Lifelong learning at work is no longer a lofty ideal. Because of widespread talent shortages, broadening skills gaps, and worker restlessness, it has become a business imperative. To attract and retain the best talent, companies must invest in professional development initiatives to build workforces set for future success.
“Many leading businesses are realizing that they cannot hire all the new skills they need,” writes Bryan Hancock, Kate Lazaroff-Puck, and Scott Rutherford at McKinsey & Company. “The better solution is to look internally and develop talent they already have.”
To do this effectively, organizations must create a workplace culture that encourages and supports a lifetime of learning and career growth for their employees.
“Rapid technological advances and equally rapid skills obsolescence have made lifelong learning an essential element of our personal and professional lives,” writes Nat D’Ercole, et al. in a Deloitte report. “Encouraging lifelong learning—and providing a range of opportunities to do so—can enable organizations to support innovation and employee well-being at the same time.”
Companies Should Prioritize Professional Development
Heather McGowan, from the Swinburne University of Technology, notes that “in 1975, 83 percent of the enterprise value of companies on the S&P 500 came from physical assets. By 2018, that had flipped — 84 percent of value was created by human capital, and only 16 percent was from tangible assets.”
She says “we’ve treated humans as a cost of production, a cost to contain, while humans increasingly made all the value.”
Employees are the key drivers of innovation, the brand ambassadors for the company, and the linchpins in the overall success of the business. As such, organizations need to recognize their people assets as a competitive advantage and place a premium on their employees’ value to the company. Doing so includes preparing employees for the future of work.
As the face of work continues to change, companies are tasked with instilling and then supporting a lifelong learning mindset in their employees. Because jobs are constantly evolving, employers are being pushed to expand the career horizons for employees as a means of bolstering their long-term employability.
“Organizations are perfectly positioned to develop ‘professional development hubs’ of learning in order to keep their workforce up-to-date and competitive,” writes the team at Your New Gig, an online career mentoring service. “They need to reinvent themselves as learning institutions.”
To do this, leaders should start thinking “strategically about employee development and the role they play in it,” explains the team at professional development company GetSmarter. They must prioritize creating learning opportunities for employees that will enable the organization to build a workforce that is agile in the face of constant change and sustainable over the long term.
But becoming a source of education is no easy feat, especially for organizations that haven’t traditionally prioritized learning and development. That’s where talent intelligence tools come in. AI-backed technology can help companies transform into future-facing learning organizations.
AI Helps Companies Instill a Growth Mindset in Their Employees
Creating a culture of learning starts with showing employees that they have a future with the company. If they can visualize a career path with the organization, they are more likely to commit to it and adapt a lifelong learning mindset to achieve the goals set out before them in their careers.
Nurturing that mindset of a lifelong learner requires employers to present employees with a picture of their future and how to attain it, and also give them control over their learning. AI makes it possible to do both.
AI Allows Companies To Show Employees the Future
For employees to want to grow within the company, they need to see where the company is going and what role they will play in that journey. AI allows companies to bring a higher level of transparency to employees about where they fit in the vision for the future, explains Jenny Dearborn, chief people officer at marketing platform Klaviyo. The abundance of data within a company’s software can be used to create career maps that show employees multiple paths they can take at a company, depending on their career ambitions.
This can encourage employees to develop a sense of curiosity about the current and future state of their skills. This curiosity is important to building a lifelong learning mindset that enables employees to sharpen current skills and learn new ones to succeed in different roles.
Talent intelligence tools also allow employers to bring clarity of the learning journey to employees by showing them exactly what their current knowledge, skills, and abilities are. The tools also show which of those are needed for the future state of the company and what new skills and capabilities they will need to develop to be employable in the future.
With Talent Intelligence, Companies Can Personalize Learning
It’s then up to employers to provide their employees access to the training programs that coincide with their specific career trajectories.
Offering generic learning opportunities is no longer good enough to support employees on their career journeys. One-size-fits-all courses or training programs simply overload employees with information that may or may not be applicable to their career paths. That can lead to them turning away from professional development opportunities.
To overcome that resistance and encourage a growth mindset, companies need to harness the power of talent intelligence tools to personalize the learning journey for each employee.
“AI gives organizations the ability to provide personalized learning opportunities to individual employees when and where they need help,” writes Carol Leaman, CEO at frontline employee platform Axonify. “It essentially flips the workplace learning paradigm on its head, providing right-size-fits-one support at the scale of a global business.”
When the learning journey belongs to the individual, they are more likely to follow it and seek out learning experiences along the way.
Talent Intelligence Gives Employees Control Over Their Learning
AI not only enables employers to present employees with learning opportunities, but the technology also allows companies to put the power of learning directly into the hands of employees. That ownership and power motivates employees to embrace growth and take advantage of the opportunities before them.
As previously mentioned, before AI, companies pushed generic learning development programs on employees regardless of relevance to the individual. Now, with talent intelligence tools, companies give employees the power of choice in their learning at work. They can choose which paths to take, which skills to develop, and which courses or training programs to take to master those new skills.
Such technology was key to AT&T’s overhaul of their approach to perpetual learning at work that started in 2013. According to John Donovan and Cathy Benko, former AT&T CEO, and former vice chairman and managing principal at Deloitte, respectively, when the learning and development initiative began, the company used AI-powered technology to launch a self-service career platform, which:
- Helps workers find open positions with links to competency-development resources.
- Analyzes hiring trends in the company to assist workers in choosing a path.
- Provides links to skills training.
- Connects workers to employees in a role similar to theirs or one they are moving to.
By giving them such a high level of ownership over their professional development, AT&T has created a culture of learning that encourages employees to develop a lifelong growth mindset. The company has also given them the tools to make aspirations a reality. As of 2020, seven years after the initiative launched, nearly 90 percent of the company’s management employees have participated in learning programs provided or subsidized by the company.
That success illustrates just how effective AI-powered talent intelligence tools can be at facilitating an organization’s transformation into a company that values learning and endeavors to instill a lifelong learning mindset in its employees. This capability is important for employers because, to stay competitive, they need to hire and retain people who are willing to adapt to whatever the future may bring. AI can help employers shape workers into those highly-valued assets.
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