The No. 1 Reason Corporate Learning Is Failing to Bridge The Skills Gap (and What To Do Instead)Written by Madisyn Villamil
Building a solid corporate learning strategy has never been more critical. The corporate learning and development (L&D) industry is expected to reach $487 billion by 2030 as organizations attempt to close the growing skills gap.
Companies struggle to find effective corporate learning practices to keep up with rapid changes in the economic landscape, technology, and remote work. But what makes these L&D programs ineffective?
Keep reading to discover why corporate learning is failing to bridge the skills gap and how you can create effective corporate learning initiatives to build a skilled, agile, and engaged workforce.
What is Corporate Learning
Corporate learning (CL) is an organization’s systematic approach to attain, apply, and share knowledge to solve problems, explore new opportunities, and improve efficiency.
Contrary to popular belief, corporate learning is not the same as corporate training. CL isn’t just the L&D department and its traditional skills-training initiatives. It pertains to organization-wide learning culture and how knowledge is used to create a competitive advantage.
CL involves context, on-the-job experience, and mentoring—sometimes referred to as growth in the flow of work. Some of the various components of CL are:
- Employee onboarding
- Upskilling and reskilling
- Leadership development
- Knowledge sharing
- Product knowledge training
- Compliance training
- General employee development
Why Corporate Learning is Failing to Bridge the Skills Gap
The number one reason corporate learning fails to bridge the skills gap is that it’s too focused on skill-building alone when it should focus on growth. A growth-oriented CL strategy needs context and relevance through on-the-job learning experiences, mentoring, and personalization.
There’s no point in building your employees’ skills if they can’t apply them on the job and they don’t lead to career growth. 70% of knowledge is acquired through on-the-job experiences, which is why people grow through new assignments or projects, not skill-building alone.
Many CL programs build granular skills, but employees can’t hone and apply them without context and experience. Things like taking on new responsibilities, working on challenging assignments, and mentorship are crucial to closing the skills gap.
Why Do Companies Need CL?
Companies that invest heavily in corporate learning have a competitive advantage. We’ve all heard the expression, “knowledge is power.” In today’s rapidly evolving corporate landscape, we see top-performing companies make corporate learning a priority.
City National Bank, for example, has invested in 11 employee resource groups, one of which is its Women’s Network. The network offers informal mentorship opportunities and creates a safe space for female colleagues to share knowledge—earning them a spot on Forbes’ list of “Best Employers for Women”.
Why are top companies investing so much in CL initiatives like knowledge sharing and reskilling rather than traditional training? CL brings the following benefits:
A lack of engagement has created an epidemic of quiet quitting—doing the minimum requirements of one’s job and putting in no effort to stay emotionally engaged and improve performance.
People inherently love to learn and experiment. Companies that invest in employee development are more likely to keep employees engaged and happy at work. Corporate learning initiatives bring out the best in your employees and keep them motivated to improve.
“Walkouts do happen pretty much every day in the workplace. They’re just not normally done with our feet. Instead, they’re ‘checkouts’—they’re invisible walkouts that happen with our hearts, with our hands, and with our voices.”—Chris White, University of Michigan Center for Positive Organizations
Corporate learning combats emotional checkouts and quiet quitting by investing in each employee’s development and sense of purpose.
An organization’s ability to adapt to technological changes, the economy, and competitors is crucial to business sustainability. CL increases adaptability by encouraging employees to use their skills to find unique solutions. Skills training is essential, but if employees don’t know how to use their new skills to problem-solve, or aren’t encouraged to, it’s ineffective.
CL initiatives like reskilling also improve internal mobility. Amazon, faced with an increasing need for technical employees, reskilled its non-technical employees. They cut down on hiring and onboarding costs and demonstrated their desire to retain loyal employees, even if it meant transitioning them to a new role.
54% of L&D professionals say internal mobility has become a higher priority at their organization over the last few years. Adaptability is a competitive advantage for those investing in CL.
Engaged teams who can adapt to change and solve problems quickly will ultimately perform better. CL helps organizations be more productive and efficient, directly affecting their bottom line.
Skill-building alone leaves a gap between knowledge acquisition and application. By focusing on hands-on experiences and growth in the flow of work, CL creates a pool of organizational knowledge that supports daily employee performance.
Culture & Retention
It’s the era of employee empowerment, and people are not only looking for a higher salary. They’re looking for better treatment and opportunities for development.
Companies must invest in CL to build a culture that attracts and retains top talent. Employees who feel cared about at work are 3.2x more likely to report being happy to work for their current company and 3.7x more likely to recommend working for their company. Investing in CL shows your commitment to employee development and building a knowledge-sharing culture.
Tips for Building an Effective Corporate Learning Strategy
Foster Top-Down Support
Exaggerated hierarchies discourage learning because they don’t allow everyone to come forward with new ideas. First and foremost, you should assess your company culture to determine if your management systems are too rigid. Top-level managers should positively receive and advance the ideas of mid-level and entry-level employees.
New employees come into your organization with a fresh perspective, and if management discourages new ideas, they may just take their ideas elsewhere. A positive learning culture encourages participation and experimentation with new ideas.
Ensure your top-level employees create a safe space to bring new ideas to the table and support them.
Keep Corporate Learning Relevant
Before implementing CL initiatives, you need to understand how skills gaps are experienced in your company. Relevant learning opportunities that address these experiences will impact your business, whereas general skills training with no context will miss the mark.
L&D programs should align with overall business goals and strategy. One way to align your learning initiatives with business goals is to link L&D programs to business KPIs. When designing a learning experience, ensure every step links back to achieving these organizational goals.
Another way to create more relevant CL initiatives is to ask your employees what they want. You can send out a survey asking what skills they’d like to hone, what barriers they encounter to applying new skills, and why they struggle to reach certain KPIs. This feedback gives you the necessary knowledge to create more personalized, relevant learning experiences.
Focus on Growth
Though skills are essential for success, we can’t use them without context, experience, and mentoring. This comes through growth-focused experiences, such as getting advice from a senior employee, taking on a different role, or implementing new ideas. After all, what good are skills if we don’t use them?
For this reason, you should encourage cross-functional projects and foster a learning culture that supports knowledge-sharing and job mobility. If you can put learning initiatives into the context of employee growth, you’ll move the needle in the right direction.
One tip for growth-focused learning is to train and apply T-shaped skills. A T-shaped employee has deep knowledge and skill in one area and a broad range of supporting experience and skills, such as soft skills, skills in another discipline, and business acumen knowledge.
T-shaped skills make employees better at problem-solving, adapting to change, and taking on cross-functional assignments. Of course, having experts in every discipline at your organization is vital. However, a team of well-rounded individuals creates a more flexible and collaborative environment, leading to better business sustainability.
Scenario-based learning (SBL) provides the context and experience that skills training alone is missing. It puts the learner in the driver’s seat and requires them to think critically and problem-solve.
VR simulations are a great way to provide SBL experiences by placing employees in an immersive, life-like scenario and allowing them to experiment with different outcomes. For example, you can create a VR simulation for employees to practice high-stakes conversations with clients, allowing them to test their skills and understand how to apply them in real life.
As part of our Enterprise Solutions, Edstutia helps L&D teams create impactful SBL experiences with VR. With a learn-by-doing approach, VR-based learning improves retention and engagement by 80%.
Adopt a Blended Learning Approach
Adopting a mix of learning experiences, such as traditional instruction, hands-on learning, projects, simulations, and mentorship programs, drives employee growth. We all learn differently, and a blended learning approach caters to individual needs while reinforcing engagement and retention.
Some of us are visual learners, while others are hands-on. Many people find group learning effective, while others prefer to learn alone at their own pace. Utilizing a blended learning approach reduces knowledge gaps by providing all learning methods.
A mix of learning experiences also shows employees how to apply their new skills on the job.
For example, let’s say your employees complete a training module on presentation skills. They learned some great tips but lack the experience to apply them on the job. You can assign them a presentation, have them practice in a VR simulation, and match them with senior-level employees to provide feedback on their final presentation.
Ask for Feedback on Corporate Learning
Last but not least, ask your employees for feedback. After a training program, for example, you can ask the following questions that address growth and relevance:
- Was the training material relevant to your job?
- What did you learn from this training that you will apply to your job?
- Was the training personalized enough to help you solve problems specific to your role?
- Do you feel confident in applying what you learned to your job?
- Do you feel the training program has helped you grow professionally?
- Do you have any suggestions for improvement?
These questions will help you understand how valuable and effective your training program is in closing the skills gaps at your organization. Negative feedback will provide insight into how you can improve your company’s corporate learning strategy.
Organizations must create an effective corporate learning strategy to stay agile and improve employee experience. Skill-building alone fails to bridge the growing skills gap and prepare organizations and their employees for the future of work. By prioritizing growth and relevance, L&D teams can effectively align corporate learning with the unique needs of their organization.
Edstutia helps L&D professionals design relevant, scenario-based learning experiences with immersive technology. Your employees can tackle collaborative problem-solving exercises in VR and build soft skills with simulations.
Learn about our Enterprise Solutions and how Edstutia can help your L&D team design a relevant, growth-oriented corporate learning program with VR.