Automation, AI, and connected machines are dramatically changing the workforce and ushering in the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.” It is estimated that 25-40% of jobs in the U.S. will be significantly impacted, if not eliminated, by these technologies. Concerningly, the U.S. isn’t well-positioned to support employees in weathering this change. We spend less than nearly every other industrialized country on worker training and job placement.
So, in light of all this, what can business and learning leaders do to position their workforce for success? Based on Udemy’s learning predictions for 2020, following are five ways learning and development (L&D) and HR teams can help a company’s workforce prepare for the changes to come.
1. Shift to networked teams and a talent marketplace
The concepts of a work “role” and traditional “career path” as we know them are fading away. Companies are increasingly assigning employees to projects based on skill set versus title. In other words, companies are bringing employees onto projects, similarly to how sports teams would recruit and trade certain players–because of their specialized skills–instead of maintaining static teams. This shift creates a potential win-win: employers get the best team for the job, and employees have more opportunities to work on a range of (hopefully) interesting projects with a variety of coworkers.
I thought HR technology industry analyst Josh Bersin posed a shrewd question during his keynote at the HRTech 2019 Conference in October: Why is it easier for an employee to find a new job at another company than to be hired into a new role at their existing company? On the whole, companies don’t always prioritize retaining talent; instead, they spend time and budget recruiting externally. Creating an internal “talent marketplace” to post opportunities and recruit talent from a company’s existing talent pool makes sense on so many levels.
Training and continuous learning come into play in a big way in this new environment, and it’s important for L&D teams to provide resources to help employees position themselves for new and exciting opportunities within their company.
2. Ramp up skills mapping
Understanding current capabilities and anticipating the need for new skills in the future is essential to identifying the gaps and hiring or implementing retraining in time to meet business needs, but companies nowadays need this function on steroids. Skills mapping, or competency mapping, will be critical for companies as they manage flexible networked teams and work to keep up with the rapid evolution of new technologies. JPMorgan is a great example of a company pioneering new approaches to skills mapping. They’re working with MIT’s Initiative on the Digital Economy to forecast what emerging skill sets will be needed and implement training that develops these skills. They also are piloting a “skills passport” platform to help IT employees assess their current skills, browse new roles, and understand what training they may need to advance.
3. Make training continuous
On-the-job training has been declining steadily over the last two decades. When training is provided, it’s typically ad hoc or a one-and-done part of new employee onboarding. However, as the pace of business continues to accelerate, continuous on-the-job training will be needed to sustain business initiatives and help employees keep up with technology. A McKinsey report finds that while ad hoc training and hiring for additional skills can help jump-start new initiatives, these quick fixes don’t build overall capabilities and aren’t enough to transform an organization.
At Udemy for Business, we’re seeing “capability academies”–or continuous learning programs–pop up. For example, one of our customers, a business and technology consulting firm, launched a specialized academy to provide training for employees in AI and data science. Another one of our data-driven customers has also implemented a data science capability academy to retrain thousands of internal employees to support the company’s digital transformation.
4. Embrace social learning
Software developers commonly use social learning or community platforms to share learnings and crowdsource solutions. This approach is gaining steam as a way for L&D to create structured learning for other types of jobs that also have rapidly changing skills. In fact, we found that 43% of companies say they now offer social learning, up from 35% in 2018.
And they’re getting creative. Some L&D teams scan Slack for commonly asked questions and use them to create content for in-person and virtual sessions. They combine these informational sessions with online learning courses, live coding sessions, and discussions on messaging platforms.
5. Keep L&D agile
The bar for intuitive and interactive learner experiences is set pretty high these days. To meet user expectations, L&D teams have to become more flexible and agile in terms of team skills and technologies. For example, while facilitators/instructors and LMS administrators are still key roles, L&D teams are adding data analysts, content curators, learning technology managers, learning experience designers, and social community managers. Also, it’s increasingly important to incorporate AI, automation, and personalization to create learning paths tailored to individuals versus one-size-fits-all courses.
To enable these changes, L&D leaders must become more deeply embedded in the business and integrated with the executive suite. This will help ensure learning initiatives are aligned with business goals and objectives and supported with budget and resources.