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Fed up with lifelong learning? You’re not alone

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Fed up with lifelong learning? You’re not alone

Most working adults have no interest in learning. If you blanche at that sentence, and say, “oh no, but I love learning...

6 Minutes Read

Most working adults have no interest in learning.

If you blanche at that sentence, and say, “oh no, but I love learning – what is life if not a journey of discovery?” then a hearty congratulations from me to you: You’re in the miniscule 22% of knowledge workers who genuinely love to learn.

According to my upcoming research, which aims to understand the knowledge worker’s sentiment towards learning, the majority of knowledge workers are not ‘genuine’ learners, they’re simply ‘compliant’ learners. 51% of people we surveyed admitted to only doing the bare minimum, only because their employer mandates it:

Source: Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work

The typical knowledge worker just doesn’t see the point in learning. Having analysed the results from a survey of 1000+ respondents across Europe, the majority of workers we surveyed (65%) don’t see the need to upskill. (Weirdly, the younger workers are actually more complacent – millennials scored above average results for ‘confident’ or ’very confident’ that their skillset would see them through their career…)

As you can see, knowledge workers are not understanding that the pace of change is constantly increasing, and that they’re going to have to learn new skills as robots do (more and more of) everything. As a well-known World Economic Forum report points out, in just four years, between 2016 and 2020, more than 35% of important job skills were predicted to change. What’s more, careers are extending as expected lifespans continue to rise, resulting in an even greater need for constant skills refresh. Learning is the fuel for modern work and fulfilling careers that stand the test of time.

I think a big part of the problem is access to information – from employer/ government/ academia/ media (anyone who’s got their facts straight, really) to the employee. Where, pray tell, is the reliable, accessible information about how jobs and skills are changing?

Headlines like ‘robots will eat all your work and render you useless’ really don’t help workers to understand what they need to do to prepare for a human + machine workforce. At the other end of the spectrum, positive narratives around skills and jobs of the future (like Friedman’s famous ‘Thank You for Being Late’ or our very own 21 Jobs of the Future) are few and far between.

The workforce needs better information about how their work is changing – about what skills and jobs are eroding and emerging and how to prepare. AT&T’s $1 billion retraining program is a fine example. AT&T provides access to information in their ‘Career Intelligence’ portal, where workers can see what jobs are available across the organisation and the skills required to do them. AT&T also continuously evaluate skillsets across the workforce and use that information, coupled with external labour market data, to measure how future-proof their workforce is and then act accordingly with upskilling programmes.

To ensure your workforce is prepared for the future of work in your organisation, get them engaged with learning. Convert that 51% of ‘compliant’ learners into ‘genuine’ or ‘achiever’ learners. Start by providing them with better information about how skills and jobs are changing and follow through with excellent learning opportunities:

  • Measure: If you’re going to provide your workforce with better information about changing skills needs, you need to get to grips with your workforce’s skillset en masse (e.g. by creating and maintaining a robust organisational skills taxonomy.) This is no mean feat – but it starts with better and more regular measurement. The majority of respondents (56%) in our research said their training is measured either annually or less than annually. This isn’t good enough. The ultimate goal is to create real-time employee skills profiles. This data can be collected through a myriad of tools available in the HR tech space – from more frequent and systematically documented manager-report meetings to pulse surveys. Also - don’t hesitate to work with partners like LinkedIn or Burning Glass who have spent years building up-to-date skills taxonomies.
  • Analyse: Set the stage for emerging skills and job roles at your organisation. Use external labor market data (e.g., LinkedIn’s economic graph) to highlight the regional/ global/ industry skills trends to put your organization’s journey in perspective. AXA, for example, works with provider People Analytix to incorporate and analyze external labor market data and job advertisement data to recommend new skills and jobs to employees.
  • Communicate: Make sure that communication is personalised and relevant to the individual. Broad, sweeping communications about upskilling for the entire organisation make it all too easy for the individual to say “this isn’t aimed at me” or “I don’t need to do this – someone else will.” Instead, make personalised recommendations through consistent and thoughtful communication. Individual profiles on learning platform Degreed, for example, show recommended skills, learning and insights that focus on personalized growth and development.
  • Prepare: Once the message has been received loud and clear, make sure the educational resources are available for each individual to get learning to work. For more on this topic, see our recent report Relearning How We Learn. For extra brownie points, measure the individual’s engagement with learning to improve the learning options provided to them and tailor course recommendations. Measures such as enjoyment, relevance and engagement provide the foundation for next-level personalized employee experiences.

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