While three-quarters of workers believe effective skills development is essential to sustainable enterprise success less than half of surveyed for a global study believe their employers hitting the mark.  Most say companies are under-investing in skills and only a third are happy with those investments, according to the just-released Deloitte and MIT Sloan Management Review (MIT SMR) 2020 Future of the Workforce report, “Opportunity Marketplaces: Aligning Workforce Investment and Value Creation in the Digital Enterprise.”

Jeff Schwartz, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, U.S. future of work leader and co-author of the report said, “Now more than ever, it is crucial for leaders to view their workforce in a holistic manner and provide opportunities that facilitate workers  taking on new projects, roles, and experiences that enable the development of the skills and capabilities that will benefit both themselves and their organizations.”

And simply offering training is not enough, the skill development needs to align to employee interests.

According to the authors, “The corrective, our research shows, goes beyond a greater emphasis on workforce restructuring, retraining, reskilling, and “rightsizing” efforts. For many workers, more skills — and even better experiences — without more opportunity is insufficient. If workers don’t value the opportunities they’re offered — if those opportunities don’t speak to their passion, potential, and purpose, for example — they can and will likely leave. The willingness of many newly developed, higher-skilled talent to walk out the door can intensify the workforce challenge facing many leaders. To escape this trap, leaders should move past mindsets that prioritize controlling costs over empowering people.”

The report argues that one of the most significant research takeaways for top management is that opportunity marketplaces both demand and elicit agency — the perceived ability to influence one’s future.

This, the authors say fundamentally flips a perennial top talent and workforce management question. “Where executives once asked, how can we make better and smarter investments in people?’ opportunity marketplaces prompt executives to ask, ‘How can we support people in making better, smarter investments in themselves?’ ”

At a time when the workplace and traditional structures are being redefined and reimagined, the report’s findings reinforce that leaders should rethink how they value and invest in their workforces. Targeted investment in opportunities is fast becoming the central organizing principle for growing workers’ value in more organizations. Leading organizations worldwide increasingly use digital platforms and analytics to create internal markets for opportunity.

Dissatisfaction With Professional Development Investments

These systems and/or platforms provide opportunities that can enable workers to contribute meaningfully to the value of their organizations while developing skills and capabilities for themselves.

This global survey included insights from nearly 3,900 business executives, managers, and analysts, across 29 industries, plus 18 executive interviews. It is the first in a series of reports that examine how the relationship between organizations and the workforce can align to create value in the digital enterprise by leveraging “opportunity marketplaces.” An effective opportunity marketplace offers workers a range of options for professional development, new roles, and project participation, which can yield higher retention levels and create a happier and more empowered workforce.

“This survey began before the COVID-19 crisis hit,” said Michael Schrage, MIT SMR guest editor and coauthor of the report. “We’re astonished and intrigued by how the essential value proposition of opportunity marketplaces becomes even more important in a post-pandemic world. Organizations may not be able to give substantial raises or bonuses in this environment, but they can — and should — provision better and more meaningful opportunities for their workers.”

Worker satisfaction with skills investment also is reflected in how they view the organization’s overall performance: 86 per cent of those satisfied with investment levels say their organization is high performing and competitive, compared to just 53% of those who are not satisfied. Leading enterprises take deliberate steps to invest in and transform their workforces in ways that are mutually beneficial. Deloitte and MIT SMR found that organizations whose workers are satisfied with their perceived investment focus on not only retraining and upskilling for the future of work, but also on providing opportunities for professional development and achievement.

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