Mobile learning for retraining and reskilling: Research insights

Written by Amit Gautam on 20 August 2018 in Features
Features

Amit Gautam calls on a few studies to make the case for mobile learning.

What’s next? It's a question that constantly lingers on our minds owing to the current pace of technological transformation and the equally enthralling pace of adoption.

Technology is here and now. It’s a world where automation is gradually taking over many human functions, making things faster and cheaper in the process, but also triggering a fear of the unknown. The latter mostly instilled due to the popular sci-fi movies that show machines going berserk, aiming for world domination.

But, the reality is far from it. Like Satya Nadella, current CEO of Microsoft, says, “Ultimately, it's not going to be about man versus machine. It is going to be about man with machines.”

Of late there has also been quite some debate about how automation would lead to layoffs, leaving a large proportion of the workforce jobless, or in need for new skills for sustaining within the workplace.

According to a recent report by McKinsey Global Institute, Jobs lost, jobs gained: Workforce transitions in a time of automation, 'by 2030 as many as 375m workers—or roughly 14% of the global workforce—may need to switch occupational categories as digitisation, automation, and advances in artificial intelligence disrupt the world of work.'

'The kinds of skills companies require will shift, with profound implications for the career paths individuals will need to pursue.'

From an L&D point of view, automation points to significant changes for the workforce and transformation of the workplace.

Retraining and reskilling: The need of the hour

While the report highlights certain startling impacts of automation, the changes may not be as severe as projected. Take the industrial revolution for instance that set a precedent to all the major changes thereafter, all leading to this technological revolution that we are witnessing.

From an L&D point of view, automation, in fact, points to significant changes for the workforce and transformation of the workplace. A change that requires the employees to be prepared for the change in dynamics, to be retrained and reskilled to accept new roles within the organisation.

According to the report, 'Midcareer job training will be essential, as will enhancing labor market dynamism and enabling worker redeployment. These changes will challenge current educational and workforce training models, as well as business approaches to skill-building.'

'Another priority is rethinking and strengthening transition and income support for workers caught in the crosscurrents of automation.' Economist Michael Spence states that, “the best way for companies, governments, and individuals to address the challenge, is for them to work together.'

And as a move forward, the organisational training strategies must change and evolve to meet the current learning requirements.

Technology, hence, would play a major role in delivering effective training to different learner groups, catering to their personalised learning curve (considering that the skill-set requirements would differ for different learners).


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With the current pace of digitalisation and mobility requirements, the workforce that comprises of a plethora of talent from Gen Zers to Boomers, most of them constantly in transit or laden with individual tasks, learning something new that comes as a part of retraining or reskilling should be in a form that suits them all.

This is where mobile learning comes in as the perfect learning companion. While there are various reasons, including flexible BYOD policies, increased device dependency, that push the envelope towards mobile learning, how exactly does it fit the bill when it comes to retraining and reskilling?

  • Convenient relearning and reskilling

While organisations are being pushed towards change, employees too understand the state of affairs. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 'more than half of the adults in the workforce today realise that it will be essential for them to get training and develop new skills throughout their career in order to keep up with changes in the workplace.'

But, the willingness to fill the learning gaps or acquire new skills can often be restricted due to lack of time or unavailability of content at the point of need. Mobile LMSs and mobile content make learning available just-in-time that can be conveniently accessed to learn what is required and when it is required.

  • Plugging the skill gaps

Another McKinsey insight states that,'66% (of the surveyed) see ‘addressing potential skills gaps related to automation/digitisation' within their workforces as at least a ‘top-ten priority’. Nearly 30% put it in the top five. The driver behind this sense of urgency is the accelerating pace of enterprise-wide transformation.'

Addressing the skill-gap hence has become a priority. Mobile learning (m-learning) has often been touted as the best tool for performance support. While tracking and analytics in mobile LMSs assist in mapping the skill gaps, the right content can easily be delivered on-the-job on the mobile devices.

  • Fastidious utilisation of time

'Some reskilling will require time off work, some will require gaining additional formal qualifications, perhaps after decades out of the classroom.'

'These efforts will not be easy, and individuals will need to be adequately supported and incentivised and will need to be able to see the eventual benefits of continuous reskilling in the form of rewarding job transition pathways', citing directly from a report by World Economic Forum, Towards a Reskilling Revolution A Future of Jobs for All. M-learning cuts down the need for separate off-time for learning.

Travel time, break-time, or leisure time can easily be utilised for reskilling, and all that with or without constant data connection. Offline mode on mobile learning and LMS apps makes learning truly ubiquitous.

  • Instilling cross-functional capabilities

Upskilling is something that comes in along with reskilling, considering the latest workplace requirements. It doesn’t focus just on the role-specific proficiency of individuals. It gives equal importance to soft skills such as language and communication skills and to any other skill that can act as the foundation for transitioning individuals into multiple roles, even the ones that may manifest in the future.

Duolingo app is by far the best example for language training that is self-driven. With m-learning, organisations can provide the learners an opportunity to learn new skills at their own pace.

When employees have the additional skills-that allows them to handle different roles - they may be deployed into many different positions internally (even internationally), opening new avenues for change, better utilisation of talent and greater retention.

While automation may bring about changes in the workplace scenario, readiness for job-transitions could be the next big thing for L&D. The World Economic Forum even shares some ‘Good-fit’ job transition options in its report.

But one way or the other, while retraining and reskilling may seem to be a huge risk, organisations are now willing to take that gamble and leap towards a future that consists of not just learning mediated by technology (mobiles and the whole enchilada), but unlearning and relearning too.

 

About the author

Amit Gautam is founder and director of UpsideLMS.

 

 

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