2020 has changed the way we do business, the way we live, and the way we learn. Before the pandemic, upskilling was a priority for many organizations, but now it is imperative. The percentage of workforce upskilled in 2020 rose to 38% versus 14% in 2019- The 2021 Workplace Learning Trends Report by Udemy.
In 2021, as we plan to get back to work in some semblance, there is a sustained focus on upskilling. Pandemic has brought about a learning transformation, and along the journey, a growing number of organizations recognized the impending skill gap and their responsibility to fill it.
Some of the top trends that emerged and are here to stay are:
- Amidst uncertainty, self-mastery is a valued skill: To become change-ready, people and organizations must keep abreast of future-relevant capabilities. Employees had to pick up new skills such as digital literacy, remote collaboration, virtual leadership, etc. Self-learning became a necessity to sustain performance, thanks to webinars and eLearning. Continuous learning is driven by self-mastery. Organizations have realized this and pegged “learning to learn” as a core competency.
- Remote work makes collaboration a priority: With work from home, collaboration is critical to innovate and sustain the business. Digitization and digitalization are here to stay and is it important to bring together people in a remote environment.
- Data literacy is the new computer literacy: Every function and organization are gravitating towards data skills. Data literacy is the new computer literacy, it is no longer relegated to data roles, but essential for every employee, manager, and leader to thrive.
- Automation skills let data scientists focus on strategy: With data and technology, roles are evolving, technology people are focusing more on strategy. Managers need to make sense of data and apply AI-ML capabilities to business problems to enable strategic decisions.
- Farewell silos, hello hybrid tech roles: Hybrid technology roles initially started in the technology industry, but today extend to non-tech sectors. People with multiple skills are important for the future of work.
- Cybersecurity training takes on a new urgency: With remote working, data privacy and data concerns are at the forefront of doing business.
- Functional skills are back in focus. Hence, the L&D agenda is to strengthen the core, while looking at the new-age skills, and adopting digital journeys. This comes from cultivating a learning culture.
The Crux of a Learning Culture:
Building a learning culture means getting comfortable with change.
Employees today must embrace learning, become more adaptable and proactive, and learn to learn” –Shelley Osborne, The Upskilling Imperative
Leaders must put learning at the center of business. When evaluated on Josh Bersin’s Learning Organization Maturity Model, only 58% of organizations believe they are at level L3 (Talent and Performance Improvement) or L4 (Capability Development). Leaders need to ask themselves, “How does this correlate to a culture of learning agility and learning innovation”?
How to make learning core to work
- Develop and foster agile learners: Organizations need to evaluate how they are acquiring skills on-the-go, to manage and face change.
- Turn feedback into fuel: The systems, processes, and culture must go beyond manager feedback and encourage peer feedback, reverse feedback, cross-functional feedback, etc.
- Think like a marketer: L&D leaders must think like marketers, wherein their customers are business and employees. Understanding their needs and aligning solutions to deliver to their needs is critical.
- Put learning into the flow of work: Learners need not treat learning as an ‘event’ for which they must take out time. Employees should have anytime-anywhere access to learning.
- Signal the Value of Learning: Learning must be linked to outcome, to help employees realize and business learning success.
Making learning integral to work is all about creating engaging learning journeys to help people understand what they are learning, and help them apply their learning for better performance. Employees are always busy, while managers want quick learning results. To balance this, L&D must create the ‘moments of truth’ for employees to engage in learning while keeping it relevant to the business.
So much importance is given to day-to-day work, that learning is treated as time-off. This mindset needs to change. Moreover, by the time the organization is ready with learning content, learning needs have changed to due changing business needs. The answer to these mindset and practical shifts is to L work closely with the C-suite to identify the business problems and then craft the learning strategy in alignment. Only then business buy-in and learner engagement will happen. A great learning culture sustains learning momentum through well-crafted, personalized, individual paths using new-age media such as community-based, peer-based, just-in-time-based, user-generated learning content and tools.
Above all, L&D must act as business advisors and champion learning experiences for leaders, line managers, and employees. Proving ROI in terms of performance is also critical. Truly partnering with business requires L&D professionals to better understand where business is heading towards, and get leaders involved in role-model learning behaviors.