5 critical reasons why effective workplace learning is more essential than ever (and why organisations MUST invest in workforce development)

1. More rapid adoption of new ways of working – requires a culture change

We are living in increasingly uncertain and volatile times.  So far in 2020 there have been freak weather events, a global pandemic and the oncoming joy of Brexit (and whatever that has in store for the workers of the UK). These events are accelerating the need to adapt to new ways of working, utilising new forms of communication technology and collaborating with our colleagues in new and innovative ways.  This uncertainty is not going away, so organisations need to adapt culturally to enable a more positive attitude towards frequent change (and frequent learning of new ways of working) – for organisations to thrive, this ‘learning culture’ needs to become business as usual (or the ‘new norm’ in current lingo!)

2. Increasing automation and digitisation of the workplace – requires diversification of skills

It is not new news that the workplace is becoming more automated and digitised.  Organisations that want to survive need to identify and adopt the best and most efficient practices to give them a competitive advantage.  More and more traditionally ‘highly technical’ role are being automated (think 3D printing and robotics).  Therefore, employees need to shift from being the operatives, administrators and technicians to learn how to be the designers, programmers and workplace coaches of these automated processes. It should be noted though that in professional services, analytical, problem solving, critical thinking and communication are still highly sought after skills (AI can’t do everything – yet!)

3. Increasingly short shelf life of technical skills – requires regular upskilling

The recent Linked In 2020 Workplace Learning Report 2020 Report reiterated the continuing trend that technical skills have a ‘relatively short shelf life’ of less than 5 years.  The skills needed 10 years ago are different to ones needed now.  With a volatile and uncertain economic and environmental outlook, combined with increasing automation and digitisation – is it even possible to predict accurately what knowledge and skills are going to be needed 10 years in the future?  One thing the report did highlight was that the development of interpersonal (or ‘soft’) skills – including leadership, management, problem solving and communication – continue to be in high demand and critical to organisational success.

4. An aging demographic and resulting skills loss – requires effective coaching and mentoring programmes

Although there are variations across industry and countries, in developed nations there is a steadily aging workforce. And ‘as employees get older and retire, businesses can face significant losses of critical knowledge and skills, as well as decreased productivity.’ https://hbr.org/2008/02/managing-demographic-risk.  Therefore, effectively capturing that knowledge and skills and passing it on younger generation of workers has never been more important.  I believe this is why coaching and mentoring are seen as business critical skills, and regularly rank in surveys as one of the highest priority skills required in leaders and managers.

5. Workplace learning needs to be effective and non-disruptive – requires learning to be in flow of work

Charles Jennings 70/20/10 model suggests that individuals get 70% of work relevant skills and knowledge through job related experiences and activities whereas 20% comes from networking and interacting with others and only 10% comes from formal educational events (classroom courses, qualifications etc) Jennings 70/20/10.  Now, maybe a conflict of interest here, but I am a learning specialist who is committed to both my own personal development and recognition of skills and also other’s development and recognition.  Therefore, for me accredited and formal programmes are still an essential part of the world of learning and development.  But, as can be seen in Jennings’ model,  the real value added for organisations will come from the 70% – this type of skills development will be efficient – the learning happens as and when the individual needs it, in the flow of productive work – and also highly effective – countless research demonstrates that being able to practice the skills your learn helps to ensure that those skills are embedded and retained! 

Therefore, learning is not going away – it cannot go away – it is essential for business survival.  However, learning specialist need to develop increasingly innovative ways of providing learning activity in the most efficient and effective ways – the goal must always be added value to the individual and therefore the organisation.

@accentuate offer coaching and mentoring programmes for leaders and managers, that blend the formal workshop skills development with ongoing on-the-job support when your people really need it!