Workplace Learning Report: Higher Education Edition

See how staff talent developers in higher ed are closing skill gaps at scale.

March 2, 2020

See how higher education talent developers are approaching learning and development.

For this piece, which compliments our fourth-annual Workplace Learning Report, we surveyed 246 staff talent developers working in higher education,1,675 corporate talent developers and 2,000 learners. Our key findings are:

Staff talent developers in higher education are most focused on closing skill gaps to keep up with rapid technological change.

What are staff talent developers in higher ed most concerned about?

Our research reveals it’s different than corporate and government talent developers, who are primarily focused on boosting employee engagement. Instead, the larger trend higher ed talent developers are concerned with is the rapid change of technology and skills.

Why? Facing unprecedented pressures and competition, institutions are focusing even more on helping students get in-demand jobs, which require in-demand skills.

That starts with higher ed employees having those skills. And we see that reflected in the strategies of higher ed talent developers.

Higher ed talent developers are looking to close skill gaps with self-directed online learning.

How are higher ed talent developers looking to close skill gaps among their employees? Much like their government and corporate brethren, they are relying less on in-person training and more on online learning.

In fact, getting their employees to learn on their own online is their biggest focus in 2020.

We see that reflected in higher ed budgets as well, as spending on digital learning has gone up, whereas spending on in-person training has gone down.

In a world of rapid change, higher ed talent developers are looking to build timeless skills. 

What skill gaps are higher ed talent developers most focused on closing via online learning? Similar to their corporate counterparts, their biggest focus is on leadership, with creativity and communication right behind.

1. Leadership/management

Recommended courses:

2. Creative problem-solving

Recommended courses:

3. Communication

Recommended courses:

You might be asking – why soft skills, in a world where hard skills are changing quicker? Because, ironically, as hard skills become more fluid, soft skills become even more important. 

Why? As technologies improve and more tasks become automated, jobs become less about executing rote work and more about deciding what should be done. That’s where creativity comes in, along with convincing other employees and the world on the importance of those initiatives (i.e. communication and leadership).

For employees, just a generation ago, jobs were about mastering a few hard skills and building a career off of that. Today, with so much change, mastering soft skills like learning how to learn, how to think creatively and how to effectively collaborate have a far longer shelf-life.

Of course, hard skills matter too. To help you there, see the most in-demand hard skills in the world

What professionals want in a learning solution – something that fits within their day. 

There's still one outstanding question – with this focus on online learning, what do professionals want in an online learning solution? After all, if the goal of higher ed talent developers is to get their employees to learn online, it's critical to invest in a tool their employees will actually want to use. 

To find out, we surveyed 2,000 professionals and asked them what features they want most in an online learning solution. They said they want one that offers:

  1. Personalized recommendations that’ll help them do their current job better.
  2. The ability to learn something within three-to-five minutes.
  3. A single destination for all learning resources.

Hence, it’s critical to invest in an online learning solution that offers: 

  • Personalized course recommendations.
  • Macro and micro learning opportunities.
  • A wide breadth-and-depth of content to meet a diverse set of needs. 

The takeaway – employee development needs to be a focus for any institution.

Staff talent developers in higher ed are right to worry about closing skill gaps at scale – the world really is changing faster than ever. To keep your institution on the cutting edge, you need employees on the cutting edge, which learning can accomplish.

The key is creating the right culture of learning. That starts with investing in the right learning solution, getting your leaders to champion it and then using marketing tactics to keep development top-of-mind.

Bottom line, with the new decade upon us and as we fully enter into the Age of AI, higher ed talent developers play an increasingly important role. The only way to have an institution remain on the forefront is to have employees remain on the forefront, meaning higher ed institutions – and, more specifically, higher ed talent developers – need to continually inspire a commitment to self-development.

This is the higher education version of our 2020 Workplace Learning Report. See the full report here.