High unemployment rates have dominated the news during the past two years. Many of the 8.75 million Americans who lost their jobs in the recession are still out of work, but laid-off employees are not the only ones feeling a shortage. Despite lingering unemployment, global economic growth has created a fresh war for talent, which has led to a renaissance in learning.
Bersin & Associates’ January 2011 research found that for the first time in almost three years, talent shortages are cited by more than half of business leaders surveyed. This shortfall has emerged as a top barrier to business growth as the economy improves and leaders’ attention shifts from cost cutting to globalization, innovation, skills development and rebuilding business growth.
While U.S. and Western European markets are still recovering, organizations in emerging economies in Eastern Europe, China and India are seeing revenue growth rates of 20 to 30 percent. This has forced some companies to shift people resources and talent strategies into these developing markets. Yet there still are gaps — already we have stories of companies in China, Malaysia and India as well as the U.S. competing heavily for technical professionals.
Bersin’s January 2011 research showed that 60 percent of the 134 global corporations surveyed identified the need to develop new skills in the workforce to address product and business changes as “urgent.” Many major corporations are taking action:
• Cisco Systems’ Center for Collaborative Leadership has significantly strengthened the company’s leadership pipeline, and its Action Learning Forum has generated ideas for new products and services potentially valued at $25 billion.
• Citibank is now reinvesting in its leadership development program because it sees its business starting to grow again.
• Deloitte is building a corporate university to help meet its need to stay ahead of its competition in professional services and accounting.
• Grant Thornton has developed an initiative called LEADS, which delivers leadership development programs through Grant Thornton University at nationally sponsored conferences and promotes leadership skill development at local office learning sessions.
• Teradata’s MBA (Moving Business Ahead) for New Hires is a blended development program for salespeople that begins the first day on the job and provides a roadmap for continuous learning.
Examples abound of a renewed focus on learning and skills development. Now that most companies have seen several quarters of slowly growing revenues, they are investing again in human resources and learning and development efforts.
The learning industry, which shrank by almost 22 percent during the past three years, is now starting to come back. When Bersin asked organizations to rank their top talent priorities, improving leadership skills emerged at the top. Almost every company also said it is actively involved in building programs for coaching, knowledge sharing and other forms of informal learning.
Several factors are driving this resurgence. In today’s economy, where a borderless workplace has created a global and extremely fluid market for talent, leaders should continuously remember these key points:
• Development is a powerful recruitment tool.
• Continuous learning plays an influential role in retaining top talent.
• Learning and development will be critical for any business growing outside of the U.S. that needs to train people on a global basis.
With a growing economy and emerging talent shortages, companies finally have realized they must invest in learning and development to meet their talent needs. During the recession, most firms shifted their resources toward informal learning, virtual classroom technologies and self-study programs. While these learning resources will continue to play a vital role, organizations are now reinvesting in formal learning.
This is good news for both employees and employers. It is a clear signal that companies are no longer focused solely on cost cutting and are eager to develop their leadership and organizational capabilities to win in the marketplace. More organizations are creating learning environments that include both formal and informal components to build deep levels of expertise and to better align their staff with business needs. That is how leading corporations will beat the competition in a global environment.
Josh Bersin is the principal and founder of Bersin & Associates, with more than 25 years of experience in corporate solutions, training and e-learning. He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.