Technology skills: Why learning styles and context matters

Business leaders have a growing need to provide technology skills training to employees.

By U2B Staff 

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An article published by McKinsey & Company titled “To emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis, companies should start reskilling their workforces now” recommends that businesses adopt steps for reskilling their workforce with technology skills as the economy rebounds from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the list of steps, the article recommended that businesses begin upskilling their critical workforce pools by building skill sets that will be useful no matter how an employee’s specific role may evolve.

In its article, McKinsey & Company recommends that businesses should focus investments on building four skills in their organisations: digital, higher cognitive, social, and emotional, and adaptability and resilience skills.

The building of these skill sets in employees will allow businesses to operate in a fully digital environment thus allowing it to respond well to changes.

Previous findings by McKinsey & Company states that about half the activities people are paid to do globally could theoretically be automated using currently demonstrated technologies.

The report adds that less than 5% of occupations can be fully automated. However, in about 60% of occupations, at least one-third of the activities could be automated, implying substantial workplace transformations and changes for all workers.

The top priority for businesses post COVID-19 should revolve around building technical awareness and skills that will allow every employee to operate in a remote world and remain productive within the company’s ecosystem.

As businesses shift towards a more tech and data-oriented model, it will become essential for employees to develop a basic understanding of critical tech and data concepts as well as processes.

The essential skills will include data visualisation, applied machine learning, and advanced analytics. Commercial service industries such as banking are more likely to widen the scope of employees that require digital upskilling.


McKinsey & Company also published the results to a survey identifying the largest areas of skill shortages in businesses.

The report states that 43% of businesses have a dire need to address skill gaps in data analytics while 26% of businesses find a great need for upskilling in the areas related to IT, mobile, and web design management.

As automation becomes more pervasive and companies redesign jobs to encompass different activities, it will be critical for businesses to implement strategies that help employees develop new capabilities and skills.

Pluralsight, an enterprise technology skills platform’s report on upskilling found that although most companies provide opportunities to employees to develop technology skills, a large percentage of programmes do not meet employee needs.

According to the study, there does not appear to be a one-size-fits-all approach due to differences in employees’ learning styles.

The study recommends a three-pronged approach for businesses and business leaders to address this issue and highlights the need for companies to develop training programmes for individual contexts and learning needs.

The three most popular IT learning tactics include skilling-up learners, project-specific learners, and micro learners. Naturally, programmes for upskilling in IT should address these three cohorts separately.

Skilling-up learners make up 30% of all learners. They are avid, enthusiastic learners who aim to expand their skillset and climb the career ladder. Project-specific learners make up 28% of learners who need longer-term, continuous learning for a project or requirement.

Conversely, micro learners consume short bursts of learning for an immediate project or requirement and makeup 16% of total learners.


Additionally, the survey states that 50% of tech professionals in the UK would opt for a collaborative approach with their employers for upskilling in the field. However, there is a chasm between preferred learning practices of employees and upskilling options provided by employers.

The report states “the top three preferred methods of learning for technologists include self-paced online courses (20%), online instructor led-training (20%), and project-based learning (17%). Despite this, over a quarter (26%) of companies are still prioritising in-person workshops and classes.”

Business leaders have a growing need to provide on-the-job training and opportunities to employees to upgrade their technology skills, through training and learning methods that suit contextual needs as well as learning styles to prevent skill gaps from hampering their progress.