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Smart business leaders know that employee training should do more than help workers be effective today. It should prepare them for the work they will be asked to do in the future. There’s just one problem. No one really knows what the future will bring. In this uncertain environment, how can employee training and development future proof your workforce?

Here's how to train employees for the future:

  • Identify the human skills that employees need.
  • Assess the gap between what employees know and what they need to know.
  • Provide access to flexible learning opportunities to make training and development easy.
  • Track employee training progress using observation and the tools your training partner provides.
  • Adjust as needed to keep your program relevant.

Some studies estimate that up to 85% of the jobs that will need to be filled in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet. At a minimum, workers of the near future can expect to see new or evolving processes, procedures, and technology.

Employee training for the future

This realization that change is both inevitable and faster than ever before, has led to a sense of futility. Training for the future seems impossible when we don’t know what the future will look like.

The worst alarmists claim that it won’t matter how we train because robots are just going to push people out of the workforce anyway. The few employees who are left, they say, will be responsible for maintaining the technology and nothing else.

A look at the average workplace suggests that outcome is unlikely. Yes, technology is more common than ever before, but it’s not pushing employees out. Instead, it’s creating a division of labor. Technology handles complex computations, data storage, and other mechanical tasks. This frees employees to focus on what people do best: communicate, create, innovate and problem solve.

As Penn Foster CEO Frank Britt has said before, the fear that robots will take our jobs has been largely overblown. However, technology will impact how people work in the next decade and beyond. When we think about the future of work, it’s safe to assume that technology will become even more prevalent. Collaboration with technology will enhance human insight, ingenuity, and creativity. Employee training for the future should focus on these human skills.

Identify human skills

To future-proof employees, start by recognizing what humans do best. Then give them the tools and training to do it even better. For example, communication, customer service, and decision making are just a few of the areas where humans usually outperform technology.

Sometimes called soft skills, human skills include communication, collaboration, teamwork, customer service, planning, problem-solving, and, of course, working with technology. Identify the human skills your workforce needs today and assume demand for those skills will grow in the future.

Assess the gap

With a list of skills in hand, you can assess the current competency level of your workforce to understand what they still need to learn. Skills tests, manager interviews, and performance reviews can give you a sense of where employees excel. You can even ask employees directly. Most employees recognize that continuous development is important. They will be happy to tell you what skills seem most relevant to their everyday work.

While you may have general development goals for your entire workforce, employee training is most effective when it’s personalized. Each worker should have a development plan tailored to their goals and needs.

Provide flexible learning opportunities

To meet shifting challenges, employee training must be continuous. Most employees understand this. However, making time for learning and development isn’t always easy. Day-to-day tasks and personal lives often get in the way.

You can help make training accessible by providing flexible, mobile-ready, online learning opportunities that employees can access when and where they have time. The right training partner can provide tools and support that make learning accessible anytime, anywhere.

Track progress

Monitor employee development by tracking their progress through training programs. Your training partner should provide administrative tools that chart employee progress, track completion rates, and provide other essential information. Use these tools to see what’s working and what needs improvement.

Adjust as needed

An employee training and development strategy should not be set in stone. It must evolve as technology and needs change. Our best guesses about what the future will hold are still just projections. Even the most effective programs must change to keep pace with their industry. Pay attention to technology shifts and market forces so you can make smart decisions about employee training and development.

Penn Foster can help train your employees for the future. Our Career Readiness Bootcamp teaches the essential people skills that all employees need. Contact a Penn Foster training expert to start developing your workforce.