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We often talk in business about continuous learning. The goal is to learn something new every day and then apply it in ways that make you – and your organization – incrementally better. That idea of constant improvement always comes back to one, fundamental truth.

Knowledge is power.

It’s why, in this age of rapid technological change, the drive toward superior performance will always be led by a focus on Learning and Development (L&D). This is where organizations truly have the opportunity to capitalize and differentiate themselves from competitors.

But that also requires a new way of thinking about learning. We can now confidently move away from traditional, siloed training models and create that kind of “always learning” environment that helps expand those opportunities for both people and organizations.

PwC found in a recent study that 79 percent of CEOs regularly worry about their workforce’s existing skills and their ability to meet dynamic workplace needs. 

That finding highlights some common misconceptions:

  1. Training is limited only to the early years of one’s career 
  2. New skills applicable to their role can be picked up on the job, organically

Reskilling is relevant to every generation that’s either currently in the workforce or about to enter it. In fact, 55 percent of employers say the skills shortage is creating an inability to innovate effectively, according to that recent PwC study.

The same study found that by 2020, approximately 80 percent of all job roles will require digital competencies. Yet, only a fraction of the current workforce is digitally native. This is why companies must factor in the following elements when providing their employees with upskilling and reskilling opportunities:

Project-based Learning is Key to Continuous Development

Traditional L&D suffers from some critical challenges:

  • One-off courses have low absorption rates, and employees are likely to forget what they learned without continuous applications in the workplace. 
  • Protracted sessions, without any immediate relevance employees, can leave learners feeling disengaged and uninterested in the topic. 

Learning that provides project-based and on-the-job training provides a rich, effective development. This strategy has been widely implemented at PwC, where 50,000 members of their U.S. teams receive upskill opportunities through smaller, more specific offerings. L&D leaders can deliver personalized, continuous learning experiences through on-the-job and formal training programs to help employees develop critical skills.

Most importantly of all, they will remember and be able to use that information. It’s not immediately forgotten. This enables organizations to broaden their bench strength in artificial intelligence, data science, cloud computing, autonomous systems, blockchain, and other “tech-forward” skills in meaningful ways.

But simply offering these opportunities isn’t quite enough. To remain competitive in an era of digital transformation, managers need to support their people as they develop new skills and work to achieve goals that contribute to positive business outcomes.

In short, learning is a team sport. Organizations must act as coaches who are striving to bring out the best from their employees.

Define, Adopt, and Regularly Review a Robust Set of KPIs

L&D leaders tend to make three core mistakes when developing solutions and managing their curriculums.

  1. The first mistake is waiting until the solution (or set of solutions) is complete before asking how success will be measured. 
  2. Second, not understanding that measurement should not always relate to business impact but to operational or efficiency metrics on the program itself. (This can include factors such as the number of participants, participant satisfaction, and suitability of venue and technology.) 
  3. Third, metrics are often monitored by L&D professionals and don’t incorporate the broader scorecard for a business unit or a business leader’s individual success metrics.

It’s imperative to break this cycle by connecting learning initiatives to the organization’s overall objectives and ensuring that they have an impact on the entire organization. Otherwise, what’s the point, right? Organizations need to assess impact across a range of measures, including financial metrics (such as revenue or cost savings) and nonfinancial metrics (such as satisfaction and process improvements).

Employees Are Frequently Interested in Cross-functional Skill Sets

The purpose of L&D isn’t just to help a person do their current job better. Instead, upskilling and reskilling must boost one’s overall employability and enriching their professional growth path. You have to show employees what’s in it for them to get true buy-in for any learning program. Companies should invest in customizable L&D tracks that allow employees to focus on their areas of choice. At PwC, for example, they developed a Digital Fitness app to put customized learning paths at people’s fingertips. At the same time, employees can apply this learning immediately through opting into their digital lab.

Technology Can Broaden the Scope of Upskilling and Reskilling 

It’s clear that as organizations pivot their L&D programs towards continuous and cross-functional learning, technology can make a big difference. Technology plays a big role in delivering learning content and experiences in a mobile and scalable way. Companies must shift their focus toward providing a robust library of courses that enable learning to a more immersive, learning culture. This will help build a highly-skilled (and continuously improving) talent pool that’s ready to take the organization to new heights. Eventually, upskilling and reskilling will become embedded in your organization’s DNA so that it succeeds in the digital era.

For a learning organization to be successful, it needs to demonstrate value to the company. That’s why capability-building priorities and programs need to be integrated into the organization’s overall business priorities. For example, if digital transformation is a core priority for the organization, then L&D priorities should focus on building the capabilities to make this happen.

That’s how organizations truly build a culture of innovation.

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