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Top 10 Learning & Talent Management Articles of 2021

December 29, 2021 Talent Management
Mike Prokopeak
By Mike Prokopeak

For decades, companies have talked about the growing skills gap and the war for talent. While that conversation ebbed and flowed, little or nothing changed in how companies hired, onboarded, developed and managed their people. Times changed, yet companies continued to manage things largely the same.

Enter 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic compelled companies to upgrade technologies and uproot traditional management styles. In 2021, the onset of the Great Resignation added even more pressure on companies to take a long look at their talent strategies and adapt to a changing landscape. Today, as we enter the next phase of business transformation, with rapid churn in the job market, pent-up demand for career advancement and a whole raft of new technologies to float upon, true change is finally taking place. 

From diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI), recruiting, onboarding, upskilling, performance management and retention, here's a look back at Reworked's top learning and talent management stories for 2021.

1. Why Virtual Onboarding Beats Traditional Onboarding

With lockdowns and remote work, the onboarding process for bringing on new employees was upended. Today, after a year-plus of remote onboarding, many say they find the process of virtual onboarding more effective than the traditional practices. In this article, writer Scott Clark dug into some of the ways virtual and video onboarding practices have improved the process.

2. The Talent Marketplace: A Skills-based Revolution in HR

Traditional recruitment methods tend to focus on a candidate's education and experience, but those things don't always reveal what employees actually know how to do. In the current environment, where talent is scarce, companies need to know what skills are in high demand, who in their workforce has them, and where training or new hires are needed. That information can’t be found in conventional workforce management systems. So, the HR tech industry created a new tech category to fill the gap. Skills management platforms, also called talent marketplaces, promise to (once again) transform the HR tech marketplace, writes Sarah Fister Gale.

3. The 4 Business Challenges Employee Skill Development Can Solve

If you’re in enterprise learning and development, talent management or strategic workforce planning, you’ve been hearing about skills a lot. The past two years pushed organizations to become more agile, responsive and flexible — and employee skills are a primary way to do just that. But skills aren’t all that useful by themselves. Knowing what skills your workforce has and what skills they need is merely an interesting intellectual exercise if not coupled with a business challenge that knowledge can help address. In this piece, Reworked contributors Heather Gilmartin Adams and Stacia Sherman Garr identify the four challenges that skills are well-suited to solve.

4. AI Brings Coaching to the Masses

Until recently, formal coaching has been treated as an executive perk, either offered to high performers to keep them happy or to brush up on leadership skills. This spotty approach causes companies to miss out on a valuable development tool that can provide personalized development to young leaders before they develop habits that need to be unlearned. The advent of automated coaching tools and digital platforms are transforming that value proposition, making coaching for the masses a realistic option, writes Sarah Fister Gale.

5. 'Frictionless' Recruiting to Survive the Great Resignation

Burnout, lack of flexibility or just plain time for a change, whatever the reason behind the exodus of American workers from their jobs — and it is shaping up to be a big one — employers need to adapt to the new reality to hold on to their valued employees, as well as to recruit and hire new ones. In this piece, writer Mark Feffer surveys the employment landscape and offers tips for recruiting amid the churn

6. VC Firms Fund a Chatbot Revolution in HR

There's a flood of venture capital being invested in HR tech firms that have made conversational AI core to their offerings. It's been a long time coming, according to executives interviewed for this article. Consumer tech companies have made AI-driven customer experience core to their strategy to delight customers. But not so much when it comes to employees. Until now. There remains a ways to go, writes Sarah Fister Gale, but end-to-end automated employee engagement just might be in our near future.

7. How to Do (and Not Do) Performance Reviews Remotely

Having a performance management process is necessary to provide timely feedback to your team and help each member understand how what they are doing fits within the broader context of the organization. The remote work environment introduced a big wrinkle to the process. Reworked writer Kaya Ismail talked to HR experts about how performance management can be done in a remote environment, particularly as it relates to the performance review process.

8. Is Your Recruiting Algorithm Biased?

We know humans have biases when it comes to hiring, but it turns out automated screening tools are problematic, too. When we talk about artificial intelligence and machine learning, the tendency is to think of them as objective because of their reliance on data, but the reality is an algorithm is only as objective as the data used to train it. And if that data is biased, you've got a problem on your hands, writes Sarah Fister Gale in this article.

9. What to Do About Tech Skills Shortages

Demand for cloud computing skills reached an all-time high in 2021. While that is good news for those with technology skills to match the demand, for enterprises the news is less encouraging. Reworked contributing editor David Roe dug in to identify the interim steps organizations can take to manage the shortage of skilled talent. Hint: Don't take too long. It's a competitive market out there, and talented people aren't going to just sit around and wait for you.

10. 8 Steps to Build Meaningful Diversity and Inclusion Metrics

Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, or DEIB, are on the minds of many business leaders today. Yet, to make meaningful change, organizations need to measure, analyze and report on these aspects with much greater sophistication and effectiveness than ever before. For many organizations, this is where things get sticky. Reworked contributor Stacia Sherman Garr did the ground work and offers a guide for organizations looking to get started on building meaningful DEIB analytics.

Bonus: Three Podcasts on Skills, Learning and Talent

John Boudreau and Ravin Jesuthasan Rethink Jobs for the Age of Automation

The automation of work is leading not to the destruction of jobs but rather to their deconstruction, according to professor John Boudreau and futurist Ravin Jesuthasan. Jobs are being pulled apart into tasks and projects. Degrees and credentials are being boiled down to their underlying skills and capabilities. The result is a reinvention of the way we think about work — and that requires new leadership approaches.

Shelley Osborne on Why Upskilling Is an Imperative for Every Business

Shelley Osborne, corporate learning executive and author of "The Upskilling Imperative," explains why the ability to learn is the essential skill every organization and every individual needs to succeed. But it's not about a specific skill. Rather, it's about creating an environment where learning can happen.

Brandon Carson on Why Your Business Strategy Should Be a Learning Strategy

Brandon Carson thinks the past two years have opened up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to redefine work. Until recently, he was head of learning at Delta, one of the world's largest airlines, but in June, he accepted a new role as vice president of learning and leadership at Walmart. He's also the author of a new book, "L&D's Playbook for the Digital Age." In this conversation, he talks through why a learning strategy needs to be the business strategy.

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