New Research Explores Future Skills Needs of L&D Professionals - Skillnet Ireland

New Research Explores Future Skills Needs of L&D Professionals

Dec 4th, 2019

Pictured L-R: Sinead Heneghan, CEO of the Irish Institute of Training and Development (IITD); John McMackin, Assistant Professor at DCU Business School; David Collings, Professor at DCU Business School and Paul Healy, Skillnet Ireland Chief Executive. 


Greater investment is required in Learning and Development (L&D) to help Irish businesses prepare for the future of work. That’s according to new industry-led research launched today (December 4th) by Trainers’ Learning Skillnet and the Irish Institute of Training and Development (IITD). The research is authored by Professor David Collings and Dr John McMackin of DCU Business School and funded by Skillnet Ireland.

The report, titled Enabling the Workforce of the Future: The Role of Learning and Development highlights the challenges posed by new technologies to the current skills base of the Irish workforce. This research is an excellent example of collaboration between Skillnet Ireland, IITD and DCU to conduct focussed research that will yield actionable results for industry. The research was conducted over a 12-month period with over 300 L&D and HR professionals representing various industries. Organisations that participated in the research included Dell, EY, Glanbia, Goodbody Stockbrokers, Kerry Group, PWC, Ulster Bank, VHI, Vodafone, Zurich Insurance, as well as inputs from SMEs.

Technology has already begun to change the way people work in Ireland. The report identifies where improvements in technology and connectivity facilitate more flexible work and a greater exchange of skills between organisations and individuals. The report also found that preparing for the future of work is a high priority for 4 in 10 respondents. However, many professionals in the field felt underprepared for the technological forces and skills needs required to grasp the Future of Work.

“One key takeaway from our research is that many organisations are ill prepared for the future of work. A telling statistic is that only 30 percent of respondents were confident about their ability to meet the future skills needs of their organisations. This is a real concern as many of the challenges of the future of work are already evident and it is not some distant scenario.

However, this lack of preparedness is hardly surprising given the considerable pressure organisations are under to meet current skills needs. Thus, finding a balance between meeting current needs while keeping a watchful eye on the future must be key priority for L&D leaders” said Professor David Collings of DCU Business School.

The report found that organisations who were more advanced in enabling the workforces of the future were proactive in engaging with the threats and opportunities resulting from advances in technology and specifically AI and robotics. They had a clear sense of the potential value of digitisation to their organisations and their strategy could be driven by a focus on sustainability, customer service or developing people capabilities. Clear communication with employees was also central to the process of ensuring the success of such programmes.

 ‘’Our research shows that 42% of Learning and Development (L&D) professionals say preparing for the future of work is a high or top priority for their organisation’’ said Sinead Heneghan, CEO of the Irish Institute of Training and Development (IITD).

‘’This report outlines the steps that organisations both large and small can take to futureproof their workforce and prepare for the skills needed in the coming decade. These include aligning their L&D goals and resources from the top to the bottom of their organisations; planning ahead to avoid uncertainty for their businesses in the years to come, and regularly assessing the return on investment (ROI) for L&D within their organisation’’ she added.

The report recommends that businesses think proactively about the future skills required within their organisation. It provides a Six Step Process for Responding to the Future of Work, to help businesses identify and respond to their future skills requirements. The Six Step Process for Responding to the Future of Work recommends that organisations assess the impact of automation and AI on their operations, conduct a ‘skills audit’ to identify any potential gap in skills, and forecast ahead for the roles within their organisation which may be displaced or impacted significantly in the future by emerging technology.

According to Tracey Donnery, Executive Director Skillnet Ireland “A key finding in the report is that the pace of change in work resulting from advances in AI, robotics and other technology changes is so pervasive that the future of work is already here. Organisations who fail to engage with these changes are likely to lose competitiveness very quickly.

This report also examines trends in how today’s Learning and Development function itself is evolving in response to these changes in the world of work. The skills required by L&D professionals are changing, with an increased focus on data analytics, digital and online content development, as well as a greater focus on business and sectoral expertise. These competencies will play a key role in enabling L&D professionals examine the future skills requirements within their organisations.

Businesses have the opportunity to prepare for these changes and adapt to new developments through an increased focus in Learning and Development resources, such as those provided by Skillnet Ireland through the Trainers’ Learning Skillnet, in collaboration with the Irish Institute of Training and Development (IITD).

Click here to read the report in full.


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