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Gazing into the Future of L&D in 2023

It’s that time of year when we gaze into our crystal ball and explore what 2023 has in store for L&D teams. Suffice to say, it’s been a rollercoaster few months for employers and employees alike. Many organizations are adapting, yet again, to changes in the status quo. Let’s explore what talent development experts here at Degreed and Learn In expect to see in 2023.

L&D gets lean and focused.

With burned out teams and budgets under increased scrutiny, many L&D leaders are feeling the pinch. This is an opportunity to make learning more efficient and better connected to the business. Innovation often stems from constraints, positioning L&D as the perfect partner during economic downturns to drive experimentation and out-of-the-box thinking by equipping workers with the right skills. The current climate will also force consolidation of a learning technology market that’s become increasingly confusing.

“L&D teams are stretched. Everyone’s looking for ways to target more learning and skills where they’ll have maximum impact right now, and to do it with less wasted time and investment,” said Todd Tauber, SVP of Strategy at Degreed. “We’ve started to see more and more customers ruthlessly prioritizing not just specific people or roles, but also capabilities and even moments that matter most. They’re also looking to squeeze more out of what they already have. And they’re looking to scale their impact through peer learning and mentoring as well as tighter collaboration and crowdsourcing with business teams.”

Through a new learning strategy, Ericsson, for example, has increased the number of workers learning five skills identified as critical to the company’s future success (5G, artificial intelligence + machine learning, collaboration, sales and automation) by 14%. Over 15,000 people are now upskilling in these areas. Simultaneously, it cut the cost of operating its learning technology ecosystem by half.

The job as we know it… retires.

The traditional job is no longer fit-for-purpose. Widespread skills shortages mean employers are getting creative in sourcing the talent they need. The gig economy offers new opportunities for employees and employers — and it’s changing the way teams are set up. People leaders are shifting toward skills-based approaches such as placing workers on projects based on their skills and experience. It’s even coined a new term: the skills-based organization. 

As Deloitte explains: “Jobs are quickly giving way to more fluid ways of working. We found that 63% of current work being performed falls outside of people’s core job descriptions. 81% say work is increasingly performed across functional boundaries, and 36% say work is increasingly being performed by workers outside of the organization, who don’t have defined jobs, at all. We believe the answer is the skills-based organization, a new operating model for work.”

“What we’re seeing now is the culmination of many years of dissatisfaction with rigid job hierarchies that didn’t give employers or individuals the flexibility to adapt work to their needs,” said Yael Kaufmann, Co-founder and COO at Learn In. “Couple that with the drive to become more agile, inclusive and employee-centric, and you can see why so many leading organizations including Unilever and Ericsson are moving toward skill-based.”

Hiring criteria widens.

Hand in hand with the evolution of the traditional job format comes a shift in the expectations of who can complete a job or task. More employers are casting aside degree-level expectations when they aren’t relevant to a role — and not a moment too soon! 

“Boeing, IBM, Google Tata Communications, and Cargill are changing the way they assess a potential employee’s ability to do a role,” said David Blake, CEO of Degreed. “Instead of relying on credentials and job histories to understand someone’s ability to get work done  — and more importantly, develop as their job changes — the talent teams at these organizations are taking a more comprehensive view of a candidate’s skills. By taking this broader approach, employers can recruit from a wider talent pool. Making workforce decisions based on skills is also more accurate because it’s based on what someone can achieve today, not the degree they got a decade ago.

“Degrees are no longer the only gateway to upward mobility,” Blake said. “Now, learning is more intentional. Anyone can learn what they need quickly. And now organizations can build their own programs more cost-effectively.”

Bell Canada, for example, recognized a need to reskill its people in AI, machine learning, business intelligence, cybersecurity, software development, and cloud computing. It did this through an online learning strategy that has, so far, moved 241 employees into new roles that align with its future needs, and 30% of these candidates are women (+8% over market availability).

Learning agility becomes critical.

With the half-life of skills currently teetering at five years and falling fast, many L&D leaders are doubling down on learning agility as a competitive advantage. Cultivating the ability to learn quickly is vital to staying ahead of internal transformations and new market demands. 

“You can improve the learning agility of your workforce through their learning environment, and the opportunities they can access,” according to Annee Bayeux, Degreed Chief Learning Strategist. “Your learning environment consists of infrastructure  — like giving someone enough time and the technology to learn effectively — and culture. Having a strong learning culture additionally impacts your competitiveness and revenue, with workers in organizations with strong cultures 166% more likely to state that their companies grew revenue faster than competitors.”

Work wellbeing experiences endure.

The Covid-19 pandemic shifted expectations, as employers increasingly treated their people as holistic individuals who have goals and concerns affecting their lives outside of work. Look for this positive trend to persist to the benefit of all involved.

“The pandemic highlighted the new relationship between employers and employees, one of empathy and taking care of each other,” said Degreed Chief People Officer Janice Burns. “It’s something that employees want to continue, and employers who aren’t meeting expectations are suffering from phenomenons like quiet quitting and the Great Resignation.”

Workers are no longer satisfied with the nine-to-five workday and instead seek employers who care for them alongside their work. According to the World Economic Forum Good Work Framework, one way employers can achieve this is by focusing on employability and learning culture. Collaborating with workers on their learning and development and aligning their growth with business needs and their personal goals are surefire ways to create good experiences. 

Skills get mastered.

Amid the emphasis on rapid learning comes a new category of “mastery-based learning platforms” as Josh Bersin dubs them. Capability academies, in his eyes, are going to be white hot for L&D teams this year, because they provide ways to unleash the power of subject matter experts at scale. 

“Capability academies are the next big thing in corporate learning because it focuses on deep skill building by bringing everything together in a single place to learn,” said Jen Collins, Director of Academy Enablement at Learn In.  “They support business needs and goals with internal learning content, external programs, assignments, cohort learning, mentoring, experts, real-world experiences and more — potentially delivering enormous ROI and really adding to the bottom line.” 

L&D takes data seriously.

The shift to hybrid and remote work in the pandemic era has led to a significant increase in the digital tools employees are now using in the workplace, including virtual learning platforms. More platforms mean more learning and skill data is available.That, in turn, gives L&D leaders an unparalleled opportunity to become truly data-driven this year.

Gathering data through your HR, recruitment and learning systems gives you a dynamic, real-time overview of the skills in your workforce and what’s being built, so you can see if your workforce is on track to meet future goals and proactively address any skills gaps. Given the big push toward skills-based talent development, we’ve seen a proliferation of skills taxonomies, or “a common language for skills at work” as the World Economic Forum describes them. 

Industry players, including Degreed, are currently partnering with the World Economic Forum to form a common skills taxonomy that will enable organizations to collaborate more effectively and create consistency when vendor technologies integrate. 

“The skills taxonomy is the foundation to all of your skills-based, data-driven L&D initiatives — and farther afield, with any people process in your organization,” said Kelly Palmer, Degreed Chief Learning and Talent Officer. “With a wealth of data now at your fingertips, it’s vital that this common language exists so skill data can power decisions around recruitment, employee experience, upskilling, performance management, onboarding and more.”

Your people will power your success in 2023.

Of course, part of the joy of life is that it can throw curveballs. If one thing is certain this year, it’s that your people are core to navigating your business through life’s unknowns. So support them through it with the right skills and career opportunities.

Build a workplace culture and employee experience that allows them to thrive and your organization will too. 

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