Future skills: the race for learning athletes

Date Published


Reading time

4 mins read


Meg Stevenson

While the pandemic has certainly shifted the skills landscape in a multitude of ways, the types of skills we expect to see in demand remain the same.

They reflect the delicate balance between the deeply technical and the deeply human, reflecting the adoption of new technologies and the continuing importance of human connection.

Neither set of technical or human skills must be seen in isolation which is why access to granular data to understand demand, priority and forecast will be essential.

Future visions: developing learning athletes

What has become clear with the pace of change, both before and since exacerbated by the pandemic, is that the endeavour for lifelong learning is what organisations need to strive for, shortening the divide between technical and human capabilities. Organisations will continue to see a demand in niche technical skillsets, and the pace of technological change will require continual upskilling in technical roles. Individuals that can communicate complex technical ideas while also demonstrating ‘soft’ or ‘power skills’ such as resilience, problem solving, creativity, emotional intelligence, and curiosity will be the unicorns within organisations.

Likewise, the deeply empathetic human leaders that we need will require a level of technical knowledge to thrive and adapt in the current organisational climate, and this is what we mean by shortening the divide between the deeply technical and the deeply human.

Creating and nurturing a positive organisational learning culture will be essential in developing these ‘learning athletes’, who recognise the importance of new skills and can continuously adapt and grow within changing and sometimes unpredictable environments.

Moving forward, what is the role of learning & HR?

The race to ensure organisations have access to the right skills and capabilities which support profitable growth is well and truly underway and learning plays a significant role in this race; we believe that the learning function will be more and more accountable for workforce performance in the future. This requires development of practical methodologies to support a wider learning transformation, such as reskilling.

Here are some key considerations as you move forward with your own transformation journey:

  1. Clarity of skills for the future for your business – do you have a view of the key skills that will be needed by your business now and in the future? If the last year has shown us anything, it’s that the distance between now and future uncertainty is shorter and smaller than we realised. The first step is gaining clarity on the key requirements of your business and what skills will be required to meet the demand. Our ‘Decoding the new normal for HR’ research will seek to provide that clarity.
  2. Understanding the baseline capability of your workforce -  a consistent theme amongst our clients is both a difficulty in measuring what current capability they have in the business, alongside a realisation that there is untapped ‘hidden talent’, especially for some of the new ‘power skills’ that may not have been the focus of earlier people development plans and role descriptions. Skills assessment tools that consider hidden talent and measure true competency gaps enable you to make the most of your existing workforce and create targeted learning pathways to upskill only what they need to know. 
  3. Ensure that your learning content is optimised for the skills and capabilities you need to develop – as content libraries increase in popularity and contribute to a curious workforce, it becomes an increasing burden to ensure that learners can access the right content at the right time. Curation strategies have never been more important, both to ensure efficiency of spend and also a great learning experience. 
  4. A focus on inclusive leadership – is your culture ready to tackle the reskilling agenda? Employees need to see clear role-modelling from the leaders of the business, to encourage curiosity and to create a safe environment to learn, fail, and share in a common purpose.

How can we help?

We help organisations to implement their learning strategy through managed access to our extensive network of carefully curated content and delivery partners. We advise them on how to set up their learning ecosystem with the right data and analytics in place.

We have extensive experience of moving private and public sector organisations to managed learning services for the first time, some of which are still our partners nearly a decade later. These long-term relationships are built on the trusted and consistent performance key to success in highly regulated environments.

Our capabilities, including our next generation managed learning service, are designed to support and enhance our clients’ learning and development (L&D) functions.

Learn more about our services

Written by

Meg Stevenson

Meg Stevenson

Head of L&D Effectiveness – Capita Learning

Meg is responsible for the products and services which help enable an optimised learning function for our clients, including our managed learning services, marketplace access and curation offering. Her team take a service-design led-approach to product development, in conjunction with our clients, bringing the best of the market to ensure that our offering is relentlessly world class. This includes connecting our customers to proactive research and insight around core areas that impact service partnership including emerging skills, technologies, and trends.

More of our insights

Read more

Thinking about your organisation?

Get in touch