Meet the Skills Gap Head-on with Social Learning

Jan 29, 2016


We hear many stories about how the world of work is changing and the pace of change is increasing. As Jobs are becoming more complex, and many employers are concerned about an increasing skills gap. We think proactive companies can leverage the pace of change to increase employee engagement.

The change in work is not new. Over a hundred years ago, the automobile changed the entire support structure of personal transportation as hostlers became service station workers and wagon makers became auto workers. That change took decades. The quantitative analysis skills we learned in the mid-90s became obsolete in under ten years. In technology, skills now become obsolete in as little as 18 months.Meet-the-Skills-Gap-Head-on-with-Social-Learning_Thumbnail.jpg

How are companies coping with the rapid pace of change? Some just keep on doing what they are doing and fall behind. Some deal with employee churn, turning out obsolete workers and hiring new ones. Others provide constant skill training as new methods evolve and deal with employee churn. Still others turn to a contingent workforce.

At the leading edge, companies hire not for skills, but the ability and desire to learn. Google led the way when it stopped using skill assessments like brain teasers, GPA, and degrees to select people and hired people based on innovation, personal sense of mission, and personal autonomy. They no longer require degrees, but hire people on the ability to imagine innovative questions and seek answers.

Today’s employees want to learn and grow. Millennials and Gen Y workers want to advance in their careers.

If you have engaged them, they will look for growth opportunities in your company. If they don’t find them, they will move on.

Social learning

Engaging learners may be simpler than we think. Jacob Morgan, in his video presentation “How to Stay Relevant in The Changing World of Work, offered tips to workers who want to stay relevant. He encouraged people to become continuous learners and follow their passions.

Employers can accelerate the learning. If you want to attract and retain good employees, you can provide the opportunity for them to act on Morgan’s suggestions.

  1. Leverage online education platforms. In our recent article on MOOCs, we showed how there are thousands of courses available at little or no cost through leading universities and online learning providers like Udemy and FutureLearn.
  2. Use social channels and create filters to stay on top of current and relevant information. Collaborative tools in our LMS, personal networking opportunities, and cross-functional teams provide the opportunity for our people to learn with and from each other. Social learning is not new, but new tools make it easier. Leverage collaborative technology to create a knowledge-sharing culture.
  3. Participate in communities that are relevant to your interests and passions. Help employees take advantage of social tools to create learning communities within your organization. We were doing that fifteen years ago using a wiki and Yahoo Instant Messenger, but the collaboration tools available today multiply the possibilities. Create private groups at LinkedIn, connect with an LMS platform, or create a SharePoint community.

We have one more tip to foster continuous learning. Take one step beyond encouragement, and create a culture where learning is expected, and then follow through by providing opportunities for people to use their new skills in new projects or roles.

You may be concerned that helping an employee to learn may cause him or her to seek a new position outside your organization. If that happens, encourage them to improve themselves and stay in touch. You may have created an ambassador or your next leader.


Bessen, James. "Employers Aren't Just Whining – the." Harvard Business Review. August 25, 2014. Accessed January 28, 2016. 

Weddle, Peter. "How the World of Work Has Changed." HigherEdJobs. August 11, 2011. Accessed January 28, 2016. 

Morgan, Jacob. "How to Stay Relevant in The Changing World of Work." Forbes. May 29, 2015. Accessed January 28, 2016. 

Pixentia is a full-service technology company dedicated to helping clients solve business problems, improve the capability of their people, and achieve better results.

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