The Reason Why Undefined Jobs Disrupt Role-Based Learning

March 6, 2024 | Activate Learning | 6 min read

Some jobs have become increasingly popular, like those in artificial intelligence, prompting workforce development teams to upskill existing staff or hire external candidates rapidly — but they’re running into problems.

For one, hiring candidates to close skill gaps proves to be challenging. This leaves most leaders — especially in tech — to opt for role-based learning programs instead of reskilling or upskilling their teams.

Besides hiring challenges, the roadblock many are running into is reaching a consensus on the specific skills needed for sought-after jobs.

Often, descriptions of roles remain too shallow to create a meaningful learning program. They include guidance on the function and capabilities of a role but often leave out which skills a candidate must have. What’s more, it’s uncommon for organizations to have this documentation centrally located and adopted by all.

If there isn’t consensus about the requirements of any given job, learning teams can only hope to piece together what’s needed for their programs. This makes it difficult to design effective training that yields the outcomes business leaders expect.

But what’s the root problem here?

The norm has been that each department uses its own vernacular when defining job functions, leading to inconsistent definitions for roles. In other words, it’s a communication issue.

Many suffer vague or complicated consequences as a result. When it comes to learning and development teams, it hampers their ability to answer the call from business leaders who require an upskilled workforce.

As department leaders strive to build their teams’ skills, these indistinct terminologies work against them. When each team thinks and speaks differently about jobs that do the same thing, it creates ambiguity, confusion, and misalignment about what’s needed and how to achieve it.

To be productive, role-based learning programs require a framework that helps define job functions, the skills needed for each, and how they fit into the broader organization. When these definitions are in place, it becomes easier for learning teams to develop in-house training that’s tailored to the individual and focused on closing their skills gap.

The first step to accomplish this, however, mustn’t be overlooked.

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To Identify Skill Requirements, Start with a Common Language About Roles

Most tech leaders are focused on developing their teams’ skills in AI, cloud computing, and data science this year, according to Skillsoft’s IT Skills and Salary Report. This will likely come as no surprise to those in learning and development who’ve undoubtedly been approached about crafting programs to upskill existing staff in these domains.

Achieving consensus about a common definition of skills can reduce the friction in this crafting process. Having a common language that everyone shares makes the process less complicated.

To make developing these programs easier, some organizations have written definitions for each role they want to prioritize. Doing so provides a guiding document that all can reference, whether they seek to hire new staff or curate learning for existing employees.

The benefits of creating these definitions extend throughout an organization. Crafting a learning program allows instructional designers to create highly relevant material for employees. At the same time, LMS admins can curate and deliver assessments, courses, labs, and other materials in meaningful ways.

What it takes to achieve this is, again, a common language spoken by all who are either striving to close skill gaps or those who stand to benefit from this work.

Missing this step would put learning programs at risk of failing to meet their intended objectives and make reporting their efficacy far more challenging. What’s more, it allows disparities to creep in when assessing which skills a candidate must have. For example, whether they’re upskilling internally or hired externally, the skills needed for the role should match.

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What You Should Include with Role Definitions

To upskill an employee, you first need to know where the target is — meaning, the ideal skillset that person would have. That way, you can work backward from the ideal skillset to close the gaps.

Identifying skill requirements for role-based learning demands a framework, or job architecture, to make sense of all the roles an organization may need.

As learning teams help define roles at their organizations, it’s important to stratify the definitions to inform what a learning program should include. Consider adding points like these:

  • An Overview — When defining roles, there must be information that speaks to its purpose within the organization. Add what it is and why it matters.
  • Collaboration — How will this role interact with others on the team or other departments? Defining this helps reveal which skills a person must have to navigate internal partnerships successfully.
  • Career Mobility — Sharing the potential career trajectory reveals how a role may evolve and which skills will have the greatest impact over the long term.
  • Capabilities — Day to day, what must a person in this role accomplish? Their daily tasks can show in which areas a person may need more training and set clearer expectations for external candidates.
  • Skills — Breaking down the individual skills is where most job descriptions fall short because it can be difficult to settle on a standard set, without being too exclusive. This step may be the most useful to inform training needs and deliver the solutions most needed by department leaders.

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Improve Learning Outcomes with a Clear Architecture

Learning, when done right, helps boost productivity, spur engagement, and strengthen employee loyalty. Only many feel their company training isn’t as relevant as it could be — a problem universal definitions and a thorough job architecture would help solve.

Consider this from a SHRM Research report: “A whopping 75 percent of employees said they are satisfied with their training, but organizations need to look closely at how often workers receive training, their preferred method of learning and the training's relevancy to their immediate jobs.”

A common language that describes priority job roles informs everything from learning programs to payroll, workforce development strategy, and more. The clarity allows learning and development teams to personalize training and show positive results — like reskilled employees, skill gains over time, and lower recruiting costs.

However, reaching this point isn’t always a straightforward path. It requires intense collaboration, time, and focus to determine the definitions that pay dividends for the organization and its workforce.

While beneficial, a thorough guide to the priority roles in an organization isn’t a small undertaking and is not always feasible. Those without a big budget or the time or the team to devote to these endeavors likely find themselves guessing which skills fit with any given role. It’s an uneasy position, but one with remedies — even for small teams.

That’s how Skillsoft helps learning teams undertake this worthwhile feat. Within Skillsoft Percipio, admins find tools to curate learning for the roles their organizations want and then build, assess, and index those skills within the platform — which integrates with numerous others that can supplement the effort.

As more organizations take on this challenge, consider how partners like Skillsoft can help. Learn about Skillsoft's Percipio today.