March 10, 2020

Learning for the Jobs of the Future: Is Your Organization Prepared?


According to a report from McKinsey, about 60 percent of all occupations are susceptible to a substantial level of automation, meaning about one-third of their constituent tasks could be automated. Similarly, IDC research found that 50 percent of structured repeatable tasks will be automated by 2024, and 20 percent of knowledge workers will rely on artificial intelligence (AI) and similar software to do their jobs.

As AI and other technologies augment existing jobs, we’ll see the expansion of new roles and opportunities for organizations and employees alike — from drone pilots to remote health professionals and a whole lot more. An entirely new range of livelihoods will open up. To fully benefit from these changes, however, organizations and their employees must ensure they have what it takes.

In fact, the World Economic Forum predicts that 54 percent of workers will need to be reskilled to compete in the new world of work. In particular, these new jobs will require a much higher digital quotient than we’re used to.

What’s Stopping Digital Transformation Today?

Today, digital skills are vital, but they still exist at a very nascent stage. Many workers are just now getting the basics when it comes to digital applications. As McKinsey notes, basic digital skills are the second-fastest-growing skills category among US workers.

While these basic skills provide a strong foundation for future digital proficiency, the fact is that the new age of automation will require more sophisticated digital skills than our workers currently have — and organizations are not ready for this. According to PwC, global CEOs now rank the need for new skills as one of their biggest business challenges.

What is hampering the adoption of digital skills among employees? There are numerous factors at work, but a few key ones include:

1. Broken Learning Experiences

Adopting and mastering new technology requires a process of continuous learning, thanks to the ever-moving current of optimization, integrations, and upgrades. However, most skills training is still conducted on a one-off basis, meaning employees are not given the opportunity to keep up with the latest developments as they occur.

2. Ineffective Change Management

To thrive well into the future, organizations need to undergo multiple cycles of change management — including many cases where the company and its employees must migrate from one digital application to a more advanced one. Helping employees cultivate the digital skills required to navigate new applications must be considered an integral part of the change management process.

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3. Digital Transformation Fatigue

Speaking of repeating change management cycles: 70 percent of “complex, large-scale change programs” fail to achieve their stated aims, according to McKinsey. In part, these failures stem from the exhaustion of budget, staff, and resources over the course of many change initiatives in succession. Many companies are able to implement new digital applications, but adoption ends up taking a back seat due to digital transformation fatigue.

LIFOW: Learning for the Future

Traditional forms of learning are ill-equipped to reskill workers for the jobs of the future — but, thankfully, many companies are already embracing always-on performance-based learning instead. Such performance-based learning is defined, in part, by “leaning in the flow of work” (LIFOW).

According to LinkedIn, 58 percent of workers want to learn at their own pace, and 49 percent want to “learn at the point of need.” This is what we mean by LIFOW, a micro-learning technique that makes new knowledge discoverable when needed and delivers training instantly in bite-sized pieces. LIFOW also enables the proven 70:20:10 model of training design, which emphasizes that 70 percent of learning comes from direct experience on the job, 20 percent comes from working with others, and 10 percent comes from formal training.

Of course, while LIFOW is an important component of preparing for the jobs of the future, it’s not enough on its own. More macro-level training will also be important. As Josh Bersin puts it,

“Research shows that the more micro things we do, the more the need for macro learning grows. This is how humans thrive. We couple big learning with small learning.”

The key, then, is to use both micro- and macro-level learning, with the emphasis depending on the stage of the employee’s skill level and their position in the employee life cycle. For example, macro-level structured learning is great for onboarding and helping employees develop new skills in pursuit of a promotion. This is because macro-level modules can offer a holistic view of a topic and thus foster deeper understanding. On the other hand, micro-level unstructured learning helps employees solve unexpected problems, improve work, and stay informed about changes on a day-to-day basis.

Research from O’Reilly backs this up: New hires are more likely to benefit from structured content, but as they grow and become experts in their fields, unstructured content becomes more helpful.

The jobs of the future will be heavily reliant on technology. For organizations to realize the true potential of digital transformation, they’ll need to help their employees smoothly transition into new roles with the right training. Traditional approaches to employee development are unable to solve the adoption problems alone. Instead, organizations need to create stellar training experiences that incorporate proven training methodologies like LIFOW. Only then can they steer their employees toward a productive future ahead.

Gary Malhotra is vice president of marketing at Whatfix.

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Gary Malhotra is a vice president of marketing at Whatfix. He has more than 20 years of experience in enterprise applications, consulting, and outsourcing at leading companies like SAP Ariba, IBM, Deloitte, Accenture, Ivalua, Tata Consultancy Services, and TapClicks.