Kate Pasterfield looks into the future of workplace learning and says we should hold on tight and enjoy the ride.
Imagine it’s 2025, the start of another busy working day. But what does that working day look like? What skills are people using as they go about their jobs? And how is technology helping them? Forget what’s happening right here, right now. It’ll be history sooner than you know.
It’s been said that such is the impact of technology and innovation, we’re about to see the equivalent of 2,000 years of change in the next 100 years. Wow! And according to futurist and humanist Gerd Leonhard, we can expect to see more change in the next 20 years than we’ve experienced in the last 300.
The process has already begun: “Sector after sector, industry after industry, we’re waking up to the fact that the future is already here; we just haven’t noticed it … your career may soon be impacted or simply be over. If your profession is built on routine, it will be automated; 50% of our jobs will be automated in the next 10-15 years.
…to grasp this opportunity we need to be prepared to learn, unlearn and relearn.
But the good news is, the vast majority of new jobs haven’t been invented yet. Anything that can’t be digitised, automated or done by robots will become extremely valuable. Human-only work is our future.” If the workplace is undergoing seismic and rapid change, it stands to reason that workplace learning has to change too.
But for those in charge of workplace learning, the challenge is far more urgent because it has to be ahead of the time, all of the time. For this reason, you need to be setting your sights further ahead. Being in the present isn’t enough.
The question therefore isn’t: “How do we prepare our employees for 2017-18 or 2018-19?” Rather, it’s: “What do we do now, to ensure everyone in our organisation has
all the skills and tools that they’ll need further down the line?”
The good news is that change is good. It’s stagnation you should fear. If you don’t change, you’ll be left behind. So don’t feel daunted at the prospect of doing things differently. Be inspired. Be excited. Embrace change.
Era of opportunity
As part of my role as head of innovation at a digital learning provider, I evaluate and explore technologies to test their value for workplace learning. I look at which innovations will help employees develop and grow their skills and add the most value to organisations.
My starting point is to study how the future of work might look. More than at any other time in history, technology is evolving at an exponential pace. Why? Because in the digital era, we are able to use today’s technology to develop tomorrow’s.
Whereas in the first Industrial Revolution, the changes were powered by steam – which would eventually run out of steam! – today, the technology is able to ‘feed’ its own ever-increasing rapid development. The World Economic Forum (WEF) calls this the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Digital technology doubles its capability every year. In the past, we never had this kind of intelligent technology at our fingertips, so development wasn’t as rapid or on such a scale. And, because it delivers twice as much each year, it’s getting cheaper.
So what does all this mean? The WEF predicts it will impact all walks of life in every part of the globe. And it’ll happen at high speed. Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the WEF, says: “In its scale, scope and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything that humankind has experienced before…it will fundamentally alter the way we live, work and relate to each other.”
However, he questions whether we’re ready for this transformation: “The speed is mind boggling. What I am particularly concerned about is how little the world is prepared for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” The WEF produced a powerful video in which some of the leading global names in business contributed their thoughts on the future.
Here’s what Alibaba founder, Jack Ma, had to say: “If we are not innovative, if we are not creative enough, it will be very difficult to survive in this century.”
And perhaps the most powerful statement of all came from Mukesh Ambani, MD of the giant Indian company, Reliance Industries: “Humanity itself will be changed with this super intelligence and we are at the doorstep of that era.” A pretty amazing quote, isn’t it? The message from all of these industry leaders and innovators is that change is good.
How to prepare for 2025
By being utilised in fields such as learning, technology is helping us to reinvent the way we do things. And it’s helping us to do things better. As technology becomes more intelligent, we can use it to offer the best possible learning experience. But to grasp this opportunity we need to be prepared to learn, unlearn and relearn.
It’s important to recognise the cadence of change within your organisation. If you’ve been slow to respond to change in L&D you might have to consider investing and thinking about the future now to catch up.
What you can do to kick-start your journey to 2025
- Spend 3-5% of your time thinking about the future. Attend conferences to learn about latest trends and solutions; backcast – design your future and take the steps that will get you there; ask colleagues and employees what trends they think are going to help that will impact your learning strategy; assess which parts of your role, and the roles you are training, are likely to be automated.
- Consider what the skills requirements will be of particular generations or groupings. Many of these skills won’t be physical hands-on skills. Naomi Stanford outlines a couple of examples: Young people will need to learn responsibility, resourcefulness and resilience as the workplace gets harder to enter; women in the workplace will need help in areas such as perseverance and challenging norms if their potential is to be fulfilled.
I’m excited about what the future holds for learning because I can see it taking shape now. I just hope that learning professionals manage to catch that ride to 2025. It’s leaving around about now.
This piece is an abridged version of a feature from this month’s magazine. To read the full article click here (subscription required)
About the author
Kate Pasterfield is head of innovation at Sponge UK, and an award-winning learning technologies designer.