Organizational Agility Starts with Learning and Career Growth
By Linda Jingfang Cai
In today’s talent market, uncertainty reigns. Some sectors have seen massive reductions while others have more open roles than they do candidates. Across the board, there’s a rapid evolution of skills, with the pandemic accelerating digital transformation and with the rise of remote work fundamentally changing how we collaborate. Developing workforces that can adapt to continuous change is top of mind for CEOs.
Leaders recognize that success requires organizational agility, and learning is the fuel to make that happen. In fact, 89% of organizations agree that proactively building skills will help them navigate the future of work, as recent LinkedIn data shows.
Accelerate Skill Building
However, large-scale upskilling and reskilling initiatives are progressing at the speed of molasses. Our 2023 Workplace Learning Report shows 40% of companies are still in the early stages, selling their program to stakeholders and forming their teams; 54% are at the mid-stage, developing and activating programs; and only 2% say they’ve completed a program. Four percent haven’t started at all.
This is not meant to discourage anyone. Unprecedented employee resignations in the past two years taught all companies a valuable lesson: only those organizations that understand and prioritize what their people want will thrive. Companies that overlook the importance of employee growth risk having a workforce that is anxious, fearful, and resistant to change.
But there’s a path to unlock faster learning and create the culture that sparks ongoing transformation and innovation. To accelerate skill building, organizations need career-focused learning at the individual level.
This approach harnesses powerful motivation: each employee’s desire for professional growth. The Workplace Learning Report shows “progress towards career goals” is the No. 1 reason employees want to learn.
Three Shifts to Spark Agility
Pandemic tumult opened everyone’s eyes to the reality of constant change. Employees themselves see the need to expand their skills to grow or simply remain relevant. Companies can empower this growth with lighter-weight cultural changes that open new paths for more people. Here’s what we’re trying at LinkedIn:
- Celebrate career transformations. That goes beyond getting promoted—it can include learning a skill or taking on a project. Organizations need to provide the time and space for employees to invest in personal and professional development, such as through mentorship programs and an internal career roadmapping tool. LinkedIn promotes an annual Super Learner Campaign that celebrates those who prioritize learning and growth.
- Cultivate collaboration on employee development. In talent reviews, executives should lean in as functional leaders to spotlight their people, get feedback from peers, and team up to create development plans, including networking, shadowing, and rotations.
- Replace haphazard career guidance with equitable, thoughtful resources. It can be daunting to talk about your career aspirations with your manager. LinkedIn has developed resources for its managers and employees to have high-quality career-planning conversations, and for each of its employees to understand the expectations for their role and how they can move forward in their career.
The work is a long-term journey, but we’re already getting good feedback from employees, and more than 80% of LinkedIn employees have a clear career goal for the next two years, according to our engagement survey.
The C-Suite Craves Solutions
These shifts require planning and action from company leadership. And the work is just beginning. Only 16% of surveyed employees say their organization helped them build a career development plan, and only 15% say their organization has encouraged them to move into a new role.
The good news? The C-suite is paying attention. Executives’ top workforce priority is “keeping employees motivated and engaged,” according to a LinkedIn-commissioned YouGov survey of C-level executives. Their second priority is “giving employees opportunities to move into different roles within the business.”
Internal mobility is a hallmark of agility and critical for retention. An employee who has made an internal move by their two-year mark has a 75% likelihood of staying with the company. For learning and development (L&D) leaders, mobility and retention represent opportunities to align programs directly to business goals—L&D leaders’ top focus area for 2023, according to our Workplace Learning Report.
Build Agility with Holistic HR
But building an adaptable and resilient workforce is a bigger challenge than any single department can handle. To make it happen, every team within your HR organization needs to be cross-functional.
Fortunately, this shift is underway, and L&D is at the forefront: 77% of L&D pros became more cross-functional in the past year. In particular, they’ve deepened relationships with colleagues in talent management; employee engagement; and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as well as a range of department heads.
Leaders should work together to overcome any cultural stigma around “poaching.” It should be easier for employees to discover internal job opportunities. That signals an employee-focused, future-forward culture—one where people want to stay and build their own agile careers.
Let Learning Lead
So many obstacles can impede large-scale initiatives. But a culture of continuous career-driven learning empowers individuals to make enormous strides. The immediate benefit is an organization that can respond quickly to challenges and opportunities. And the ultimate value is lasting business success—whatever the future may hold.
Explore the 2023 Workplace Learning Report to learn more about how to meet this moment with agility, including insights and actions to help L&D lead the way.
Linda Jingfang Cai is VP of talent development at LinkedIn.