It is estimated that 90% of jobs will require some element of digital skills by 2022 yet over half of the organisations surveyed in a recent Capgemini report said the digital talent gap is widening.

Meanwhile employees are anxious that their skills will become redundant and young people are struggling to make career choices in a world where the average lifespan of a company is now less than 15 years.

Forward thinking organisations are acting now to prepare their workforce for the future by giving employees more responsibility and the freedom to build their own skills. Empowering their employees to increase their own market value. Over half of the digital talent surveyed are likely to gravitate to towards organisations that offer better digital skill development.

Jobs of the future will increasingly require soft skills – problem solving, communication, collaboration, creativity and passion for learning are all high on the list. These are developed less through expensive and time-consuming training programmes and more by giving individuals responsibility for what and how they learn.

Embrace virtual communities

In Capgemini, we’re seeing a move towards self-learning across different communities in the business. For example, the engineers prefer to use their training days to attend conferences where they exchange ideas and discover innovative new solutions. Individuals build their skills at a time that suits them using open learning platforms which also allow them to connect with experts, around the world.

Such virtual communities have wider implications for creating open minds as employees engage with peers outside the organisation to building the skills they need regardless of location by collaborating (virtually or otherwise) to solve problems, working in teams through hackathons and giving and receiving real time feedback.

Other businesses are leveraging social media dynamics to build their own social learning platforms. Employees already familiar with the technology from outside work are now using the same techniques to share learning material, build interest communities and mentor each other to build knowledge.

Benefits for employee and employer

For the individual, the technology and virtual way of working is familiar. Learning can be done on any device at any time on any subject. Employees gain a sense of ownership for both the content and their own learning progress which can be recorded on the learning platform.

For the employer, this informal approach using gamification and communities helps to embed a learning culture across the organisation. The data generated by the technology platform can be analysed to understand what topics employees are studying and how they are progressing on the learning journey as well as to identify important opportunities or challenges for the business.

Collaboration and open learning platforms can also bring economies of scale as employers contribute to a shared resource and individuals can access a much wider range of courses and skills.

Virtual and social learning to complement traditional approaches

So, just as the world or work is changing and the skills needed to thrive in business become more varied, so learning choices and methods are evolving to build new skills at the scale and pace needed. Central to this is individual engagement and accountability for the learning process.

While there’s no suggestion that learning and development should be replaced wholesale by self-learning, there is an opportunity to capitalise on the momentum of social media and the growing number of virtual learning communities to accelerate learning, encourage individual responsibility and build the soft skills that will complement the technical roles of the future.