Future of Work

Future of Work Trends: The Agile Learning Imperative

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In 2020, the global workforce lost an equivalent of 255 million full-time jobs, an estimated $3.7 trillion in wages, and 4.4% of global GDP, a staggering toll on lives and livelihoods. While vaccine rollout has begun and the growth outlook is predicted to improve, socio-economic recovery is far from certain. Organizations and individuals which had embarked on the digital transformation path to prepare for the future of work are emerging largely unscathed and somewhat more substantial.

Rise of the New Work Culture

Some of the changes that have taken place in reaction to the pandemic are temporary, but others are transformational and are part of the new normal. Either way, they have changed how we work, learn, and go about our daily lives.

Employees want more: Employees no longer view their employers simply as their source of livelihood. Good pay and benefits, a commitment to mental health and meaningful work, a transparent stance on social issues, and managerial support and flexibility are essential for today’s workers. They are willing to work hard to achieve this balance.

Hybrid work and workplaces: Gartner has found that businesses looking beyond the COVID-19 pandemic are going to be facing a new kind of challenge: Managing a new type of highly complicated, hybrid workforce. The study found that 82% of business leaders say their organizations plan to let employees continue to work from home at least some of the time, while 47% plan to allow employees to do so permanently.

Empathetic Leadership: The manager’s role has taken on a new dimension with the responsibility of providing psychological safety and creating a sense of belonging. Managing remote teams can present different challenges than working a traditional, in-person team. Leaders will need to adapt their management styles to fit the unique needs of remote teams.

More and different skills – The total number of skills required for a single job increases by 10% year over year. At the same time, these skills are other in-kind — 33% of the skills present in an average job posting in 2017 will not be needed by 2021. Skills that are becoming more valuable include proficiency with emerging technologies, analytical skills, capacity for collaboration, working with little oversight, innovative thinking, and resilience.

The Longevity Opportunity

The changes created by the pandemic, the accelerating impact of automation and the increase of the human lifespan all create a skilling imperative that is not time bound. The future of work demands much greater volume, velocity, and variety of learning for the enterprise and for employees. Leaders must create a culture of continuous learning that increases organizational resilience. Employees must become continuous learners to keep their skills up to date for success in their current role, and they must reskill periodically to advance their career or to jump into a new high-demand role. Organizations must embed learning directly into work design so that people who need to acquire new skills can do it as needed on the job. Agile learning is the discipline for making this happen.

Agile learning connects learning curves with earning curves. For employees, learning advances their career, future-proofs them against change, and increases their value. Learning fills the pipeline of skills critical to adapting to change and executing the mission for the enterprise. Agile learning connects motivated, self-directed learners to the enterprise’s strategic outcomes.

Considering the lifespans have been extending, the idea of having a career span of 60-70 years is no longer inconceivable. A traditional two-year degree or a four-year degree will no longer sustain us through our work lives. And so, we need those continuous returns to learn to be much more seamless, and the learning journeys need to be adaptive to the demands of the workforce now.

Build a “Career Portfolio” (Not a “Career Path”)

While we are being mindful and intentional about the skills we are acquiring, we also need to pay attention to the experiences we are gathering through the work we are doing. According to April Rinne, we need to shift from pursuing a “career path” to creating a “career portfolio.” Gone are the days when one trained for a specific job and stayed on the same career path in a linear fashion until retirement. Now, one needs to think of their career as a collection of diverse experiences each contributing to the overall value that the individual brings to the table – much like an investment portfolio. A career portfolio reflects ones professional identity and potential. It includes a unique combination of skills, experiences, and talents that can be mixed, matched, and blended in different ways. My portfolio, as an example, includes learning strategist, speaker, talent activist, culinary geek, amateur photographer and fitness enthusiast – all of which power ME. A career portfolio grows through mindful curation of different projects, varied skills, and expanded relationships . Over time, the value of your portfolio will increase by your ability to combine and weave together skills from your different experiences in order to gain new insights, tackle new problems, diversify income sources, and serve in new ways.

No individual or organization can succeed today unless learning keeps up with the pace of technological, social and economic change. We all need to revolutionize thinking about learning and take personal responsibility thrive amid continued disruption.




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