Article: Empowering Pakistan's workforce: Building skills for a changing world

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Empowering Pakistan's workforce: Building skills for a changing world

Pakistan's youthful population is a goldmine, but skilling them for the future is key. Learn how L&D leaders can unlock this potential.
Empowering Pakistan's workforce: Building skills for a changing world

Pakistan's future is bright, fueled by a massive 85.78 million strong working-age population – a statistic highlighted by the World Economic Forum's Future of Jobs Report. This immense pool of talent offers incredible opportunities for innovation and growth. Yet, with a 57% labour force participation rate and 55% of the workforce in vulnerable employment, there's a clear need for strategic development.

The good news: Pakistan's unemployment rate remains relatively low at 5%. However, the same report predicts a significant job transformation by 2027. While 69 million new jobs are expected to be created, 83 million will disappear. This shift, driven by the green transition and localised supply chains, demands a focus on future-proof skill sets. The report further identifies cognitive skills like analytical and creative thinking as crucial for the coming years. Additionally, companies are actively shifting their learning and development strategies towards AI and Big Data expertise.

In this dynamic landscape, learning leaders have a unique opportunity. The era of Artificial Intelligence necessitates a whole new approach to learning and talent development. Skill building is no longer just about individual growth; it's about building business agility and empowering your workforce. To make learning programs truly impactful, L&D professionals must understand how AI has reshaped work, careers, and coaching itself.

It's time to rewrite the playbook for the future of work, one that efficiently balances the learning needs of employers and employees.

Focus areas for 2024: Aligning learning with business goals and empowering careers

So, how can L&D leaders turn these insights into action? Here's where data offers valuable guidance.

Learning-focused on business impact:

LinkedIn's 2024 Workplace Learning Report confirms that for the second consecutive year, aligning learning with business goals remains the top priority for L&D professionals globally. 

Abdus Samad Khan, Senior Team Leader - Learning & Knowledge Management at Fauji Fertilizer Company Ltd. affirms this and shares, “Our individual goals or KPIs are synergised with business goals, and our learning objectives are clearly identified in an organisational Competencies Framework at each management level. This integrated approach ensures that learning and business are not in conflict but, in fact, complement each other.”

The numbers also paint a compelling picture: LinkedIn's research reveals that globally, companies with strong learning cultures enjoy significantly better employee retention (+57%), internal mobility (+23%), and a healthier management pipeline (+7%). These statistics can be powerful tools for L&D leaders seeking to secure buy-in for learning initiatives.

Upskilling and career development take center stage:

Beyond business goals, L&D priorities in 2024 showcase a growing focus on employee development. The report reveals a significant shift in global focus, with "empowering employees to develop their careers" jumping from 9th to 4th position in just one year. This trend aligns perfectly with Economist Impact's research, where over 42% of employees in Pakistan believe employers have a responsibility to provide access to diversified skill development programs.

At English Biscuit Manufacturers, LinkedIn Learning played a vital role in their employee development. Fahad Jawed, Senior Manager of Rewards, Capability Development, and HRBP explains, “It provided valuable insights into our audience's needs, allowing us to curate engaging content. We created a comprehensive learning strategy with different levels for all roles, ensuring everyone could access the best resources.  Leveraging LinkedIn's trusted brand and verified content by experts, we fostered a culture of continuous learning. This, combined with a strategic content push and an engaging platform, led to a remarkable 85% activation rate in the first week, making the transition to digital learning a resounding success.

The power of AI-driven learning:

The conversation around L&D wouldn't be complete without acknowledging the transformative potential of AI. McKinsey's report, "A Future That Works," predicts that AI could boost Pakistan's labour productivity by 30-40% across key sectors like manufacturing, healthcare, and agriculture. This potential is further amplified by LinkedIn's finding: a whopping 80% of employees are eager to learn more about using AI in their roles. This intersection of AI upskilling and career development creates a potent strategy for boosting employee engagement and retention. Their research also shows that learners with defined career goals are 4 times more likely to actively participate in learning programmes.

Digital skills: A top priority in Pakistan's booming tech landscape:

Pakistan's thriving IT sector and rapidly growing freelance market, the third-fastest growing globally, fuel a strong demand for digital skills among its workforce.  Economist Impact underscores this further, highlighting that digital skills are a top priority for 57.3% of Pakistani employees. This demand is driven by factors like the recent surge in digitalisation (leading to a 72.1% demand for basic digital skills), as well as the desire for career advancement (29.3%) and increased earning potential (23%). 54.7% of employees in Pakistan also identify workplace training as a key source for acquiring new digital skills,  underscoring the crucial role organisations can play in bridging the skills gap by providing employees with targeted learning opportunities.

Building skills agility: The cornerstone of future-proof workforces

Asma Ahmad, Head of Talent, Engagement and Culture, at National Foods Limited adds, “In our pursuit of fostering a learning culture and nurturing a growth mindset among our emerging leaders, modern learning platforms emerge as a significant disruptor in the realm of Learning & Development. These platforms offer a wealth of topics and micro-learning programs readily accessible at one's fingertips, empowering team members to promptly address areas of development, or any specific need in a particular situation. This approach is closely aligned with our business objectives and Learning & Development goals, as it underscores the principle that what benefits our employees ultimately contributes to the success of our business.”

Rabia Hassan, Senior Manager-Organizational Development & Culture, Zong CMPak Ltd also shares, “In today's dynamic world, platforms like LinkedIn Learning are fueling digital transformation by empowering our workforce.  They offer the flexibility to upskill in everything from technical expertise (5G, cloud) to crucial behavioural skills. Vast libraries and personalised recommendations ensure there's a path for everyone, regardless of location or pace. This continuous learning keeps our talent sharp, bridges skill gaps, and drives innovation – all without disrupting our business.”

Equipping your workforce with "skills agility" is crucial for sustained business growth. This means having the right capabilities readily available to match the ever-evolving demands of your organisation. Here's how to cultivate an agile learning culture:

Personalised learning for maximum impact:

Forget the days of costly, one-size-fits-all upskilling programs. Research shows individualised skill development, tailored to individual career aspirations, is far more impactful. LinkedIn confirms this: the top reasons people across the world prioritise learning are career progression, staying current in their fields, and personalised content aligned with their interests and goals. Companies are strategically investing in career coaching and mentoring to boost retention, and AI promises to further expand these programs, providing personalised career development at scale.

At PTCL Group, this personalisation is achieved through LinkedIn Learning. Rida Ayaz, Executive-Corporate Learning says, “LinkedIn Learning’s vast library of courses covering a wide range of topics allows us to offer diverse learning opportunities to our employees, enabling them to acquire new skills and stay relevant in their roles. The platform's personalised recommendations, flexible, on-demand learning opportunities, and learning pathways support individualised development plans that empower our employees to acquire new skills at their own pace and drive continuous improvement.”

The enduring power of human skills:

While technology advances, the importance of human skills, or "soft skills," remains paramount.  LinkedIn's research reveals that 91% of L&D professionals globally agree on the growing significance of these skills. Notably, interpersonal skills (+73%), presentation skills (+64%), problem-solving (+57%), and people management (+57%) have seen a significant rise in importance over the past year.

Economist Impact further emphasises this point, highlighting how employees in Pakistan prioritise self-management (53.3%) and soft skills (46.7%). This is evident in their focus on adaptability and flexibility (71.4% vs. regional average 65.5%) and strong communication skills (81.5% vs. regional average 70.9%).  This trend underscores the universal applicability of soft skills across industries and roles.  Interestingly, the research suggests a link between soft skills and digital capabilities – 81% of Pakistani employees believe digital skills have boosted their confidence and improved communication, analysis, and critical thinking.

Metrics that matter: Measuring learning's impact

Move beyond vanity metrics like the number of training sessions delivered. Instead, focus on data that demonstrates the tangible connection between learning and business improvement. Globally, L&D professionals are increasingly prioritising metrics like performance reviews (36%), employee productivity (34%), retention rates (31%), direct business impact (30%), closing skills gaps (27%), and the number of new skills acquired per learner (16%).  These data points paint a clear picture of the true value proposition of learning initiatives.

Tania shares how they achieve this at Midas Safety, “Through the insights and data provided by LinkedIn, managers can monitor employee learning progress timely, track the learning cycle of the employees, and tweak and update learning interventions accordingly. The development strategy locked at the beginning of the year serves as the benchmark for the employee learning hours that need to be covered. When forming this strategy, there is a strong focus on assigning LinkedIn learning courses monthly to employees.”

Pakistan's youthful population presents a golden opportunity, but capitalising on it requires a future-proof workforce. By fostering a culture of "skills agility" – personalised learning, human skill development, and data-driven measurement – L&D leaders can empower their people to adapt and thrive in the face of change. This collaborative effort, where organisations provide targeted learning and employees embrace continuous skill development, is the key to unlocking Pakistan's true potential as a global economic leader.

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Topics: Learning & Development, Online Learning Solutions, Skilling, Leadership, #OneHR

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