Factory workers manning their stations. Poised to fend off the imminent invasion of robots, coming to steal their jobs and rob them of their livelihoods. Wielding their health-and-safety-mandated gloves like pitchforks, ready to fight for what’s theirs… Granted, our idea of artificial intelligence and robotics taking over the workplace has been somewhat refined since the early days of digitalisation, but the threat of automation still looms large. Perhaps unsurprisingly, in conversation with Deloitte Insights, managers said they are worried about the impact new technologies might have on jobs and about what they should be doing to prepare.
Some 38% of 2019 Global Human Capital Trends survey respondents are planning to cut certain job profiles in the next three years, with many more being transformed. With 90% of respondents redesigning jobs for the future, the need to up- and reskill employees is starker than ever. A recent World Economic Forum report forecasts that over half the global workforce will require training by 2022.
Changes in corporate longevity, work practices and business models mean the working world is shifting too quickly for educational institutions to keep up, as major curriculum adjustments often entail long lead times.
This eliminates the possibility for companies to rely on fast-paced hiring and firing practices to fill the newly emerging roles.
Competition starts where automation ends
In a future where machines take care of straight-forward execution tasks and perform high-complexity analysis, the added-value of humans will lie more predominantly in how they post-process the information yielded electronically.
In an open letter, a Harvard Business School professor and a Chan Zuckerberg Initiative learning engineer warn business leaders to get their people ready. Companies’ competitive edge will soon lie in their employees’ ability to interact with modern tools and perform complex decision-making.
Millennials spearhead upskilling
With a sense of unease hanging in the air, people are taking it upon themselves to fill their skills gaps. Millennials, in particular, see lifelong learning as an integral part of professional development and, in turn, of their own long-term success. Their work-related priorities differ from previous generations. This is a generation that doesn’t have the time of day for jobs they find unfulfilling or purposeless. A generation that has largely been free to muse over their visions. Perhaps an inclination towards lifelong learning is simply a product of a lifetime of micro-learning, where the only thing between you and your next skill is a YouTube video?
Millennials value happiness and recognize the beneficial impact of lifelong learning on personal growth, relationships and issues in society at large. Having recognized that “jobs for life” are on the decline, they understand the need for continuous skills development. According to the Millennial Careers: 2020 Vision report from Manpower, more than a quarter of young people believe job security means having a skill set that matches the demands of the market. Four out of five millennials rate the opportunity to pursue lifelong learning as a key factor in job selection.
Lifelong learning boosts employee retention
Long after reeling in new hires, fostering a culture of lifelong learning works to a company’s advantage. From an operational standpoint, training can lead to productivity hikes, boosting revenues. What’s more, employees who feel valued – that their employer is invested in their professional development – are more likely to want to stick around.
This holds true across the board, as the benefits of lifelong learning are felt in many ways, beyond skillset development and career path definition. As recently reported in a Hospitality Insights article comparing lifelong learning to pizza of all things, besides improving your skills and making yourself more marketable, adopting a lifelong-learning mindset keeps you young, gets your innovative juices flowing and grounds you with a humble attitude.
From concept to implementation
Just how does one go about harnessing the power of lifelong learning to boost performance and employee retention? A look at some high-profile companies reveals a thing or two:
- com encourages staff to learn in the interests of better serving customers. Managers help employees find the value in both success and failure, pursuing an explorative learning approach and one-to-one mentoring.
- Dropbox holds Hack Week sessions, which allow everyone to break free from the day-to-day and tackle problem-solving from a fresh perspective – often generating inspired solutions that provide performance uplift.
- Philips understands the learning value of face-to-face interaction and affords its employees independence, flexibility and resources to travel and step outside of their roles every now and then.
Further strategies include setting learning goals, encouraging and incentivizing learning outside of the work environment, integrating learning initiatives into the workflow, having employees from different departments cross-fertilize and rewarding upskilling well done.
If millennials are to make up over a third of the global workforce by 2021, it is in business leaders’ interests not only to cater to them, but to feed their appetite for lifelong learning. This hunger, this drive to strive for happiness can become the pulling power your company needs to tackle the hurdles our evolving economy has in store. So, there may not be an actual robot invasion on the horizon… But who says we shouldn’t rally the troops?