Superlearning for a future-proof workforce
Reskilling, upskilling and outskilling for a future-proof workforce (17 min read)
Many learning and development teams have already realised that reskilling the workforce is essential, but that learning as we know it will not suffice.
THE World Economic Forum sounded an alarm in January 2020 by announcing: “The world is facing a reskilling emergency. We need to reskill more than 1 billion people by 2030.”1 The underlying message was that organisations, governments and society need to work together to ensure people around the world are not left behind.
This emergency didn’t come out of nowhere. Disruptors to the nature of work have been delivered by technology innovation, a growing demand for new competencies, changing employee expectations, shifting labour demographics and inclusion/diversity strategies, new workforce models, and the evolving business environment with all its regulatory changes. And more recently the COVID-19 pandemic, which is forcing a rethink on the role of Learning and Development (L&D) in organisations and how learning can be delivered in the more immediate term. Many chief learning officers and L&D teams have already realised that reskilling, upskilling and outskilling present the answer to these problems, but that learning as we know it will not suffice.
A learning transformation is needed – one that focuses on the connection between continuous re/up/outskilling, on the one hand, and actual work, on the other: They are two sides of the same coin. The challenge for L&D teams is to prepare for a superlearning future, centred on skills and capabilities at the individual, team and organisation levels; powered by data; and integrating ‘learning in the flow of work’ across functions and businesses. To make this transformation is to embark on a journey involving several well-calculated steps, and the only place to start is at the beginning. At the end is a ‘super’ workforce: resilient and adaptable to current and future disruptors.
Learning in the flow of work
In 2019, Deloitte highlighted a new way for learning to happen: learning in the flow of work and life. Integrating learning into the flow of work and life, and empowering people to actively develop throughout their lives would require development, learning and new experiences weaved into the day-to-day (often real-time) flow of work.
Why transform learning?
The business value offered by transforming learning comes in two forms. The first is brought by cost and value: seeking to optimise efficiency by increasing consistency, quality and productivity (cost), and expanding opportunities that drive individual, team and organisational performance (value). This helps a business realise its full potential by building strategic capabilities that improve organisational agility.
The second is finding meaning in work, stemming from better understanding workers. When meaning is achieved, the resulting cost and value improvements benefit a company directly (amplification) but also enhance the business’s reputation – potentially attracting new talent – and create a more purpose-driven organisational culture.
The concept is already in application today, in some situations. Imagine that a pump in a machinery room needs fixing but, previously, in that same room, two serious accidents occurred, and workers were injured. So the business sets employees up with handheld devices, to warn them about not touching the hot pipe before working on the pump, and then to guide them through processes and procedures. In this case, relevant and contextualised learning has been brought as close as possible to the moment of need, when the worker is about to enter the machinery room.
Now consider an employee who needs to add a new client in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool. They’re guided through the process via pre-programmed intelligence that appears in an overlay for web-based services. Specific call-outs or pop-ups appear on screen when the tool detects that the user is stuck in the process or is entering incorrect information. This kind of digital adoption support, or digital enablement tooling, is often used to support users in executing tasks in software.
These instances of learning in the flow of work present a positive business case in terms of incident avoidance, reduced time to execute processes and improved data quality. They show how appropriate, contextualised content is pushed to users based on an interaction that’s facilitated by a technology or tool. However, despite their great impact, these examples remain isolated practices in only parts of a business. There is the potential for so much more.
Author: Luc Lutin