Remember your first day at work? How nervous you were because you couldn’t be sure of whether you were prepared enough? Remember how you would shy away from speaking up initially because you weren’t confident? How, over the months, with experience, you learned to be more confident? To be honest, we have all been there. At the end of the day, that’s pretty much how I felt in every single new job I started during my earlier years. You see, even though schools and universities have taught us skills and theory, it is no match for experience and learning on the job.
With the onset of the digital revolution, workplaces, as we know them, have been rapidly changing. With the advent of new technologies, not only are newer jobs and opportunities available but so are the requirements for skills adapted to the changing times and the future of work.
Traditions that change
Traditionally, learning on the job was scattered as neither the technology nor the requirement for new skills was so intensive. So classroom training and modules worked well enough to fill technical, functional, compliance and L&D requirements. But traditional training was time-consuming, had a one-size-fits-all approach, and led to learning that was quickly forgotten.
The technological revolution has drastically changed this, making it nearly impossible to keep up with all the new skills required using traditional training sessions. Fortunately, skills can now be easily consumed in alternative ways. But the real enlightenment came as organizations began to realize that learning needed to move past the traditional technical, functional, and compliance skills. They have become aware that the critically essential skills required for the future of work have evolved. It is not your university- taught skills that define you, but your inherent ability to learn and adapt that will determine your success.
A new dawn
No one is more in tune with the changes in the horizon as the newer generations of employees. They have inspired a new wave of learning as they choose to turn to learning modules that are easily accessible and offer personalized and quick solutions over traditional methods. And when it comes to taking control of their own learning, the Google generations are prone to quickly and confidently find the answers they need, as long as it is at their fingertips.
Take, for example, Lucy. Even though this is her first job, Lucy is confident that she can succeed in any role. Despite not having many years of experience, she never backs down from a challenge. Hardworking, creative, and curious, she has some of the freshest approaches to problems. It’s quite impressive, to be honest.
Even though in a typical workspace her creativity and curiosity might be overlooked, in the future of work, those soft skills are exactly what drives her to not just find a solution to an obstacle, but also to implement the solutions relevant to her specific problems.
Learning on the job
Unbeknownst to her, Lucy’s approach to success has been all about learning-on-the-job. Improved blended learning, has allowed Lucy to learn based on her personal preference and style, at her convenience, and has inculcated an appreciation in her for lifelong learning. As her awareness of her own skills gaps was highlighted, she was able to quickly address concern areas and build up both hard and soft skills. Recently, a colleague’s sudden departure resulted in Lucy being left to pick up the pieces as the coordinator of a new project. Without skipping a beat, she was able to identify that she needed help in the basics of “Project tracking and Management”. Once she learned those skills, she applied, reevaluated, and refined as required, on-the-job. Midway through the project, a conflict arose between stakeholders that turned messy. With the help of her manager, Lucy realized that she wasn’t in the best position to handle the conflict, and quickly decided ‘Conflict Management’, “Influencing without Authority”, and “Problem Solving” should be her next learning goals. What she realized was that while the harder skills were more straightforward to learn and apply, the softer skills were more challenging to learn but equally critical. Most importantly, she realized that none of her university education had prepared her for this – that both types of skills were best learned on-the-job.
Considering the speed at which industries are changing and newer technologies are emerging, the lines will continue to blur between the requirement of hard and soft skills. Organizations and employees are now realizing how both are important, not just for better employee performance, but for company growth as well.
In the future of work, the evolution of technology will play a huge role in the development of a model that can enable adapting to this change.
Personalization is key
In a world where you can’t be sure of which skills are actually important and which might end up redundant, learning on-the-job, continuously, is the best option. While it is important to learn, it is also important to understand that the growing numbers of learning providers now offering learning solutions make it easier for employees to quickly gain the skills they need. Video, text, and program-based curriculum in smaller, more digestible formats allow organizations an opportunity to craft personalized learning experiences for their employees, without overwhelming them. By enabling an employee to learn at their own pace and time, you help them experience learning that is best suited to their needs and capabilities.
Employees these days expect learning modules that are easy to consume and add value. With a willingness to learn and succeed more, they also want both appreciation and criticism, constructively, from a manager who cares.
Learning, therefore, is no longer restricted to classroom lessons in school, college, and work. If you think about it, we are already used to learning something new every day. Be it how to use a new app or how to perfect a recipe, learning on-the-go has become an integral part of our lives. In offices and beyond. And in workplaces that are changing rapidly, it is only with the amalgamation of work and learning that employees will be ready for the future of work.