Change is coming to the U.S. workforce and in many cases is already here. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that around 20% of current jobs could be automated right now. Technology is going to completely change the jobs of millions of Americans, if it hasn’t already.

Organizations must prepare for this technological shift. To survive this disruption, they will need to prioritize learning to upskill and retrain their employees to keep up with changing job roles and skills.

Employees Want to Learn

Top talent doesn’t want to accept the status quo, they want to be adaptable in a changing job market and help their employers transform and innovate. Organizations give employees the power to do this through learning.

Learning is in style. In fact, Deloitte’s 2019 Global Millennial Survey showed that millennials and Gen Z listed a “lack of learning and development opportunities” as the third reason they would leave a job. These opportunities aren’t just expected of employers, they are recruiting tools to draw top talent.

Providing these opportunities enables employees to grow and expand their knowledge, especially in technical and soft skills. A report by Randstad showed 43% of respondents wanted to learn skills such as data analysis, coding, writing, and computer programming, and 41% want to learn soft skills such as communication, conflict resolution, and time management.

This variety of skills helps employees in their day-to-day roles and to be adaptable for their future position within the organization.

Employees are on board. What about the companies they work for?

Organizations Are Failing

Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends Report lists learning as the most important trend for organizations. But a recent Wall Street Journal article indicated companies might not be willing to dedicate more money toward this trend. The article references an Accenture survey where only 3% of executives say they’re willing to increase their training budgets in the next three years.

To make learning a priority, companies will need to consider increasing their learning budget. The world is changing and companies want to remain competitive instead of being left behind. Organizations will not only need to keep up with the advances of technology and automation, but accept the responsibility to upskill and retrain their workforce.

Funding learning initiatives addresses the technological revolution transpiring and places companies on the cutting edge of their respective industries. Leaders must choose to view learning as an investment in the future of the organization. Once this decision is made, it’s the first step in the right direction, toward a learning organization.

Immediate First Steps

There are three things leaders can enact immediately to get started in the process of becoming a learning organization:

  1. Segment your workforce. Section your workforce by department, career stage, job role, geography, and seniority, and ensure your focus is on business objectives. Then create segments in your learning management system that correlate with each employee section.
  2. Provide relevant content. This doesn’t necessarily mean all content needs to be new. Old content can be updated and reused. Content should be archived with tags, keywords, and other filters for each segment of workers. Employees will be able to connect the dots with learning to their career goals.
  3. Personalize content. Presentation is everything. Content must be adapted and presented to meet each segment’s learning preferences. For example, baby boomers may prefer printed material and millennials may prefer microlearning videos. The same content can be modified to reach each segment of workers through various communication vehicles.

Finding relevant content for your organization is an ever-changing process, as the overall needs continue to evolve. In addition, finding engaging ways to distribute that content on an individual level is equally vital.

Learning for 2020 and Beyond

Once we’ve addressed a learning structure that works, it’s time to think ahead.

Committing to success means we must refresh our organizational learning goals. This isn’t simply to keep up with the changing workforce. We should provide our employees knowledge for the years ahead.

Technology is changing the fundamental nature of work. Employees need to learn new skills and better understand their employer’s mission and vision for the changing environment, as well as how they fit into it.

Learning is the answer to automation. Organizations have to choose whether they will shape themselves for the future or be left behind.

About the Author

Jerry Cox is president at Brainier Solutions, a Minneapolis-based subsidiary of BI Worldwide. Mr. Cox has more than 30 years of general management experience. Since 2001, he has been the president of Brainier Solutions, a Minneapolis-based company that provides technology-based training and development products to corporations worldwide. Mr. Cox holds a BBA degree from Cleveland State University and has additional studies in electrical engineering and computer technology. In his spare time, he is an accomplished musician and avid reader, and offers volunteer leadership on several boards and associations.

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