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Skills development is an economic imperative. The need to understand where this trajectory is going and keep up with rapid workplace change is a huge challenge involving many organisational stakeholders.  This includes the need for individuals to have the right learning available to them. Workplace training spans a number of areas: safety & compliance, job role training, professional development and leadership training. There are considerations for what training to incorporate for contract workers that will only be in the business for a short time.

The ultimate aim for learning across the workforce is to build on role specific skills. Also develop new skills to be future workforce ready where soft skills, agility and flexibility will be tantamount to success. The World Economic Forum report The Future of Jobs identifies analytical thinking and creativity as two of the main soft skills that will be in demand in 2022.

Due to the nature of the contingent workforce, contractor training requires a different approach.  These workers have been onboarded with specialist skills to carry out a project and job role training or professional development is irrelevant. However, the need for safety and compliance training is almost greater.

Let’s explore the influencing factors in greater detail to get a handle on training best practice for contingent workers. Digital transformation, changing social values and worker expectations continue to disrupt business models and radically alter the workplace. These factors demand that workers and businesses adapt and change the way they work. In Deloitte’s report: The Future of the Workforce: Critical drivers and challenges, the external influences affecting workforce disruption can largely be categorised into three areas:

1. Demographic upheaval

The workforce is retiring later. In the US, 30-40% of individuals are now retiring in their eighties due to financial necessity and also for health reasons. Conversely, Millennials (those born between 1981–1996) make up more than half of the working population. Millennials expect flexibility with where and when they work. They also feel underutilised and that they are missing out on leadership development. Millennials want purposeful work with ethical businesses that prioritise continuous learning, along with dynamic career progression.

2. Ever-present and changing digital technology

Digital transformation is upon us, enabling a much greater level of accessibility and acceleration yet the transparency that digital technologies offer, also places businesses at a higher level of risk. Smart mobile devices, 3D printing, AI and machine learning developments are changing the way we manufacture and conduct our business operations.

3. Accelerated rate of change and business-model innovation

The way businesses attract talent, engage and support all types of workers is transforming before our eyes, the likes of LinkedIn, Netflix and Uber are leading the way with rapid change, diversification – as well as having a niche. The pressure is on for businesses to be increasingly agile and on alert for the next big transformative ‘thing’  in order to keep up with the digital curve.

Compliance and onboarding

Onboarding contingent workers remains a challenge for HR. For instance, there are compliance procedures, complex legal implications with worker classification, new payment processes and tax obligations where the responsibility sits with the worker.  Businesses need to overhaul the way HR and procurement teams handle their process management. Risks need to be mitigated and employers reassured that new workers understand their compliance-related responsibilities.  Upon successfully completing the onboarding process that the worker has what they need to carry out the work they have been employed to do.

Onboarding is perhaps even more critical for contingent workers than full-time employees, and the process should start before the employees do. When planning the onboarding program, the workers’ situation should be in focus and onboarding individualised to them. Cultivating relationships and delivering personalised experiences before the worker begins will encourage a feel-good experience for them and heighten dedication to getting the job done to the best of their ability and in the agreed time allocated.  This will include supplying important documentation ahead of project commencement and making contact to welcome them to the organisation before the start date.

As the types of skills needed in the labour market change rapidly, individual workers will have to engage in life-long learning if they are to achieve fulfilling and rewarding careers. For companies, reskilling and upskilling strategies will be critical if they are to find the talent they need and to contribute to socially responsible approaches to the future of work. For policy-makers, reskilling and retraining the existing workforce are essential levers to fuel future economic growth, enhance societal resilience in the face of technological change and pave the way for future-ready education systems for the next generation of workers.

Deloitte: The Future of the Workforce: Critical drivers and challenges

How training and management tools can bridge the gap

The gig economy has had a positive effect on the increasing adaptability of today’s  workforce learning and development. Mobile makes learning accessible to all of us at any time (when there is a network connection available). Learners can upskill online and access resources in a variety of mediums to bridge gaps in their knowledge and develop expertise in focused subject matter. Millennials have grown up in this self-directed learning environment and expect it as part of their working careers. If the employer does not provide an always-on learning culture individuals will move elsewhere for fear of stagnating.

High performing companies are getting behind their workers to build and promote a new culture of learning.  They are rejecting traditional models and engaging learners in a way that has never been seen before. Netflix style learning experience platforms are being adopted whereby learners are excited about their learning journeys and can authenticate their learning with credentialing badges that provide a digital record of their training they can take with them.

Stakeholders see that their role is not simply to push out content they have developed, but to encourage employees to access content from open sources to enrich and build upon new knowledge, promoting collaborative work experiences to help people problem-solve, share knowledge and own their learning journey.

The capacity to learn precisely what is needed, when it is needed is here

This ‘new way’ fundamentally transforms what “learning” and “development” has meant in the context of their business. Workplace learning does not belong to HR and L&D departments, it is now seen as a company-wide objective.

Contractor management systems and learning management platforms offer learning opportunities and some with additional open resource repositories allowing content sharing and worker interaction online with subject matter experts.  These cloud based contractor management and learning management tools are quick-to-implement long term solutions that address many contingent workforce training challenges. Training material can be tailored to the specific needs of each role or individual, and the platform can record learner training and results, ensuring mandatory learning modules are completed.