Companies must prepare their employees for the future – it is a responsibility they owe themselves, their employees, their shareholders, and the society at large. But traditional learning strategies are struggling to provide the agility that organizations need, and skill gaps are only growing wider: companies estimate that around 40% of workers will require at least some reskilling and 94% of business leaders report that they expect employees to pick up new skills on the job. If organizations shrink from this challenge, we as a society will bear the burden. If they succeed, we will reach new heights together. The challenges of accelerated change require a change of mindset – at every level – to achieve a new collective learning experience.
When companies ingrain that new, shared learning experience they create lasting benefits for the organization as a whole and for their people as individuals. Capgemini Research Institute found that for a 50,000-strong organization with advanced automation, an additional 278 million dollars over three years can be saved if advanced upskilling is implemented. That freed-up money and resources can then be channeled back into new learning and growth experiences, creating a virtuous circle for employees. So what does this new learning experience look like in practice? It means reimagining your company culture to become a learning organization.
Make learning a part of your company’s DNA
The first step to building a learning organization is to stop thinking of learning as separate – as a topic of the HR department, or an activity to fill downtime. Learning needs to be continuous and integrated into everyday activities and routines. In our series on learning we’ve discussed how micro-learning and micro-doing can be leveraged to build learning into normal activities, so that employees build skills as they work. We’ve explored the ways that large organizations can tailor learning experiences to individual employees. And we’ve seen how a learning strategy needs to be wrapped into a larger corporate strategy. This final chapter of our blog series on learning will explore how business leaders are integrating learning at every level to create true learning organizations.
Leveraging culture to instill learning best practices
In a learning organization, the culture of learning is shared. On the one hand this means learning is a value shared at every level throughout the organization, especially at the top. Everyone learns: the executive board, leadership and employees. On the other hand, it means people share their learning experience with each other, informally or through mentoring or coaching programs. People can also form communities to share their knowledge about a given topic and learn more about it together as one group. To make learning more visible (especially important in a virtual work environment), learning platforms might show progress, facilitate cooperative learning in groups and even motivate through game-like competition between employees.
Learning should be a part of daily routines, enabling employees to steadily build skills as they work. For example, say a back-end developer is collaborating with a UX developer to design some new features. To build learning into their work they can give each other micro-tasks that cross over each other’s areas of expertise, providing tips and feedback as they go. Learning like this can be built into projects and tasks from the start.
Once positive behavior has been engrained, the rewards are lasting. Make sure your learning culture is on track, and actively guide it in the right direction. This also means enacting measures to assert its priority and prevent learning from being pushed to the side. In companies like Google 20% of employees’ time is reserved for innovation and new ideas, why not reserve (and free) time for learning too? In addition to integrating learning into everyday activities, setting aside dedicated time helps ensure that personal growth is prioritized, and above all – valued.
Creating new roles for leaders, trainers and learners
A new way of learning affects everyone’s roles. In the past, a top-down approach and prescribed curriculum moved employees along established career paths. But with the growing number of skills to be mastered, trying to deal with the complexity of today’s upskilling needs from above is untenable. The role for leaders today is to set general strategy and build a learning culture. The actual learning must be decentralized, to be taken up by local managers and employee, as discussed in our first blog of the series.
Managers help determine what skills each employee can benefit from; they arrange trainings and also help gather valuable qualitative feedback. But above all, it is local managers who set the visible cultural trends which employees will follow. Managers who publicly improve their own capabilities set an example for the employees under them. How can an organization ensure that managers are prioritizing learning? If learning is truly valued, it can be included in managers’ KPIs, and leaders can be measured by their team’s personal growth, and rewarded for it.
The role of trainers is also changing – away from being a single source of knowledge, and towards a content curator and learning experience designer. Trainers today become a conduit, conveying the collective knowledge of the best minds to learners. As experts in their fields, their job is to make the highest quality learning materials available, guide learners towards the content which is most useful to them, and anchor that knowledge in the learners. This requires increased agility from trainers, who must follow their area of expertise closely, track emergent trends, seek out the newest materials that cover those changes, and integrate them into their training courses. In the recent past, a solid training course might have a lifespan of five to ten years. Training courses today must be updated on a continuous basis to stay relevant. And not only training courses, but knowledge itself must be continuously revisited. Having planted seeds, trainers should also find ways to cultivate the growth of knowledge and ensure that new skills continue to develop.
Finally, employees must become more self-driven in their learning. Online learning platforms help provide material and learning tracks, and can incorporate data about employees to help determine the most relevant courses. One way to encourage employees to take ownership of their learning is by recognizing their learning achievements, publicly and in the form of better assignments. Seeing results is a powerful motivator.
Blazing the trail to lasting learning
For many organizations, the approach to learning has not yet reached the crucial turning point. Leaders recognize and react to changes when they see them, and some learning tools are in place, but organizations have yet to integrate learning into the marrow of their ways of working. When they do, they will be prepared not only to meet the challenges of tomorrow, but to take future challenges in stride. In a time of fast changing skill requirements, it is everyone’s responsibility to make sure that employees are ready to excel in future roles. The old way of training employees is out. Today employers and employees must work together in a new collective paradigm to increase skills, for their own benefit, and for the wider benefit of the communities around them. An educated, well-trained society moves us all forward. The responsibility belongs to everybody, and so do the rewards.
Learn more about upskilling in practice in the 2021 edition of Conversations for Tomorrow.
EVP Workforce and Organization, Capgemini Invent
Management Consultant, Capgemini Invent
Consultant – Workforce & Organization, Capgemini Invent
Consultant – Workforce & Organization, Capgemini Invent
Manager – Workforce & Organization, Capgemini Invent