Learning Paradigms of an Uberized Workforce
The none-too-distant future would see an Uberized workforce, a gig economy and the lifespan of skills getting much shorter than before. This would transform the nature of work, disrupt the employer-workforce relationship and bring huge focus on swift skills transformation and employability. An average worker of tomorrow would have to continuously adapt to new roles or changing job requirements during the entire career span. All this would make tomorrow’s worker to be a ‘hyper-learner’ – deeply self-aware and extremely focused on the need to continuously learn and re-skill himself, virtually on-the-go.
Hence, tomorrow shall belong to ‘Learning as a Service’ or LaaS for the individual worker. Through LaaS, the skilled workforce of tomorrow would search, order, deliver and consume learning through an app just like cab services or food deliveries. It would all be need-based, on-the-go, instant, cutting through the value chain and being delivered directly to the consumer. In short, each one of us could virtually order a ‘new skill’ instantly through an app and ‘pay per use’. This mass customization and personalization of learning will be facilitated by emerging technologies like IoT, AI and SMAC as they all contribute to the ongoing digital disruption in the economy.
Although today LaaS is still a concept that learning tech vendors have started talking about, soon it would become a popular consumer product or ‘must have’ service. Just as tech giants have adapted ERPs for the small enterprises in the last decade, they would be able to adapt them further for each individual @ n=1. Imagine learning systems and tools being owned and managed by each one of us!
Users have already had a glimpse of this personalization in the form of G-suite, free LMSes and learning content from multiple sources across disciplines being seamlessly accessed through TV channels. With onslaught of MOOCs or online courses from credible sources being available either free or at throw away prices, appification of learning portals and the ability to host a course is now available to anyone who has access to a laptop & internet.
Thus, learning is transforming from being a ‘Business initiative for employees’ or a B2B product to a ‘Retail Product for every individual’ leading to its eventual commoditization.
This is obviously going to impact the L&D professional’s role. From being a ‘provider & controller,’ the Learning Manager would become an ‘orchestrator and product manager’ interested in getting the product right and enhancing its use.
Just like it’s happening in healthcare today where patients have Googled & chatted threadbare even before they meet the doctor, it would happen in learning too where the skilled workers would be aware of their learning needs and courses even before the learning manager comes into play. The learning professional hence would need to become more of an integrator who can mass customize on one end as well as provide an n=1 solution that blends the unique individual needs with that of the organization. Deep business understanding, learnability, domain knowledge, diagnostic capabilities, digital acumen and solutioning skills would acquire hygiene status – just for the learning professional to remain employable. Life and soft skills of synthesizing, integrating, personalizing, empathizing would then be differentiators between the great and ‘also ran’ L&D professionals. And the latter would most likely be extinct.
How the L&D community responds to this challenge remains to be seen. I do feel that the times were never as exciting for the L&D professional as they are now. However, they would have to first transform their own approach towards learning before they can drive the transformation of the emerging uberized workforce.
(The views expressed in the column are author’s own and do not represent that of his employer.)