How to cultivate a flexible learning culture for the digital economy

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Written by Agata Nowakowska on 20 October 2020 in Features
Features

Agata Nowakowska offers four crucial ways that businesses can maintain learning flexibility.

Rapidly changing business models have had a profound impact on the learning and talent landscape in recent years - affecting job displacement and creation, heightening labour productivity, and widening the skills gap. And, with major drivers of transformation, like AI, cloud computing, IoT, and automation, re-moulding the technology sector considerably, the pace of change is set to expedite.

To add to this, research shows that Covid-19 has accelerated the UK’s digital transformation efforts by more than five years, with as many as 96% of UK enterprise decision makers claiming that the pandemic sped up their company’s digitalisation plans.

This rapid digital growth impacts the employment and skills markets considerably. Some of the most in-demand occupations, such as an AI conversational analyst or conversational designer, did not exist ten years ago. Indeed, the World Economic Forum estimates that 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist.

Adopting a culture of continuous learning refocuses training to develop competencies, rather than job-specific skills, that can be nurtured over time.

With a shortage of employees equipped with the right skills to meet current demands, organisations are not able to prepare their workforces for the demands of the future. However, the training gap will continue to grow unless businesses take steps to proactively encourage a flexible learning culture that embraces change.

Here are four priorities that organisations should bear in mind to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of learning:

Embrace digital change

In the last three to five years, transformative change has hit every industry, including the digital and elearning space. In an effort to become more accommodating, leading universities and colleges have increasingly migrated offerings online, providing learning experiences to those juggling familial responsibilities, complex schedules or lack of transport.

Digital learning has also emerged to the forefront in the business world, spurred more recently by the global shift to remote working. As the lines between personal and professional interactions blur, companies are increasingly looking to learning as a lifelong activity rather than a box-ticking exercise.

There is a renewed focus on durable ‘power skills’ such as agility, communication, and collaboration, that will benefit employees' interactions both within and outside of the workplace.

Focus on agility

The unprecedented events of 2020 have proven, more than ever before, the value of adaptability.

 

To paraphrase a quote from Charles Darwin: ‘the species that will survive is the one that will best adapt and adjust to the changing environment’. Developing an agile workforce, with employees who are able to listen to market needs and navigate change, is fundamental in today’s digital economy. 

According to Dell’s Digital Transformation Index study, 45% companies say they are concerned about becoming obsolete in just three to five years, nearly half don’t know what their industry will look like in just three years’ time, and 73% believe they need to be more ‘digital’ to succeed in the future.

Digital transformation has forced industries to change the way they work, requiring people and their skills to change with it.

Cultivate a continuous learning culture

This need for flexibility has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Skills and competencies that weren’t on companies’ radar at the beginning of the year are now fundamental.

Tailored training programs, such as leading virtual teams and managing stress remotely, have become popularised by changing remote work models - and learning will continue to ebb and flow in accordance with changing trends and practices.

Adopting a culture of continuous learning refocuses training to develop competencies, rather than job-specific skills, that can be nurtured over time. This enables businesses to transcend current events, cultivating a future-fit resilient workforce that is prepared for any future possibilities.

Invest in tools that keep pace

As the work environment changes, so must the training tools used to deliver information. Digital technology is making it possible for people to access learning content at a faster, more efficient and cost-effective rate than ever before. 

However, while the content is key, true learning can only be achieved when richness and depth of experience is delivered through the content directly to the user. Even during the pandemic, which has accelerated learning technology adoption, value is found where direct learning meets people where they are.

This requires a learning platform that delivers personalised recommendations, gamification and badging, embedded tools for access within workflows, and pathways for building durable skills that adapt with the needs of individuals. Ultimately, investing in training tools that keep pace with the changing environment, ensures organisations are best prepared for the future.

Today’s digital economy, characterised by change, requires an agile workforce that is able to keep pace. This means developing employees that help build innovative solutions to existing problems and share new ideas to keep business moving. When it comes to building skills for the future, technology training must be frequent and refreshed, instilled in a culture of lifelong learning.

Whilst there is no certainty around what skills will be valuable to businesses moving forward, there is value in transforming future challenges into possibilities, and adopting a mindset that thrives in change.

 

About the author

Agata Nowakowska is Area Vice President of Skillsoft.

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