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With the pace of change only increasing, and the unemployment rate at a record low in the United States, developing talent has become a top priority in the C-suite. 

With the pace of change only increasing, and the unemployment rate at a record low in the United States, developing talent has become a top priority in the C-suite.

According to LinkedIn Learning’s third annual 2019 Workplace Learning Report, which surveyed over 1,200 talent developers and HR professionals, as well as over 2,100 workplace learners worldwide, 82 percent of executives support learning and development opportunities.

They understand that to stay competitive and relevant in today’s market, companies and employees need to constantly be learning to thrive.

“The world of work is changing dramatically,” says Mike Derezin, LinkedIn’s vice president of Learning Solutions, noting the rise of artificial intelligence and automation, the growth of independent work, the gig economy and widening skills gaps. “It means we have to change. It’s important that we are all continuous learners and that companies put more effort into developing their current employees to help close critical skills gaps.”

Josh Bersin, HR, talent, and learning industry analyst agrees. He says, “If you look at economic history and wages over time, re-educating and continuously re-skilling yourself is the most valuable thing you can do in your career. It never ends.”

Closing skills gaps

The No. 1 focus for talent developers this year is identifying, assessing and closing skills gaps and 67 percent of talent developers say closing those gaps is the best way to show the value of learning programs.

The first step to close skills gaps is to identify which skills the business needs today and in the future. Talent developers use a variety of methods to accomplish this, including internal skills assessments, meeting with senior executives and managers, and analyzing industry trends.

“While there is no silver bullet solution to identify the most pressing skills to train for, online learning platforms can help organizations improve how they measure skills gaps and benchmark them against similar organizations,” says Derezin.

More broadly, creativity is the most in-demand soft skill this year, followed by persuasion, analytical reasoning, collaboration and flexible approach. The top hard skills include cloud computing, artificial intelligence and UX design. Mobile application, audio and video production, sales management and a few other hard skills also make the list.

Driving learner engagement

LinkedIn Learning, an online learning platform, helps organizations increase learner engagement and close skills gaps. Their library of over 13,500 courses, based on Lynda.com content, is available in seven languages and has the most up-to-date and applicable business, technology and creative content.

A year-and-a-half ago, ServiceTitan, a provider of all-in-one software for the home service industry, bought LinkedIn Learning for all 600 of their employees.

“We immediately saw a lot of engagement,” says Naphtali Bryant, the company’s director of Learning and Development, explaining courses have helped improve marketing and engagement tools, both of which drive business. “In fact, we had 83 percent of our employees engaged only a month after we launched LinkedIn Learning internally which was a huge success.”

“We believe in developing the whole person. Growth doesn’t just happen,” says Bryant. “You’ve got to be intentional about it and engaging learners is the most important first step.”

Engaging Gen Z

Members of Gen Z, those born between 1995 and 2010, are starting to enter the workplace and employers are gearing up to meet the needs of this new workforce. LinkedIn’s survey shows that 74 percent of talent developers plan to make changes to their learning and development programs to accommodate Gen Z.

“The No. 1 thing that makes Gen Z and Millennial workers happy is learning,” says Derezin. “ In fact, it ranks ahead of company culture and the work itself.”

Gen Z employees value independence and thrive on being given different learning paths. They’re self-driven and want the tools to achieve success.

Today’s employees grew up in a digital world and expect to learn on demand. These younger employees want — and companies are budgeting for — more self-directed online learning, as opposed to instructor-led training.

Increasing happiness and retention

Investing in employees has many benefits including better organizational outcomes and talent retention. The survey reported that 94 percent of employees say they’d stay longer at a job if the company invested in their learning and development.

“Part of being a good employer these days is giving people opportunities,” says Bersin. “In my experience, if you can offer people an opportunity to grow, to move into a role with more responsibility, to make more money, to try different things, then they’re going to be more passionate. They’re going to bring more energy to work and deliver a bigger business impact.”

Ultimately, whether talent developers measure the value of learning by closing skills gaps, driving learner engagement, or increasing retention, online learning can help accomplish all three.

To learn more about how LinkedIn Learning can help your organization close skills gaps, visit learning.linkedin.com.

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