Changes in technology are creating a massive shift in the way jobs are perceived and executed, across all domains. Automation and technology are making some functions redundant, to the extent that Artificial Intelligence will fully replace many of the more transactional jobs in the future. In addition, technology is bringing about revolutionary changes in work culture and behaviour. Employees need to constantly adapt to these changes to keep up and remain relevant and competitive. As with software, people need regular upgrades through continual learning.
Re-Skilling – Past and Present
In the past, organizations adopted a phase-out approach, wherein, they would replace employees who were struggling to cope with new talent with relevant skills. The cost of losing organizational context and knowledge in this manner and the resulting low morale among the remaining employees can negatively impact the business.
Organizations also rolled-out ‘Learning and Development’ programs which typically involved the developing new skill-based courses, identifying trainers, budget approvals, and training. Such programs often could not keep up with the pace required to adapt to new technologies and methodologies due to the long-winded and reactive process.
In today’s workplace, re-skilling and continuous learning are indispensable. While hiring for critical or niche skills is required, organizations also focus heavily on retention. Organizations understand that continual and responsive learning management is necessary for employee development and success. Investment in re-skilling is a high priority in employers’ future workforce planning efforts.
One mode of re-skilling employees that companies are adopting, is preparing employees for future roles based on well-defined career paths. Through evaluations and assessment centers, employees can identify their skill gaps for future roles and actively pursue their development to prepare for the next step. This enables active development towards career growth - a strong motivator, while simultaneously developing an internal pipeline for succession. Internal promotions boost employee morale as well as acceptance within teams while retaining proficient employees with deep knowledge of the company, domain and organizational culture. Employers can also look to cross-skill employees to widen their career options within the organization and enable cross-functional moves based on interest.
For re-skilling to be continual, organizations need to build a deep learning culture. This begins by making time for learning on a regular basis. Providing a robust training framework through classroom training, blended learning and learning management systems can enable employees to be self-driven in their learning approach. A common practice in the IT sector is to keep employees who are not actively engaged on client projects on the ‘bench’. These employees are encouraged to attend training and re-skill themselves in preparation for future projects. In other domains where employees are constantly on the go with time-pressure, the culture should encourage a focus on learning even say, on a weekly-basis.
A primary concern with re-skilling is enabling consistent re-skilling opportunities for a distributed workforce, present across multiple locations. Technology can be an enabler to make this a reality. Data-driven re-skilling is a proactive approach to ensure training takes place on-the-go and employees are equipped with the right skills to continually adapt and succeed. Making learning convenient, social and competitive - through gamification and leader boards - seems to be the order of the day. Small doses of training can be disseminated to employees in a frequent manner, accessible through personal devices. This also enables employees to consume knowledge modules at their convenience anytime, anywhere. Country-wide initiatives such as live broadcast talks and discussion forums can increase participation and build a learning community across borders. Companies have started moving from traditional Learning Management Systems (LMS) to Learning Experience Platforms (LXP) which deliver a personalized learning experience. LXPs basically constitute our day-to-day activities like video content and social media. This enables on-demand learning in the true sense. It allows to easily organize the course, allows the user to review and rate content. In the end, blended learning solutions that propagate a culture of continuous education through collaborative learning, task-force led learning, instructor-led training, e-learning and mobile learning can permeate to different audiences across generations and cultures.
Looking To The Future
The next step is to identify trends in advance through predictive analytics and focus on skills that will become critical. Organizations will take on the learning agenda in full force, perhaps even linking learning outcomes with performance. Yet, in the end, for learning initiatives to be successful, employees need to be self-driven and intrinsically motivated to learn on a regular basis and implement their learning in their work. Organizations are still struggling to address the gap between merely attending quickly forgotten trainings, and the genuine application and practice of concepts learned. Organizations will do well to design their learning practices around the 70-20-10 principle to ensure that a majority of employee development occurs during on-the-job learning.