How to Develop Essential Workplace Skills at Scale

Organizations need to build workplace skills – especially leadership skills. The most scalable and effective solutions for new people managers and functional leaders is combining online learning and micro-length coaching programs.

It’s no secret that today’s corporate learning and development (LD) experts are expanding online learning for workplace skills. But the most nascent development is the pairing of personalized leadership coaching with online courses. Here’s why the trend is fast developing.

Employers first experienced the scalability success of online platforms by pushing out training aligned with technical skills (such as product and software skills training) and risk management (sexual harassment, insider trader, data privacy, and security training). Skills training happened quickly, cheaply, and at scale.

Now employers are seeing success with a broader array of critical workplace skills – including management training and leadership development. Emerging leaders crave more skills training in people management. However, online courses by themselves aren’t as captivating as working with a leadership coach. The solution is to combine the two modalities into one compelling and scalable program.

The Business Case for Building Workplace Skills Online

While online learning is not a panacea or replacement for all types of development, it’s clear that using digital platforms for employee development has irrevocably changed today’s LD landscape. Online learning is effective and scalable. And as part of an overall training program to enhance workplace skills, online learning can boost retention.

A recent survey of talent leaders conducted by IMPACT Group found that 67% plan to increase the number of online learners who complete courses in leadership and management in 2023.

Several studies have shown that employee development and go hand and hand. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that 68% of employees have expressed a willingness to stay longer with their employers when upskilling opportunities are provided. This finding supports a new workplace reality: Today’s workforce is eager to learn, grow and, with the right motivation, stay.

Urgency of Expanding Workplace Skills

Data from LinkedIn’s 2023 Workplace Learning Report emphasizes the urgency of expanding training for workplace skills. According to the study, skills needed for today’s jobs have changed by 25% since 2015. The rate of change is expected to increase in coming years.

Sixty-eight percent (68%) of business leaders have identified skill gaps in their employee base, accentuating the urgency for skill-building initiatives. The time to focus on effective, systematic, and scalable training for workplace skills is now.

How to Boost Engagement of Online Learners

Online learning platforms offer a wealth of content, as well as a flexible and economical choice for organizations. However, the challenge is engagement.

Sixty-three percent (63%) of talent and HR leaders identify engagement as the primary stumbling block in online learning platforms. This was revealed in IMPACT Group’s survey on online learning for leaders.

Online courses can easily become a begrudging routine with minimal impact on actual development of workplace skills. How do you package your training for workplace skills so that it doesn’t just become another chore for your emerging leaders to add to their to-do list?

Enter online coaching—video conference sessions with a trusted advisor. From decades of experience in providing quality coaching, we know that leaders value coaching. For this reason, interactive and personalized coaching – when aligned with online content – becomes the carrot-like incentive to complete the online coursework. That can be especially true when upcoming coaching sessions are not just aligned with the online content, but also highly personalized to address the current situations the leader is managing. This makes completing the coursework both time sensitive and more valuable to the leader.

And the focused coaching boosts the efficacy of digital learning so that it is more likely to be applied to real-world performance. Most talent experts (84%) agree that online learners are more likely to put new skills to use if they also work with a coach who encourages behavior change, according to IMPACT Group’s study.

With coaching, organizations offer employees an experienced sounding board. Coaching fosters an environment where workplace skills are not just learned but mastered, shared, implemented, and utilized.

Leadership Skills Cited as Critical for High Performance

Which workplace skills are the most critically tied to performance? For that answer, we might look to private equity (PE) – one of the most performance-driven environments within the business world.

When PE executives were asked which levers are most important for creating value in the companies they own, they cite leadership effectiveness more often than anything else. In fact, it is cited 70% more often than they cite operational effectiveness, according to a longitudinal industry study conducted by AlixPartners.

PE leaders – who are intensely driven to deliver shareholder returns – are now recognizing that it’s in their best business interest to create a talent strategy focused on leadership development. According to Ted Bililies, writing in the Harvard Business Review December 2023 issue, PE investors used to leave “the patient work of building leadership capability to whoever acquired the company when the PE firm sold it.” But today he says, “Those days are gone. Investors can no longer buy an underutilized asset, pile on debt, and turn up the pressure, because financial engineering by itself won’t generate superior returns for investors.”

According to Bililies, managing partner at AlixPartners, a decade ago PE companies looked to hire leaders with flexibility, adaptability, and change management skills. Now the breadth of qualifications has expanded, he says. “Companies increasingly have to look for executives who are also adept at managing, motivating, and inspiring people, who are authentic and credible, and who possess high EQ and people skills,” Bililies acknowledges.

These “soft skills” in people leadership are actually quite hard to learn – especially without a coach. However, the combination of online content plus coaching is the approach more organizations are using to develop leaders.

A Cost-Effective Investment in Workplace Skills

The possibilities of properly implemented online learning are staggering. A rise in workplace skills, a rise in retention, and a rise in employee trust. That’s because recent surveys suggest that workplace learning can significantly benefit career progression, with 42% of online learners reporting salary increases after completing courses.

More and more organizations are investing in industry-leading platforms such as LinkedIn Learning to enhance workplace skills. LinkedIn Learning is the scalable, cost-effective solution that features crowd-vetted content from renown business leaders, organizational development experts, and world-class university educators. IMPACT Group’s survey found that LinkedIn Learning is the preferred online training platform at 42% of organizations.

But as cited above, we know that online learning by itself doesn’t ensure application or behavior change. Coaching boosts the probability that learners will apply new concepts and work toward behavior change.

Organizations leveraging LinkedIn content for leadership development might achieve some savings in content development, travel, and in-person learning costs. Funds might then be available to fund a few powerful, focused micro-length coaching sessions.

Take the Next Logical Step for Your Talent Strategy

What if you don’t have the resources to cull through the wealth of content available on LinkedIn Learning? What if you don’t have time to develop a learning program that aligns online content with coaching?

IMPACT Group has what you’re looking for. Our program leverages both coaching and LinkedIn Learning to develop functional leaders, first-time managers, and high-potential talent. To truly capitalize on the potential of online learning and foster the development of critical workplace skills within your leadership team, now’s the time to explore this new approach.

Let’s set up a short exploratory call today. IMPACT Group’s Scalable Solutions for Leaders are the tried and tested way to integrate online learning with personalized coaching to build essential leadership and workplace skills.