In times of change and uncertainty, employee development is critical to business success

By Gaurav Gupta

The growing uncertainty and complexity of the business environment is driving significant changes in the way companies operate, including how they manage talent. It impacted everything from professional development to career trajectories. Traditional leadership strategies and linear career paths are rapidly disappearing in the workplace, as evidenced by decreasing job tenure and increasing number of jobs held over a lifetime. This changing landscape creates challenges and opportunities for employees as they adapt and seek to take advantage of growth potential.

The rapidly changing environment puts more emphasis on the need for the workforce to continue learning new skills. Companies that invest in learning and development opportunities better prepare their employees to adapt and innovate, which will create competitive advantage. Investing in professional development can also differentiate employers as they compete for talent. Those who prioritize development initiatives are well positioned to not only attract and retain employees, but also to unlock their potential.

The urgency of upskilling

The hybrid workplace has accelerated an ongoing trend in doing business. Teams are increasingly interacting with colleagues across time zones, functions and divisions while navigating complex information streams in real time. This increased need for collaboration, speed and flexibility requires more leadership from more people. Helping employees develop the new skills and mindsets needed to thrive in this virtual, more connected and rapidly changing environment will enable companies to improve productivity and innovation.

In a rapidly changing world characterized by greater uncertainty, it is not only new knowledge that employees will need to acquire, but also new skills, new ways of processing information and new leadership skills to identify and respond to threats and opportunities. Companies that are unable to continuously develop their employees will find it difficult to react and respond to the changing external environment.

From an employee’s perspective, formal professional development provides a level of security in an uncertain economic environment where tenures are declining and career changes are common.

Unleash workforce potential

Investing in education creates an immediate impact as more employees can go beyond their current job description and add value to business initiatives. LinkedIn 2022 Workforce Learning Report notes that the top three motivations for employees to learn are all related to their career. Employees are looking for learning opportunities that help them stay up-to-date in their field, appear personalized to their interests and role-specific tasks, or help them gain promotion from within and get closer to their long-term career goals. By providing employees with the opportunity to pursue these individualized, goal-oriented learning opportunities, an organization can develop its capabilities as well as the quality of its talents.

Team collaboration and efficiency have become increasingly important mottos in the corporate world. Executive training is a means of establishing a common language and encouraging interdepartmental partnerships. Breaking down the silos often found in established companies can allow employees to think beyond the capabilities of their immediate teams and tap into other colleagues in their organization. The result is often new solutions to old problems.

Professional development can ultimately motivate employees to contribute beyond their immediate job descriptions – which is increasingly valuable in today’s fast-paced world.

Ensure success and secure successors

Beyond the immediate impact, learning and development programs also provide long-term benefits. Senior executives are aging out of the workforce and leaving a leadership void. In addition, the approach to leadership continues to evolve. A strong training program can help build a stronger group of formal leaders to aid in smoother succession planning.

When resources are already limited, promoting internal candidates can ensure a smooth transition to the next generation of leaders without the expense or lack of continuity of recruiting and onboarding new leaders. Since research and thinking about effective team management has evolved significantly over the past few years, companies that invest in developing their workforce will create an advantage by employing the latest practices.

Build better executive education

A carefully curated learning and development program that balances current business priorities, employee growth and a forward-looking perspective adds tremendous value to businesses in all industries. With so many easy-to-access learning programs available, it can be tempting to cast a wide net and offer employees plenty of options. Companies should resist this urge and instead offer tailored courses and flexible learning paths that foster actionable skill sets tailored to their context and specific employee challenges.

Programs that are broadly applicable to daily work and can be incorporated into busy schedules will be more widely adopted. The future of learning and development programs is a combination of virtual and in-person opportunities that can leverage immersive experiences as well as instant micro-learning. Leaders can amplify the impact of learning programs by incorporating post-certification follow-ups to reinforce skills transfer and make the most of newly absorbed content.

Investing in learning and development initiatives provides the foundation for employees to grow professionally while ensuring the success of their teams, leadership and organizations. In a time of change and unpredictability, a dynamic and highly skilled workforce is a real advantage, so investing in employees has never been more crucial.