Rethinking L&D through the lens of the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Align your Learning & Development with the framework of the global goals to create impact on your workforce and community and give a visible sense of purpose to your HR department.

What are the SDGs?

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. They provide a framework for governments, institutions and corporate to set and measure goals.

Is L&D connected with SGDs?

The SGDs feature 17 main goals, of which many of them intersect with L&D and reskilling the workforce. Here are the main goals that can intersect with your L&D strategy:

Reskilling and Learning SDG
Learning and development aligns well with corporate SGDs

Quality education

SDG 4 Quality EducationIt goes without saying that L&D and education go hand in hand. Work on reskilling in particular can be seen as a continuity of prior education. The half-life of a job in 2020 is of about 5 years and falling, which means tomorrow’s workforce will require skills that they haven’t learned at school or university.

On basic education, although 91% of children have now access to primary education, about 6 out of 10 children and adolescents are not achieving a minimum level of proficiency in reading and math, this is especially true in rural and remote areas. Here corporates with deep countryside penetration can step in and provide training complementing primary education to lower level workforce.

Gender Equality

SDG 5 Gender EqualityThis might not be the most straight-forward goal connected to L&D, but it is likely where companies can make the most impact.

On basic education, consider the following fact: in developing countries 1 out of 4 girls doesn’t have access to school, and therefore may end up in need of a job without basics qualifications. Corporate here too can step in and focus on female basic education to provide a longer term impact to families and communities. Focusing on women especially makes sense when considering technological disruption. 11% of jobs currently held by women are at risk of elimination as a result of digital technologies – a higher percentage than for men.

On advanced skills and digital positions in particular, focusing training on women allows to tap in a large talent pool: the drop outs. Women often struggle to re-enter the job market after taking extended leaves to take care of children and family: this is not by choice. 85% of women who leave the workforce for such reason say they would like to re-enter the job market at some point, many of them readily available. Companies here play a role to facilitate women re-entry into the economic system.

Decent Work and Economic growth

SDG 8 Decent work and Economic growthSkilling employees is the decent way forward, as opposed to exploiting cheap labour and taking long-term advantage of cheap labour. Employers who invest in skilling lower-level employees will find themselves navigating technological disruption more easily, often focusing on quality job outputs rather than just volume, allowing to yield larger margins, that can be reinvested in R&D and further training. In an increasingly globalized and digital world, employers who get stuck with cheap labor, cheap processes and cheap products will increasingly be at risk from the competition.

Reduced Inequalities

SDG 10 Reduced InequalitiesReskilling and training is often a way to reward committed and talented employees, offer them a chance to progress in the organization and therefore providing them with higher income. By focusing skilling on population who may not have the chance to benefit from good education in the first place, companies can make an impact on families and elevate local communities. This is especially meaningful in Thailand, which is one of the Southeast Asia countries with highest income inequalities.

Partnerships for the Goals

SDG 17 Partnership for the goalsAs for all ambitious goals, one cannot make it just by themselves. Partnering with other companies, institutions, and government will be key to measure and achieve success. Here are ways to partner with L&D goals:

  • Make use of L&D specialists partners, such as Huneety, which you can use to set up plans and KPIs to measure your success, focus your internal resources where it matters and do use external partners when possible to accelerate your transformation.
  • Reach out to educational partners, such as universities and polytechnics, those are often hungry to understand companies needs and are anxious to deliver students to the workforce with real-life useful skills.
  • Connect with local government and associations. Those will help you idenfity communities or areas of focus that matter at the local level. So you can make a real impact in little time.
  • Spread the word with press and communication agencies. Leverage communication specialists to make sure your actions are clear for your employees and external local parties. SGDs offer a great communication platform if you are using them properly. Leverage social media and video format especially, those are well suited to promote companies who make an impact on society. You will be surprised to see people who connect to your vision and will offer their support in helping you achieve more than just economic growth.
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