Business Solutions

Building a 21st Century Workforce

“Talent is no longer a long-term issue that can be solved with tried and tested approaches that were successful in the past or by instantly replacing existing workers. Instead, as the rate of skills change accelerates across both old and new roles in all industries, proactive and innovative skill-building and talent management is an urgent issue.”

That’s the view of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in its recent report — The Future of Jobs.

The report details how recent pressures on recruitment and talent management will only intensify over the next five years as technologies, globalization and social changes continue to disrupt the world of work.

Here’s our take on what it means for three key areas of your talent management program.

For many jobs, the recruitment process has simply been a matter of matching candidates with the appropriate skills to meet the requirements of the open position.

But according to the WEF report: “By 2020, more than a third of the desired skill sets of most occupations will be skills not considered crucial to the job today.”

This means that a candidate’s ability to learn new skills is now almost as important as them having the skills needed for the job you are recruiting for today.


“You can’t lift the hammer can you?” says the despondent father to his son in the recent GE recruitment ad.

Well, according to the WEF Report he’s unlikely to have to: “By 2020, 36% of jobs will require complex problem-solving skills, compared to just 4% that will require physical strength or dexterity.”

“Social skills – such as persuasion, emotional intelligence, and teaching others will be in higher demand than narrow technical skills, such as programming or equipment operation and control.”

This means that training and development programs need to address general communications and social skills, as much as specific technical and operational skills.

Succession Planning
When business plans were geared towards stability, succession planning tended to favor those who could best emulate the leaders of the past.

In the era of escalating change outlined by the WEF report, tomorrow’s leaders are likely to face vastly different challenges than their predecessors.

This means as diverse a group of talent as possible must be given the opportunity to enter senior management, so that your leaders of tomorrow will not be stuck in the past.

This infographic summarizes the key findings of the WEF report, while the full report can be found here.

I welcome your insights and feedback.

Anya Eychis
Senior Manager, Content Marketing
Pearson English Business Solutions

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Changing the way non-native English speakers gain business skills

Two years ago, the leadership team at Pearson English Business Solutions went on a listening tour to better understand the needs of our customers – HR leaders in top multi-national companies. Here’s what was heard as the top requests:

  • Courses focused on increasing employees’ English competency for critical business skill areas, such as leading and participating in meetings and giving presentations
  • Courses that lasted 90-days or less for time constrained learners who need to achieve outcomes faster
  • Courses that demonstrated immediate impact to the job through blended learning applications
  • Skill-based assessments to demonstrate that the skill has truly been achieved

Based on these four customer driven needs, the product team at Pearson English Business Solutions has been hard at work over the past two years to develop a new solution – One Focus.

One Focus is a set of intensive courses designed for maximum learning efficiency that help to prepare learners with the English competency needed for critical, real-life, professional business scenarios. What makes this solution different than anything else on the market?

  • Flipped classroom – offering a mix of self-study and live online meetings – using Learning Burst methodology to be very efficient.
  • 10-week, purpose-built courses with productivity features and on-the-job practice to drive immediate impact in their current jobs.
  • Courses built with learner outcomes and efficacy in mind – so that managers can clearly understand the skill attainment that has been achieved.

Built on the Global Scale of English, which helps provide a common point of reference for employers to understand their employees’ English capability and to map the skills they need to improve on to do their jobs better.

We are thrilled to bring this innovative solution to market to help learners further their knowledge of specific skills and then apply them in their job.

One Focus – changing the way non-native English speakers gain key business skills. Visit us here to learn more.

I welcome your insights and feedback.

Stefanie Ratledge
Director of Global Marketing
Pearson English Business Solutions

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Leverage Technology for a Truly Blended Learning Experience

A recent report from Brandon Hall highlighted the continued dissatisfaction with today’s Learning Management Systems (LMS) and issued four critical calls to action for learning technology.

In previous posts we looked at their calls to Use Technology to Support the Learning Strategy, not Dictate it; and Solve Today’s Challenges, but Plan for the Future. Today we will consider their third call to action: Leverage Technology for a Truly Blended Learning Experience.

According to Brandon Hall: “Despite being around for the better part of two decades, organizations are just now coming around to the 70:20:10 concept.

Their research has found that 43% of learning still takes place in a formal setting, and the company says that while technology can support greater blended learning, it is often the learning strategy holding the organization back: “The learning strategy itself needs to recognize the existence, strengths and value of informal and experiential learning and technology must be used to execute.

At PEBS, we have had great success working with clients to create virtual, blended learning programs, combining the strengths of human-training with the latest technological innovations.

Learners must be able to move seamlessly from formal to informal environments, and use whatever technologies they want, whenever, and wherever they want, to develop the skills they need in the workplace.

We have seen the most effective learning take place when skills can be applied immediately on the job, and refined in real-time with the help of colleagues and co-workers.

Technology is used to give workers instant access to learning materials in the workplace, as well as providing immediate feedback from experts and peers while collecting live data to build ongoing assessment profiles.

Today’s workforce is comprised of five generations of global workers and our learning and language strategies must take into account their diverse needs, abilities, and preferences when it comes to learning materials and delivery.

Technology is both enabling and challenging business to become more responsive, flexible, mobile and agile. We can use those same technologies to create virtual, blended learning programs to help them meet that challenge.

I welcome your insights and feedback.

Nicole R Brown
Vice President, Go-To-Market and Channels
Pearson English Business Solutions

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Solve Today’s Challenges, but Plan for the Future

A recent report from Brandon Hall highlighted the continued dissatisfaction with today’s Learning Management Systems (LMS) and issued four critical calls to action for learning technology.

In our last post we looked at their call to Use Technology to Support the Learning Strategy, not Dictate it. Today we will consider their second call to action: Solve Today’s Challenges, but Plan for the Future.

Change has always been a constant in business, but as the pace of change continues to accelerate, investment decisions in technology are becoming even more challenging.

Although nobody can predict the future, we can see established business trends that need to be considered as investment decisions are made.

Technology trends towards greater use of mobile devices, the move to the cloud, and social media will be considered in later post, but companies must also consider broader business trends towards continued globalization, increased collaboration, and the growing need for workforce agility.

Whatever your workforce training needs are today, the likelihood is that those services will be used by a more globally diverse workforce in the future.

Whatever your ratio of individual to group learning is today, the likelihood is that more social learning tools will be required in the future as businesses moves from a culture of command and control to one of coaching and collaboration.

Finally, as business disruption becomes the norm, and workforce agility becomes even more important, the need to adapt, personalize and expand learning programs in real-time will become a core requirement.

Brandon Hall found that 38% of the companies they spoke to are actively looking to replace their current LMS solution, with a failure to plan ahead being cited as a core reason: “The fact that an LMS cannot adapt to meet a company’s changing learning needs is a clear indication of a poor initial decision.”

Purchasing decisions made today need to meet the needs of a workforce in the future that will be more diverse, more collaborative and more agile.

I welcome your insights and feedback.

Nicole R Brown
Vice President, Go-To-Market and Channels
Pearson English Business Solutions

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Time to Deliver for LMS Technologies

Technology continues to transform the way we work and the way we learn. But when it comes to Learning Management Systems (LMS), the promise continues to outweigh the reality according to a new report from the research team at the Brandon Hall Group.

While technology represents about 28% of an organization’s overall learning budget— more than anything except for internal headcount—according to Brandon Hall, the satisfaction with today’s LMS solutions remains alarmingly low.

Scores for a range of typical LMS success factors all fell below 3.5 out of 5 in the survey, with scores for meeting ROI expectations, reporting and analytics, and ease of integration all falling below 3 out of 5.

More than one in three (38%) of respondents are actively looking to replace their current LMS, while a similar figure (31%) would not recommend their current solution to a colleague.

As the researchers point out: “this is not exactly a ringing endorsement for a market estimated to reach $7.83 billion by 2018.”

As an antidote to this mass dissatisfaction, Brandon Hall has issued four critical calls to action for learning technology which we’ll look at in a short series of blog posts, the first of which is how technology is supporting learning behaviors:

Use Technology to Support the Learning Strategy, not Dictate it
Brandon Hall found that many companies are still allowing learning programs to be driven by the technology available to them, rather than remaining true to the actual requirements of the business.

While some companies are constrained by the limitations of their LMS, Brandon Hall found the influence of technology to be even stronger in the 43% of companies that did not have a formal learning strategy in place.

At PEBS, we believe a formal learning strategy is a critical piece of an organization’s overall Talent Management strategy, and work with clients to ensure their investments in Business English learning are aligned directly with overall business objectives.

Brandon Hall also found that many LMS solutions are inhibiting, rather than accelerating, the move towards blended learning which most organizations are striving for, because the technologies being used are designed primarily to support formal learning.

With a technology platform built to support informal and on-the-job learning, as well as formal learning, we’ve helped clients implement effective virtual blended learning solutions around the globe with a high degree of personalization, consistent quality and on-demand results tracking.

Educationalists have long proven the benefits of blended learning solutions over standalone classroom environments, now it’s up to technologists to ensure that their adoption is accelerated by providing a greater user experience, measurable return on investment and broader integration potential.

I welcome your insights and feedback.

Nicole R Brown
Vice President, Go-To-Market and Channels
Pearson English Business Solutions

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New Report Exposes Growing Skills Gaps Among Job Candidates

A new report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reveals the problems its members are having, finding candidates with the skills needed to fill current job openings.

The problems are particularly acute when recruiting for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) field jobs, with 72% of respondents currently having difficulties recruiting for open positions in engineering.

Nearly three out of four respondents (73%) told SHRM that skills shortages will “have a major impact” on the workplace during the next five years.

Emerging Skills Gaps
The report found English proficiency to be among the top skills gaps with job applicants across industries, which were ranked as follows:

• Basic computer skills – 42%
• Writing in English – 31%
• Spoken English – 26%
• Reading comprehension in English – 17%
• Mathematics – 15%

Back to the Future
Recruiting problems have become so acute that SHRM is even seeing evidence of organizations looking to retain older segments of the workforce as a way to deal with skills shortages among today’s graduates.

When HR professionals were asked about the strongest basic skills held by employees age 55 and older compared with other workers, 45 percent of respondents cited “writing in English.”

Closing the Skills Gaps With Business English Learning
With English figuring so prominently among the skills gaps of today’s candidates, PEBS is increasingly working with HR professionals on specific recruitment programs, as well as providing overall workforce development support.

Here are three ways our clients have been able to address the recruitment issues raised in the SHRM report:

1. Expand The Talent Pool
Integrated Business English learning programs can lower the bar for English proficiency at the recruitment stage, which can effectively broaden your potential talent pool to include more candidates with the specific job skills you need.

By assessing English skills at the beginning of the recruitment process, organizations can establish a minimum standard—on a job-by-job basis—to effectively screen candidates ahead of time-consuming interviews.

Candidates can then be assessed on job-specific skills, with personalized English learning programs available from Day One for new hires based on their initial assessment results.

As Eileen Shue, VP of corporate resources at Sterling Group, Mishawaka, Indiana, told SHRM: “We won’t find perfect people any more—those days are gone. But if you find the best possible candidates and you train them internally, that is your best approach.”

2. Develop From Within
Business English learning programs can also help existing employees develop the skills they need to move into positions of greater responsibility.

As SHRM recommends in its report: “Stronger internal training programs may address the skills shortage, and these initiatives may result in promotions from within, as well as allow existing employees to land those hard-to-fill positions.”

3. Boost the ROI of Internal Training
Despite the increasing skills gaps identified in the study, SHRM reports that training and education budgets continue to face increased scrutiny and budget pressures.

By deploying English learning programs that employees can use during their normal workday—without the need for off-site classes— to develop skills that can be applied with immediate impact, our HR partners are able to deliver impressive ROI figures to company executives.

You can read the full SHRM report here: Workforce Readiness and Skills Shortage


Nicole R Brown
Vice President, Go-To-Market and Operations
Pearson English Business Solutions

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Opening up the Multicultural Boardroom

In the Industrial Economy, succession planning was about ensuring continuity at the top. It was about staying the course, not rocking the boat. Stability was the goal. Executives were often judged against their predecessor’s strengths and groomed to follow in their footsteps.

In the Connected Economy, succession planning is about identifying and developing top talent across the entire organization. It’s about enabling diversity to flourish and ensuring leaders are equipped for future challenges, not history.

Succession Planning Needs to Assume Strategic Importance
According to Deloitte’s 2015 study of Global Human Capital Trends, high-performing companies spend 1.5 to 2 times more on leadership than other companies and reap results that are triple or quadruple the levels of their competitors.

However the same study reveals that far too few organizations are making succession planning the strategic imperative it needs to be in a talent-driven economy, with 51 percent of respondents admitting their succession programs were weak or non-existent, and only 10 percent describing their programs as excellent.

Diversity in Succession-Planning
One of the key objectives of any succession planning program must be to identify and develop diverse talent to assume the leadership roles of tomorrow. A globalized economy requires global leadership, and a growing amount of evidence is emerging to support the development of diverse leadership teams.

A McKinsey study of European and Asian businesses revealed that companies with a higher-than-average number of female executives were as much as 47% more profitable than their competitors.

A study by the American Management Association found that companies with senior managers from non-European descent reported sales growth 13% higher than their competitors.

Moving from Diversity to Inclusion
Succession plans must also embody a corporate culture that values and embraces the unique strengths of diverse candidates, rather than just identifying candidates from minority groups which conform to the status quo.

The value of having more women in leadership positions is compromised if you only promote those women who behave like men. Similarly, talent from overseas is less valuable if it is judged on its ability to conform to US thinking.

Business English Learning for the C-Suite
PEBS provides English learning solutions designed specifically for future leaders, ensuring they get the support they need to quickly develop Business English communications skills and lead more effectively while delivering on today’s business objectives.

The Six Pillars of Talent Management
Learn more about the changing nature of global recruitment in our new White Paper – The New Language of Talent Management – which highlights the concerns of global CEOs, shares the success stories of industry disruptors, and outlines how the traditional approach to talent management needs to change in six core areas.

Learn more about One Standard, One Professional, and our complete range of Talent Management Solutions.


Nicole R Brown
Vice President, Go-To-Market and Operations
Pearson English Business Solutions

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