tend to need more assistance than millennials. In fact, 47 percent of baby boomers say they are not as tech savvy as their Generation X and millennial counterparts, according to Docebo. In a situation like this, an AI-powered learning platform can help HR pros identify which skills gaps exist in which segments of the workforce, and then address those issues before they worsen.

An AI-powered platform can also make adjustments to individual employees’ training paths based on real-time performance. For example, if the employee is struggle to master a certain skill, the platform could direct them to an off-track course for additional practice. If an employee is not responding well to a certain course format, the platform could adjust learning delivery to better align with that learner’s preferences.

Concerted and supported learning is the best perk a company can offer, both for the employee and the employer alike. Employees are given the tools to grow alongside their employers and remain relevant in the workforce, while the business reaps the benefits of a more effective and innovative workforce. Adequate on-the-job training really is a win-win.

John Coffee is talent acquisition manager at Docebo.

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