DEI In The Workplace: 10 Ways L&D Managers Can Turn Insights Into Action

Article10 min read

September 4, 2023

The most critical social imperative for any business today is diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Just ask any recruiter: 49% of those recently surveyed said that jobs seekers do inquire about DEI initiatives. What is more, 44% of all surveyed recruiters reported that some of the candidates they had been in contact with had either turned down an interview offer or a job offer — all of this because of a lack of diversity within the organization.1

The key to enhancing DEI starts with improved hiring initiatives — it does, however, go beyond that, too. To embed DEI into your company’s culture, you need to weave DEI into the very organizational fabric of your business. Meaning, you need to get everyone on board, from new hires to the C-suite executives; staff at all levels must be able to recognize the importance of the DEI initiatives and to understand what strategies and initiatives are being developed.

This is where learning and development (L&D) comes in — from offering more obvious interventions, like running DEI training programs, to putting in place less apparent actions, such as considering a range of voices, ideas, and needs when designing training programs. L&D plays a key role in starting and maintaining a culture that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion.

DEI in the workplace

Before discussing how your organization can promote DEI, and so that your company can go beyond treating these concepts simply as boxes to be ticked, let’s first define each one of them.


Look around your workspace, be it a shared office space or a virtual one: Does every single one of your colleagues come from the same ethnic background? Do you all share the same gender identity? Do you all eat the same meal for lunch? Most probably not. And that’s a good thing, because the more different your life experiences, even the smallest ones, the more effective your team may be at collaborating and coming up with innovative ideas. And, perhaps even more importantly, the more understanding your business will be of the diverse realities and needs of your customers and clients.

Diversity as a concept is based on the understanding that each individual, because of how different they are from all other individuals, is uniquely valuable and has the means, and the required background, to bring a fresh and different perspective to the table. Diversity can be one of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation, as well as socioeconomic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, and other ideologies.2

Promoting diversity within the workplace is more than just tolerating each other’s differences — it requires us to challenge each other and to view everyone’s individual differences as enriching. It also offers everyone the chance to explore these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing way.


It’s tempting to think that in order to be fair, we should offer everyone exactly the same opportunities in terms of hiring, training, and promotions. But is it really equitable to offer the exact same opportunities for development, for example, to an employee from a privileged background — educational, social, financial — and who may have had an easier start in life, than to someone from a historically disadvantaged and underrepresented one, who may, for instance, have struggled to pay for their studies, or who may not have had the same support system growing up?

While equity is often referred to when discussing pay, it goes beyond compensation. It’s about ensuring fair treatment of all by providing each employee with proportional access to opportunities.3

Rather than asking leaders to treat everyone the same, organizations that promote equity and an equitable workplace should encourage and expect leaders to identify everyone’s specific professional needs and take these into account when making decisions.4


It’s one thing to have a diverse workforce, and another to give everyone a voice at the table and offer them a safe and accessible space to contribute ideas and raise concerns. And so, inclusion, in a way, is diversity in action.

When successfully applied, a culture of inclusion removes all barriers, discrimination, and intolerance, and promotes an environment in which everyone is made to feel included, heard, and supported.5 In the workplace, inclusion is often the result of efforts that encourage and respect the participation and contribution of all employees. Within an inclusive work environment, we don’t pretend that everyone is the same — rather, we celebrate our differences and allow them to enrich our work by giving everyone the opportunity to voice their ideas.6

10 ways L&D managers can boost DEI

It is one thing to understand what DEI is and to grasp its importance; it’s another to actually put those insights into action, because it means having to turn DEI into a business function.

Below is a list of 10 actions L&D professionals and their teams can take to help their organization make that transition.

  1. Emphasize the business case for diversity and inclusion
    When workplace teams reflect the social makeup of their target customers, they’re more than twice as likely to innovate effectively for their consumers.7 For this very reason, L&D managers must first and foremost emphasize this very business case to leadership, and later collaborate with other departments to develop cohesive plans that link DEI with metrics that matter to business outcomes. Once everyone is on board with these plans, L&D will then help set up appropriate initiatives and programs to follow through.8
  2. Work with a chief diversity officer
    In recent years, many organizations have hired chief diversity officers (CDOs) — in other words, DEI specialists — to oversee DEI initiatives, and to support L&D teams in their efforts. Alternatively, CDOs are also well equipped in helping L&D managers ensure that their DEI goals, strategies, and practical interventions are aligned.Alternatively, some organizations prefer to hire DEI consultants instead. DEI consultants can assist L&D teams in identifying DEI issues at a micro and macro level, and help create training content that addresses these.9
  3. Ensure support across the organization
    To create a sustainable DEI culture, everyone within an organization must be on board. The process starts with the leadership team, who will need to model goals and outcomes — and align them with business goals — and demonstrate active support for them.10The L&D team can then align their training goals to those of the leadership team’s. This will allow L&D to identify learning gaps in DEI for both the leadership team and the company employees.
  4. Provide inclusive leadership and bias training
    Bias occurs in the workplace either consciously or subconsciously through choices or assumptions made when hiring staff, delegating tasks, or comparing employees in other ways.11 In order to embed DEI across the organization, executives need adequate DEI training to better understand what inclusive and unbiased leadership looks like. At the same time, HR leaders and their teams should also undergo training so that they too can become aware of any potential bias when working with job applicants and employees, at both onboarding and reviewing stages.12
  5. Conduct DEI training across the company
    Once the L&D team has aligned their DEI needs and goals with the company goals and the CDO or DEI consultant, they’re finally ready to conduct focused and relevant training programs that work toward achieving their unique DEI goals.For DEI training to be most effective, it shouldn’t be sporadic or responsive — rather, it should be proactive and embedded in all learning content and experiences, even when not specifically discussing DEI topics.13Bear in mind that learning about diversity, while sitting with a group of homogeneous colleagues, is understandably less effective than interacting with people from diverse backgrounds. For this reason, it’s important to create diverse training groups across the board, promoting inclusivity regardless of the learning topic.14
  6. Rethink your learning formats and make learning accessible
    It’s not just the content of your training programs that fosters inclusion; format has a role to play here, too. Traditional in-person or virtual classroom settings can be very useful, but make sure to consider also whether peer exchanges, roundtables, collaboration hubs, or fireside chats might suit the subject matter better and create more effective learning opportunities.15Moreover, bear in mind the specific circumstances of your employees and how training formats, and the environment in which they take place, can ensure that all individuals and their accessibility needs are included. It means ensuring that venues are accessible to all, but also, and not exclusively, offering the flexibility of online training to remote or hybrid staff.
  7. Diversify your candidate training pool
    Diverse training groups require a diverse workforce, which first and foremost starts with having access to a diverse pool of hiring candidates. In other words, your organization will need to improve their hiring initiatives, and to do so they will need to take steps to remove unconscious bias when hiring new employees and nurturing existing ones.16It may be that candidates in your industry tend to be from one particular group. If that’s the case, your best option could be to set up a train-to-hire program. Such programs have proved to be very useful in imparting vital, job-ready skills to people from different fields and backgrounds, and in helping organizations attract and hire a more diverse workforce. Note that an effective train-to-hire program considers candidates’ experience, learning preferences, mentorship, and the need for constant improvement moving forward.17
  8. Use tech to remove unconscious bias from the hiring process
    Business leaders are increasingly using new technologies to create safe, open, and inclusive workspaces. For example, artificial intelligence (AI) could help your organization to eliminate bias during the hiring process by removing subjective judgment from the initial application-review process. For example, an AI program could be asked to extract from application documents job-relevant data only, thus avoiding human bias based on background or gender identity.18
  9. Train and collaborate with mentors
    All professionals can benefit from a mentorship program. This is especially true of those individuals who come from historically underrepresented and underserved communities, and who may not have had the same social and professional support their colleagues may have received. Mentors must, therefore, give more than advice; they should also advocate for their mentees’ advocacy from the mentor.19 Similarly, L&D’s work can go beyond merely matching mentors to staff, and instead can also consist of providing guidance to both the employee and the mentor around accountability and growth.
  10. Track impact and report results
    Progress in DEI will bring positive impact and necessary transformation to organizations, but constant advocacy and accountability will be vital to the initiatives maintaining momentum. L&D managers can boost support and investment for these initiatives by drawing up KPIs, monitoring progress, and reporting on the positive results to leaders – making sure that DEI is more than a box-ticking exercise.

Ready to start your organization on the DEI journey?

Learn how edX For Business can help you turn DEI dialogue into action through innovative L&D solutions.

Accelerate the workforce of the future, with edX

Whether you’re a business leader, L&D executive, or other professional, we offer compelling data and insights for why an outcomes-based skills program is key to succeeding in tomorrow’s workplace.

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7 Ways to Achieve Enterprise Agility Through Training and Development

Article9 min read

November 9, 2022

In an age of business disruption, the only thing we can be sure of is that things are going to change. Whether dealing with the realities of a pandemic, or shifting expectations around remote and hybrid work, or of emerging demands of sustainability and transparent operations,1 organizations must equip themselves to adapt to disruption in business changes by cultivating enterprise agility.

What is enterprise agility?

Up to 90% of CEOs believe their company is facing disruptive change, and 70% say their organization does not have the skills to adapt.2 Meaning, only 30% of organizations qualify as agile and are able to quickly adapt their processes, structures, technology use, and team makeup in response to change.3

Business agility calls for systems and approaches that enable workers to adapt swiftly, make ongoing improvements, and prioritize responsiveness and efficiency over robust planning and documentation.4

So, how do you help your organization grow business agility? Learning and development (L&D) managers can help organizations make this shift by building solutions to fill emerging skills gaps, bolster key competencies, and create an environment that empowers, encourages collaboration, and inspires teams to keep on improving.

7 ways L&D leaders can contribute to enterprise agility

1. Empower employees to learn in the flow of work

In order to iterate and improve quickly, teams need to expand their skill sets and keep their knowledge up-to-date. In fact, nearly 60% of the workforce needs new skills to better perform in their roles.5 And yet, as they go about their busy work day filled with competing priorities, most people who could benefit from upskilling simply don’t have the time they need to commit to it. This is where learning in the flow of work becomes a powerful tool.

When teams and individuals learn in the flow of work, they’re seeking out answers, skills, and insights at the point of need.6 That means that when an organization opts to shift away from JavaScript, their developers might enroll in an online course to upskill in Python. Because they’re filling a tangible and urgent need, they also take ownership of their learning and integrate it into their daily work the moment they acquire it.

Learning can be approached individually, within teams, or on a project-by-project basis.7 By creating an environment where teams, for instance, can learn and change their approach on a day-to-day basis, businesses equip themselves for the disruptive changes of tomorrow. But learning in the flow of work goes beyond enabling learning — it’s about creating a culture of learning where employees are actively looking out for opportunities to learn and improve.

2. Invest in self-paced, self-directed learning

To facilitate this kind of need-based learning, leaders should ensure that employees have access to self-paced and self-directed learning opportunities. This empowers employees to take a more active role in their professional development: be it through self-directed learning exercises or initiatives driven by L&D managers.

This type of learning environment is what differentiates agile organizations from others; in an agile work environment, employees take direction amid ambiguity, and take charge of what and when to acquire new skills.8 That means a Google update won’t grind SEO team operations to a halt. The team will have the resources and support they need to seek out up-to-date knowledge, and get started on tweaking their strategy in real time.

As the number of agile work environments has grown in recent years, so has the number offerings that support self-paced and self-directed learning at the point of need. Amongst these are online learning subscriptions that enable employees to address any skill gaps, and take the next skill in their career development pathway themselves.

This translates into new opportunities to embed learning into everyday work activities, such as microlearning exercises that are easily integrated into a busy schedule.9

3. Empower managers

Navigating change isn’t easy. Agile organizations already know that, have accepted it, and have equipped themselves with the required tools and culture to function amidst the change. To set its teams up for success, an agile organization invests first and foremost in training its managers, who can then provide support for their teams to adapt a growth mindset at work — believing they have the capacity to improve, adapt, and gain new skills — and learn to implement agile practices, like working quickly and iteratively instead of striving for perfection.10

Aside from helping to bolster a commitment to learning at all levels, management buy-in and participation also helps L&D managers to provide training that’s more relevant and connected to the daily needs of every specific team. Team managers, after all, know the realities their teams face and their very needs, and can easily communicate those to L&D managers.

Moreover, research reveals that 85% of employees are already aware of the skill gaps they need to address.11 What they need now — to feel empowered to adapt their learning journey based on these insights, and pivot swiftly and effectively in their day-to-day work — is their direct managers’ support.12

4. Encourage collaboration across teams

When leaders encourage collaborative environments, they open up myriad possibilities for growth and development.

Think about your colleagues. What individual skills and interests do they have? How do they approach problems? Chances are, there’s a diversity of perspectives and approaches in that group. That means they’ll each bring different competencies and perspectives to the table. When they are excited to voice their ideas, share their expertise, and divide and conquer on project needs, teams are primed to innovate and improve.

Setting the standard for a culture of collaboration and creativity, Google has cultivated work environments that bring great minds together. Between temporary pop-up office spaces for team collaboration, a volunteer teaching network called Googlers-to-Googlers, g2g, (where staff dedicate time to help each other learn and grow), and town hall ‘TGIF’ meetings that have become a standard of transparency and open communication for the rest of Silicon Valley, Google exemplifies the innovation that collaborative environments make possible.13

Instead of siloed working that reduces communication, and erodes trust and autonomy, teams in agile organizations are free to throw their collective knowledge at a challenge and find new and innovative approaches.14 And when individuals engage in upskilling, they can share training insights and lessons learned with the group, saving time and effort for all.

5. Focus on soft skills development at all levels

A staggering 50% of leaders are said to fail in achieving what they were hired to do. So says Warner Burke, professor of psychology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Burke, who is an expert in leadership and organizational change, argues that this failure is due to a lack of learning agility.15

Learning agility is an individual’s ability to learn new things, adapt their understanding, and relearn knowledge if necessary. It requires an openness to new knowledge and skills, and involves a number of soft skills that equip individuals to make their way through ambiguous circumstances. Soft skills — interpersonal skills like communication, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, giving and receiving feedback, problem-solving, and decision-making — can be learned just like any other skill. L&D leaders should invest in soft skill training for team members at all levels to support and grow enterprise agility.

But learning agility isn’t limited to individuals alone — it can also be part of an organization’s identity. Just as in the case of individuals who show learning agility, organizations who share this trait show flexibility — the ability to move on from old methods or thinking when they aren’t working — and speed — how quickly they can make a new plan of action when new information surfaces.16 That means, when a digital marketing campaign fails to meet its targets, agile marketers will investigate what went wrong and move on to new tools or new approaches to existing tools, instead of throwing time and money at a strategy that’s just not working.

By first focusing on developing soft skills at all levels of an organization, L&D leaders can equip teams to work decisively and confidently in the face of uncertainty.17

6. Create metrics to track the success of L&D agility initiatives

L&D is an iterative process that evolves alongside business demands; it’s therefore important to track its progress and measure these against key business metrics. Since speed and efficiency are part and parcel of enterprise agility, it’s also very useful to include time as a key metric to measure success.18

For example, you could track the time it takes to develop and deploy a new training intervention. Alternatively, you could also measure how quickly employees are able to gain and implement targeted skills. With insights such as these, L&D managers can get closer to training that meets business needs as efficiently and effectively as possible.

7. Foster a culture of lifelong learning

As much as 50% of the global workforce will need to upskill or reskill by 2025.19 That means continued education is no longer optional; it’s key to continued employability. It’s this same state of affairs that lends credence to agile methodologies, which prepare organizations to meet global transformation head-on.

Agility and a culture of learning go hand in hand. Organizations that embrace a culture of learning create agile learners who move quickly, and embrace innovation and change. As a result, these organizations are 30% more likely to be trailblazers in their industry.20

For an organization to truly embed learning within its culture, it needs to promote and support learning at all levels, from entry level to middle management, and all the way to the C-suite. Aside from providing access to relevant learning materials to all, this also means setting time aside for development, for celebrating new ideas, and for emphasizing individual links to organizational goals.21

An agile working environment calls for empowered employees who can pivot, unlearn, and seek out new solutions. A culture of learning offers employees opportunities to upskill and grow their careers, and to place value on seeking out new insights and solutions; it also provides employees with intrinsic motivation.22

To find out more about creating a culture of lifelong learning, read our blog, How a Learning Culture Primes Your Organization for Agility.

To discover more about the power of enterprise agility, get in touch to discuss edX For Business online learning opportunities.

Accelerate the workforce of the future, with edX

Whether you’re a business leader, L&D executive, or other professional, we offer compelling data and insights for why an outcomes-based skills program is key to succeeding in tomorrow’s workplace.

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7 Steps To Creating A Professional Skills Development Plan

Article8 min read

September 1, 2022

Despite efforts by organizations to address widening skills gaps, just 51% of employees surveyed consider training from employers to be useful.1 This may in great part be due to a disconnect between the learning opportunities available to employees, and the training they need to both excel in their roles and grow in their careers.

Given that 96% of employees are nevertheless interested in cultivating new skills2, there’s an opportunity for learning and development (L&D) managers to leverage this interest, while simultaneously advancing company goals.

To do this, they need to create skills development pathways focused on building critical competencies that match organizational objectives and the goals of individual employees.3 This in turn will address existing skills gaps, and lay the groundwork for employees, and organizations, to survive the shifting world of work.

Step 1: Conduct a training needs analysis

An effective skills development plan must begin with a training needs analysis (TNA). TNAs help organizations address the gap between where a team may be, and where it needs to be. It’s a proactive, cost-effective tool that helps L&D managers to outline training and development needs, address potential issues, and ensure that training is, in fact, the best way to address business problems.4

Training-needs analysis levels

L&D managers need to work through three levels of analysis, starting with individual analysis, and ending with the analysis of competencies needed to perform specific tasks.

Individual analysis

The individual analysis should outline the skills present within a team and identify any barriers to success their absence may cause.5 To identify the training needs of each employee, L&D managers should:

  1. Analyze performance reviews, appraisals and other available data to gauge opportunities for individual development.
  2. Engage with employees one-on-one, in focus groups, or through surveys to take stock of their daily challenges.
  3. Connect with team leaders and managers on where they think skills are lacking.
  4. Identify workers who are at risk of redundancy due to automation or skills gaps, and note transferable skills that can be redeployed as part of individual employee development plans.6

Company analysis

Once you’ve assessed needs on an individual level, it’s time to plot out business goals so you can identify any overlaps, and prioritize areas for intervention.7

Look out for issues present on an organizational level that can be addressed through training, i.e. issues caused by a lack of certain skills and competencies. Consider how technology, legislation, or even business growth might shift needs.

During this step, identify the kinds of support that management can offer employee development and gauge whether additional resources are needed to meet the company goals.

Operational tasks analysis

Finally, drill down into the details of each task and role. This will involve a deep dive into employee job descriptions.8 Map this information against what you already know about the skills that exist within any given team. At the end of the TNA process, you should have identified any potential or upcoming skills gaps.

Step 2: Identify skill development focus areas and goals

With these insights, you have the beginnings of a learning roadmap. Your next task is to consider short- and long-term training needs so you can identify priority areas, and build critical skills pathways.

You can use the Skills Hierarchy to help you identify what skills are most needed.9 This framework helps to differentiate between assumed, foundational skills like digital literacy, and transferable, human-centered skills like leadership that prepare individuals for a shifting work landscape.10

As you prepare to craft learning pathways, focus on prioritizing these human-centred skills, as well as other competencies that are resistant to change, such as analysis, critical thinking, and problem-solving.

At the end of this process, you should be clear on both present and future training needs, and have L&D goals that will meet them.

Step 3: Identify learning solutions and tech to support L&D goals

Once you know what you’d like to achieve, you need a clear plan to get it done. Your professional development plan must factor in the expectations of your employees, too, and what’s needed to help them learn effectively.11

Source or create a learning pathway that acknowledges the interests, skills, and learning styles of your staff, and is designed to support them in their development.12 Gauge if existing training resources can be used or repurposed, or if new instructional materials need to be created. Depending on what you have available to you, this could result in a custom course made up of rich educational media like video, animation, and interactive content. Alternatively, it could be a curated learning journey that pulls from industry leaders and existing free resources.

You’ll need furthermore to consider the broader goals of your training, and how it will be broken down into individual modules and lessons.13 To get the best results, include a mix of materials and sources to bring in diverse perspectives and to cater to different learning styles. For top learning outcomes, you can look into models like the 2U Learning Experience Framework for guidance.

Targeted approaches, with hand picked, curated learning experiences have proven more impactful than one-size-fits-all learning solutions. For example, to cater to staff who need leadership development, you could explore learning that’s focused on making an individual and team impact, as well as strategy. Other staff members might need to cultivate technical skills, which would call for more intensive learning solutions that have longer study times and are highly practical.

Finally, consider what kind of technology you’ll use to deploy your learning solution, be it a company learning management system (LMS) or learning experience platform (LXP), as well as any additional learning tools or integrations. The right technology will enhance your learning material, provide a smooth user experience, and ensure your learning solution is delivered effectively.

Step 4: Gain stakeholder support

Without stakeholder backing, even the most comprehensive learning pathway can fall flat. With leadership buy-in — from middle management all the way to the C-suite — you’ll not only create a culture of learning, but also ensure there is shared purpose in the learning experience.

For learning to be supported at all levels, L&D managers must be able to outline the short- and long-term strategic benefits of training interventions. Just on the global level, for instance, the World Economic Forum anticipates a boost of up to $6.5 trillion to the global GDP if we innovate and address emerging skills gaps.14 To secure leadership buy-in from your organization, however, communicate the impact of the learning and of its alignment with business goals such as revenue or staff retention.15 This will help you secure a budget for learning, and time allowances for individuals participating in learning initiatives.

Step 5: Co-create learning pathways with employees

Beyond the C-suite, it’s absolutely essential to have employee support in skills development. While you conduct in-depth checks at the analysis stage, make sure you circle back with individuals to ensure your new learning pathways align with their goals, too.

Where immediate skills gaps aren’t addressed, you can collaborate with individuals to craft personalized learning pathways that prioritize these. Later, you’ll continue working together on a plan for ongoing development that balances employee career goals, emerging skill gaps, and changing business needs.

Step 6: Track and measure progress

A deployed employee development plan doesn’t mean the end of your efforts. With the future of work in flux, you’ll need to keep monitoring your learning success metrics — new gaps may, after all, emerge, and employees may not be meeting their training goals, which will call for a strategy reevaluation. Learning success metrics will equip you to continuously assess the effectiveness of your development plan, and find ways to improve alignment with business goals.

Step 7: Ongoing repetition

Learning and development are part of an ongoing process that evolves and builds on itself. To keep making gains and establish a system where learning, growing, and skills development are encouraged at all levels, you should work to establish a culture of learning.

An emphasis on learning helps teams to feel motivated, valued, and excited to progress within the organization — and within their career. For insights into building a culture of learning, take a look at our white paper, here.

A roadmap for learning success

With this roadmap that takes you from analysis all the way to implementation and iteration, you have everything you need to establish a learning strategy that’s customized to the evolving needs of organizations and individuals, and primed to close skills gaps.

Need help getting started? We get it. In a shifting learning landscape, it helps to have a guide. Contact an edX learning and development consultant to discuss the learning solutions your team needs.

Accelerate the workforce of the future, with edX

Whether you’re a business leader, L&D executive, or other professional, we offer compelling data and insights for why an outcomes-based skills program is key to succeeding in tomorrow’s workplace.

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Overcoming 5 Critical Challenges for a Future-facing Workforce

Article9 min read

June 8, 2022

The world is changing faster than ever, and companies are struggling to stay ahead of the curve. Savvy organizations recognize that the answer lies in developing and leveraging their most valuable asset: their people. 

However, people’s values are shifting, and with them their relationship with the places they work. Studies have found workers are more stressed than ever, with a staggering 81 percent reporting that they feel at risk of burnout and one in five saying that working for a company whose values don’t align with their own is the cause of that feeling.1

This is one of the factors driving the ‘Great Resignation’, which has intensified competition for top talent. When you consider that in the U.S., it takes 36–42 days to fill a vacancy, costing $1,633 per hire,2 it becomes clear that employee retention is critical.

Workers are also fighting to keep pace with change. Remote work, e-commerce, and automation are all reshaping work as we know it. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the impact of these trends. McKinsey revised their estimate for the number of workers that will need to change their occupations: up to 25 percent more than previously predicted due to the accelerating effects of the pandemic.3

Professionals are also likely to work longer. Research shows that because of increased lifespans, organizations need to invest more in lifelong learning.4

It’s clear that human resource and learning and development managers face a growing range of challenges. Fortunately, there are resources available to help address these hurdles and take advantage of the opportunities they present.

Close skill gaps

As people begin to lead longer and more diverse careers, planning and managing their long-term skills development will become more important. Digital skills are now assumed, and knowledge of business processes and related concepts are considered core competencies within every worker’s skills toolkit. Analytical and critical thinking have evolved from being the exception to the necessary, while interpersonal and leadership skills are more valued than ever.5 Many companies are experiencing critical skills gaps, particularly in the retail, construction, real estate, manufacturing, education, and medical and health services industries6. In fact, a significant 87 percent of executives report skills gap challenges today or expect them within a few years.7

Student loan service Nelnet realized they had a widening skills gap as a result of the pandemic and automation, and recognized the risk it posed to businesses and employee roles. They partnered with edX for Business to help close skill gaps in critical areas like cybersecurity, information technology, finance, and compliance. The modular, stackable nature of the programs enabled employees to enroll in college-level courses with real credits and certificates while remaining flexible enough to adapt their learning as their positions evolved.

edX Open Courses and Professional Certificates can help your workforce gain essential skills today so they’re prepared for tomorrow. 

Improve hiring Initiatives

In a world of labor shortages and job-hopping, hiring talented, qualified people has become absolutely fundamental to business success. It’s not easy, though. In the U.S., 74 percent of companies underperform when it comes to hiring, and only 60 percent of new jobs created are being filled.8

Businesses are trying to attract not just talented employees, but diverse staff too: 43 percent report finding diverse candidates with appropriate qualifications is the biggest challenge to their DEI goals. 9
The spotlight is firmly on the moral imperatives and performance benefits of diversity, along with the multiplier effect it brings: 76 percent of job seekers and employees identify a diverse workforce as a key factor in judging companies and job offers.10

Despite this, some industries remain deeply untransformed, such as technology, in which African Americans comprised just 7.4 percent of the total workforce in 2014.11
 Little has changed since then among major technology companies: In 2020, Facebook reported 3.8 percent of its staff were Black, Microsoft 4.5 percent, Twitter 6 percent, and Uber 9.3 percent. Reasons for this include companies being reluctant to recruit from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), internal referral systems that reinforce existing racial dynamics, and a lack of mentorship.12

Netflix recently set out to tackle this issue, partnering with 2U and seven HBCUs and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs). The Netflix Pathways Bootcamps teach industry-relevant foundational and advanced data science, Java, and UX/UI design skills to under-represented populations, preparing them for entry-level jobs in the tech industry.

The boot camps have created not just opportunities for under-represented graduates to find employment, but also a pipeline of highly-trained and mentored future talent. 

Adding a “train-to-hire” program to your recruiting efforts is an effective way to close specific skills gaps or boost the effectiveness of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs. Learn more about hands-on boot camps here.

Leadership development

Living in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world has become the status quo. Effective leaders require a high level of agility, constant re-evaluation and iteration of leadership practices, and a drive to build resilience for the future.13
 Building these capabilities has become a key focus area for L&D professionals, with 53 percent listing development of leadership and management skills as their top challenge.14
 Key leadership trends for 2022 reflect the shifts in practices and values brought about – or accelerated – by COVID-19. These include:15

  • Building a culture of well-being
  • Investing in employee development
  • Addressing workplace culture inequality
  • Building technological infrastructure
  • Embracing an experimental mentality

Communications consultancy PLMR took a future-facing view of leadership development, identifying the need to plan effectively for succession, improve strategic thinking, and reward and invest in their employees.

To mesh training smoothly with work, PLMR invested in online executive education from Oxford University’s Saïd Business School. PLMR enrolled its leaders in Online Oxford Programmes for professional service, women’s leadership development, digital marketing, disruptive strategy, and executive leadership. Leaders were able to apply their learnings to their everyday work challenges immediately, demonstrating applicable value for them and PLMR.

To learn more about how executive education can grow your leaders, click here. 

Workforce retention

The ‘Great Resignation’ has seen historic numbers of people quitting their jobs, with these sectors among the most affected:16

  • Leisure and hospitality
  • Trade, transportation, and utilities
  • Professional and business services
  • Education and health services
  • Manufacturing
  • Construction

Businesses are grappling with the question of how to retain staff. Providing learning and skills-based career growth opportunities to employees is one answer. Professional development opportunities are seen by employees as the top way to improve company culture,17
 with 94 percent of employees saying they would stay longer if the company invested in learning and career development benefits.18
 They’re key to attracting young talent, too — a 2021 study found that 66 percent of workers aged 18–24 ranked upskilling opportunities as the third-most important benefit in evaluating a new job, while 48 percent of workers in the U.S. would move jobs for such opportunities.19

Quick commerce and food delivery service Postmates chose edX to provide its thousands of workers access to more than 2,800 courses and certificate programs. As independent contractors, these workers could have sought alternative job opportunities when the pandemic hit. However, the learning made available through edX provided an attractive and valuable benefit, with many spending lockdowns or quarantines engaging in online programs safely at home. Courses in project management, health, entrepreneurship, Python, and business English were particularly popular.

Keep staff engaged with a range of courses on the edX Open Course Marketplace to promote a culture of learning in your organization.

Enterprise agility

Thriving in a highly dynamic world requires organizations to adapt quickly to changing technology, markets, and customer needs. Enterprise agility represents a shift away from traditional hierarchical structures and disconnected teams towards an operating model optimized across strategy, structures, processes, people, and technology.20
 As businesses re-examine their role in society, enterprise agility is becoming a necessary paradigm to respond to issues such as sustainability, the need for workplace diversity and inclusion, and corporate social responsibility. Agile enterprises are more likely to capitalize on emerging technologies and business trends to distance themselves from the competition rather than be stymied by the relentless pace of change. However, two-thirds of enterprises report that they’re unprepared for workforce disruptions caused by technology and market trends.21

Such was the case for CBRE, the world’s largest commercial real estate company. CBRE wanted to develop a training plan for its European senior leadership to help develop and drive an environmental, social, and corporate governance initiative. They enrolled 142 senior leaders in the Sustainable Real Estate: Creating a Better Built Environment executive education course, developed by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL). CBRE has been able to see the impact the course has had in providing their leaders with the ability to apply their new knowledge back to the business operation.

edX Executive Education courses offer focused, immersive, cohort-based online learning designed to help prepare leaders to respond to the pressing issues of our time.

The transformational potential of learning

Employees and organizations are on a journey together, trying to navigate the complexities of a rapidly evolving world. Advances in technology are changing the jobs we do and how we do them, and workers need to embrace a culture of lifelong learning to stay relevant.22   The benefits for businesses are clear, with skilled workers more agile and motivated. Upskilling and reskilling have the potential to transform society at large, too, facilitating broader economic participation and inclusion for under-represented groups.

However, to unlock the true potential of continued professional development, workers need easy access to learning at every stage of their careers. edX for Business recognizes this and has brought to market the most comprehensive online talent-development product portfolio in the industry. edX for Business is uniquely equipped to craft nuanced learning and skills development solutions for today’s enterprises that will help position them to compete in today’s and tomorrow’s business environment. 

Is your workforce ready for the future of work? Contact an edX learning and development consultant to begin building learning and development solutions for your teams. 

Accelerate the workforce of the future, with edX

Whether you’re a business leader, L&D executive, or other professional, we offer compelling data and insights for why an outcomes-based skills program is key to succeeding in tomorrow’s workplace.

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3 Predictions About the Future – and Fusing – of Work and Education from IBM, The Linux Foundation, and World Bank Group

Article5 min read

Anant Agarwal

March 30, 2022

The future is unknown—there’s been no better lesson than the pandemic to teach us that. But within this inexorable truth, what we’ve learned over the past two years is that the worlds of work and education are incredibly resilient and adaptable. They’re capable of not only weathering great change but also embracing new ideas that challenge the status quo to meet the ever-changing demands of the future. These worlds are also more interconnected than ever.

The level of flexibility needed to navigate today’s unknowns is fueling a more skills-driven workforce, and those skills continue to be shaped and defined by a high-speed, technology-driven economy. At edX, we’ve seen demand rise for more modular, stackable, and affordable learning options—such as innovative boot camp credit waivers and credit-backed MicroBachelors® programs—that empower individuals with the tools they need to establish rewarding careers and pivot to whatever comes next.

We have also witnessed firsthand the powerful impact that university-industry partnerships can have on learner outcomes, as well as rigorous high-quality curricula that’s intentionally designed to align with workforce needs and continually adapt to the latest tech skills and job trends. By working more closely and collaboratively together, we’re better positioned to deliver educational solutions that drive societal impact and superior value for learners at scale, while helping universities and businesses strengthen their institutional vitality for the digital age.

As we move forward in 2022 on the path to new frontiers and possibilities, we asked three of our corporate partners from the technology, business, and finance realms—IBM, The Linux Foundation, and World Bank Group—to share with us what the future of work and education looks like to them. They drew connections further emphasizing that these worlds are not mutually exclusive, and that we’re mission-aligned in understanding what it will take to meet tomorrow’s demands.

Here are their predictions and perspectives.

From IBM Skills Network: Leon Katsnelson, CTO and Director

In his 2016 letter to shareholders, Jeff Bezos wrote, “If you fight powerful trends, you’re probably fighting the future. Embrace them, and you have a tailwind.” The trends affecting higher education today are lifelong learning and job-ready skills. These trends will redefine the role of universities, and for those who embrace them, they will no doubt offer great new opportunities.

With the current dizzying pace of technology evolution, universities can no longer be expected to equip students with the knowledge lasting a lifelong career. When training a medical doctor, universities provide in-depth knowledge of human anatomy. This knowledge will serve graduates their entire careers. AI engineers, on the other hand, may find their skills in need of an update soon after graduation.

Today, employers are not satisfied with foundational knowledge alone; they demand job-ready skills. Satisfying this demand is not something universities can attempt on their own. What holds promise is a trend of university-industry partnerships, especially partnerships focused on continuing education and skills development, backed up by certificates and micro-credentials. These types of partnerships are quickly becoming the tool of choice for many universities willing to embrace these powerful trends.

See what courses and programs IBM has to offer.

From The Linux Foundation: Clyde Seepersad, SVP and General Manager, Training and Certification

Digital transformation was driven into overdrive by the pandemic. Yet there remains huge amounts of technical debt within organizations around the world. It will take a major effort to lift and shift legacy systems into the cloud. We need more individuals with expertise in cloud technologies to make this happen, and we need them ASAP.

However, knowing how to deploy and maintain a cloud instance isn’t enough. DevOps has become the standard methodology for building, deploying, and administering software, so no matter what role you fill, DevOps will be critical. We’ll also see demand for skills with emerging technologies, from AI to blockchain to edge computing, continue to grow.

When it comes to the future of education, we’re already seeing the rapid migration to remote methods, and that is not going to slow even as the pandemic wanes. People want the option to learn anywhere, anytime. They also want options in how remote learning works. This means not only increasing the number of courses and platforms they can be taken on, but also having options for watching videos, reading or listening to lessons (including in different languages, like Spanish), and performing hands-on tasks. Online learning will continue to displace in-person education, which will require innovation for many subjects that require students to do activities live rather than simply listening to a lesson.

See what courses and programs The Linux Foundation has to offer.

From World Bank: Sheila Jagannathan, Head of Open Learning Campus

The coming together of COVID-19, the massive skilling challenges generated by the ongoing Fourth Industrial Revolution, and the youth bulge have compelled the world to reimagine their education models quickly. Innovators like edX are taking edtech and the accompanying novel pedagogies to the next level to raise the quality, equity, effectiveness, and resilience of learning.

Learning is key to solving complex global development challenges such as climate change, fragility, gender equality, and building back better after COVID-19. Digital learning and teaching tools are reshaping the educational landscape to meet the new challenges of closing the skills gap and helping upskill and reskill at scale. It is no longer a question of whether digital learning is a viable option, but rather of how do we go about the transformation—and how soon can we get started?

See what courses World Bank Group has to offer.

Accelerate the workforce of the future, with edX

Whether you’re a business leader, L&D executive, or other professional, we offer compelling data and insights for why an outcomes-based skills program is key to succeeding in tomorrow’s workplace.

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Financial Services Skill Highlight: Business

Article2 min read

October 13, 2021

Business skills have always been foundational to keeping organizations competitive. As businesses become more digital, learning content that helps employees in all types of roles keep pace with the latest in business technology and practices has become critical. On the other hand, as technology changes the way we work, core competencies in areas like communication and project management are even more important.

Read on to learn how fellow financial services L&D professionals use business courses to develop relevant, mission-critical skills in their organizations.

Cultivating Technical Literacy, Leadership, & Collaboration

While developing technical talent is important, so is growing technical literacy and understanding within business roles. Knowledge of fintech and related emerging technologies and their implications and applications for the business is critical.

Technology isn’t the only area where skills are shifting—business leadership is changing, too, requiring new competencies even for seasoned managers and executives. Within financial services, L&D teams focus learning in areas like leadership and management—skills that improve workflows, operations, morale, and innovation.

Communication skills are also a priority. Especially for remote work, communication is key for effective collaboration with both internal and external stakeholders, and complement technical skills by ensuring ideas, products, and services are effectively communicated, developed, and delivered to others.

Popular edX Business Courses

From FinTech to project management, explore a sampling of business courses and programs from the world’s top universities used by financial services organizations.

Learning That Takes You From Keeping Pace to Staying Ahead

Investing in learning platforms and programs designed to build on-the-job capabilities in data science, business, computer science, and more is a critical component of driving company and employee success.

Learn how your organization can take advantage of edX For Business’s expert guidance, flexible online platform with advanced analytics and customization features, and catalog of top courses and programs to take your team from keeping pace to staying ahead.

Accelerate the workforce of the future, with edX

Whether you’re a business leader, L&D executive, or other professional, we offer compelling data and insights for why an outcomes-based skills program is key to succeeding in tomorrow’s workplace.

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Modernizing Your Employee Learning Journey, From Kickoff to Culture

Article6 min read

September 23, 2021

Technology has rapidly shifted what types of skills are critical to employee and company success—and the success of today’s learning and development (L&D) programs. Increasingly, L&D professionals are leveraging cross-functional skills, from data analysis to digital marketing, to build, launch, and manage their programs.

Effective learning programs are fueled by employee engagement. Read on for a collection of tips, prompts, and insights to help modernize and strengthen your approach to motivating learners across every step of their journeys.

The Kickoff: Think Like a Marketer and Understand Your Audience

Getting your learners engaged and excited right away is critical to motivation and engagement throughout the rest of their learning journey.

Think like a marketer and know your audience: How will you message learning opportunities and what tactics will you employ to market those messages?

Understanding a target audience is at the core of marketing, and it’s what you need to do to effectively motivate your learners. Your audience may be your entire company or a team of five information technology professionals and your launch and outreach plan should adapt accordingly.

Put on your marketing hat and ask yourselves these questions to hone in on your plan:

Frame your offerings

  • The value of learning is increased when the link between content and practice is clear: Are there key projects or reskilling opportunities that a team or individual’s learning aligns to? For company-wide messaging, are there larger company objectives or goals learning can be tied to?
  • What are the goals of learning for this audience, from their perspective? What’s the value, what’s the outcome, and how can you highlight that from the start?
  • What blockers or barriers would your audience perceive that you could address right away? E.g., How do you expect them to fit learning into their work day?

Choose your tactics

  • Where should your message be relayed? Think about where employees expect communications, e.g., a company newsletter or all hands meeting, or in what setting teams or individuals would be most receptive. Schedule reminders similarly—a series of emails expanding on the value of learning, a post in the company Slack channel, etc.
  • Who should your message come from? HR? A team manager? The CEO? A peer? Think about how you can leverage the messenger as a tactic. For example, role modeling is an effective way to get employees’ attention—structuring communications as an executive’s recommendation can go a long way, especially if they’re also participating in learning.

The Middle: Build, Test, and Iterate Like a Product Designer

How can you build a program that supports sustained learning? Like a product designer, it’s crucial to understand and anticipate the behaviors of your users and be ready to test and iterate your “product” over time.

Structure your program to create good learning habits right away with these tips:

  • Use milestones to illustrate progress: Where can you celebrate tangible progress? Setting time goals is important to help motivate your learners to complete courses over a longer timeframe. Use the expected course length as a guidepost to set expected milestones that help learners achieve wins along their journey.
  • Provide learning reminders: Gentle nudges can have a positive impact on learner motivation and performance. Where can you anticipate drop-off and align email or other marketing pushes? Use your platform’s dashboard to track learner progress, course activity, and enrollments. Remind learners of upcoming dates and encourage their learning progress.
  • Encourage your organization to make space for workday learning: Research shows there is a statistically significant positive relationship between workday learning and course completion rates, even if it’s just an hour a week.

To enhance your program over time, use data to find new opportunities for further engagement across specific learners, teams, content, subject areas, and more:

  • Look at trends over time in areas such as daily sessions (how frequently learners are engaging with course content): Are you trending upwards or downwards, and why? Are sessions decreasing because of seasonality (if so, are there ways to hedge against this?) or upwards as a result of your marketing push (if so, can you replicate it?)
  • Look for outliers: Who are your most engaged learners and how can you leverage their success? Consider highlighting top-performing employees (with their permission) as a learner story in your marketing to help inspire peers. On the flip side, who are your least engaged learners and could they benefit from a marketing or manager nudge?
  • Find patterns and amplify popular content and subjects: Are there any standout programs or courses in terms of completion? Can you survey those learners to understand why the content is compelling and promote it more? From a subject area or skills perspective, are there any patterns that surface “sleeper” successes, e.g., you may find that many employees are enrolling in entry-level data science courses, which you could further promote.

The “End”: Act Like a Founder and Create a Culture

One employee completing one course is a win, but, ultimately, a culture of lifelong learning keeps an organization thriving. Reinforce a culture of learning through continuing to:

  • Drive your initiatives at every level: Create opportunities for social learning in peer groups. Encourage managers to promote offerings and follow up with employees. Share success stories with executives.
  • Demonstrate how learning opportunities help employees and the company grow: Make this connection clear to your workforce in messaging beyond launching your program. How does continuous learning help the company stay competitive? How does it help individuals grow in their roles and stay relevant? Are you using industry and employee engagement data to inform the content you’re offering? Let your stakeholders know how and why available learning opportunities continue to evolve and fuel growth.

Your Partner in Employee Engagement

Work with the edX For Business team to up-level your engagement tactics, make the most of our powerful analytics features, and offer your workforce opportunities to learn today’s most in-demand skills.

Accelerate the workforce of the future, with edX

Whether you’re a business leader, L&D executive, or other professional, we offer compelling data and insights for why an outcomes-based skills program is key to succeeding in tomorrow’s workplace.

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