Lifelong learning – your future in the workplace depends on it

lifelong learning theory

Once upon a time, the term ‘lifelong learning’ was a concept that encapsulated the ideal that you should never really stop learning no matter how old you were.

People were encouraged to learn all sorts of things in their free time, in the pursuit of becoming more ‘worldly’, or ‘well-rounded’ — dancing, another language or how to take great photographs.

The motives behind life-long learning or continuing education were predominantly personal enjoyment, but there was also the belief that learning a few new career skills could come in handy.

Today, the concept of life-long learning goes far beyond personal enjoyment and learning a few more skills you can apply to your job. Continuous education is necessary — for both businesses and individuals — if they are to stay relevant in the employment space.workplace

How the job landscape is changing

We all know that advances in technology are already changing the face of work as we know it. Automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology — just to name a few — are significantly impacting the workforce already, and will continue to do so well into the future.

The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2020, at least 5 million jobs will be lost due to the digital revolution. But changes won’t stop there, with a recent report by McKinsey Global Institute showing that by 2030, automation could kill as many as 800 million jobs globally.

In Australia, research suggests that as many as a third of jobs will be automated by 2030.

New technologies open up new opportunities, but they also create a sense of uncertainty. Many are worried that ‘robots will take their jobs’.

While it’s true that jobs will be lost, there are a host of new job opportunities that currently don’t even exist. In order to cope with this fourth industrial revolution, and the changes it will bring to our world of work, we’ve been warned to ‘keep up or get left behind’.

This has prompted many organizations to look at their current staffing models and existing skills and put systems into place in order to fill predicted knowledge gaps.

A key strategy that many organizations and individuals will adopt is upskilling and retraining, in order to address the enormous skills gap that machine intelligence is creating.

While job training isn’t a new concept; we’ve never had to do it so often or on such a large scale.

Continuous learning — not ‘one-off’ training

In the past, learning new skills or retraining for a new career often meant undertaking further study — often at a ‘bricks and mortar’ institution.

It wasn’t uncommon for individuals to gain post-graduate qualifications or even a new undergraduate degree. Some also undertook short courses.

However, new technology is predicted to change so rapidly that any new knowledge gained is expected to be relevant for less than a year.

While this doesn’t make longer-term study redundant, new data from the United States shows that rapid technological change, combined with rising education costs, makes tertiary education a risky path.

Once upon a time, degrees were for life (most of the time), because work was static, with any gaps in knowledge being easily filled with a training course or two.

That’s not the case today. For example, it’s estimated that up to 65% of Generation Z’s (born mid-1990s to mid-2000s) jobs don’t even exist yet.

In order to stay relevant in the digital age, we need to shift our mindset from short-term, one-off learning, to continuous learning, throughout the course of our careers.

While education in using new technology will be necessary, these skills will become obsolete more rapidly as technology continues to advance, so workers will need to continually upskill and retrain, as new developments continue to roll out.

In addition, individuals will need to develop softer skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, communication, people management collaboration, judgment and decision-making, adaptability and resilience — all of which will become increasingly more important and in demand as the digital age takes hold.

The war for talent

The traditional career path of university graduates who go to work for large organisations is on the wane, with increasing numbers of them going to work for themselves, either in a freelance capacity or in a startup enterprise.
It’s estimated that as many as 50% of employees will be working in a freelance capacity in 10 years’ time. This cohort is nearly twice as likely to reskill, because they realise more than most, that education is a lifelong learning process.

Their willingness to upskill and remain in touch with technological advances will mean that their services will be in high demand.

With digital developments changing the way we do work so rapidly, most organisations won’t have the necessary talent already on the payroll, and so will need to recruit skilled workers from the outside.

This is likely to come from freelancers or contractors, which statistics show are the fastest growing segment of the workforce.

The rise of the contingent workforce, along with the skills gap that new technology, will eventually lead to a war for talent, with organisations competing for a workforce that is skilled and relevant, as they jostle to stay relevant in an ever-changing digital landscape.

This in turn offers two possibilities for organisations:
1. pay top dollar for permanent, freelancers and contractors, who are not engaged with company
ideals, nor have loyalty to the company knowing the costs to recruit are high
2. capitalise on the need for continuous learning, by becoming learning institutions within
themselves, and thereby attract and retain talent.

Opportunities for organisations

According to a study by Deloitte on the digital readiness of companies, the second most important characteristic of a future-ready organisation — after flexibility and adaptability — is learning ability and a skilled workforce.

Not only do companies need to identify employees with the right education, new talents and necessary transferrable skills, but they need to reinvent themselves as learning institutions, if they are to attract and retain employees.

Organisations are perfectly positioned to develop ‘professional development hubs’ of learning in order to keep their workforce up-to-date and competitive.

Family commitments, work pressure and other factors are often barriers to workers committing to further skills development and training.

However, if organisations provided relevant training for the emergent leader, they could reduce the amount of time and money spent on hiring freelancers, and invest it into growing their people instead.

Building a culture of lifetime learning promotes a motivated, engaged and loyal workforce. Investing in people and their continued development not only ensures companies can compete successfully in the new world of work, but it sets the organisation up to be an employer of choice.

This in turn makes it easier to recruit new talent, and retain the talent that already exists.

Professional development for the future

Certainly, there needs to be a certain level of reskilling and retraining, but workers and organisations must look to the future and ensure that the skills they are investing in, will carry them forward into the new order of work.

Having learning platforms in place for workers is certainly a good start, but unless this is coupled with
experiential activities that are either self-organised or supported through coaching, there can be a great deal of investment with a limited return.

Offering professional development opportunities simply to meet stakeholder expectations, or as part of a ‘tick-box’ exercise will fail to deliver the desired results.

In many cases, it may be necessary for workers to undertake a range of professional development activities in order to successfully retrain and upskill.

Learning new skills through a course or further education, coaching, and mentoring are all excellent ways to ensure workers and organisations are equipped for the future.

Traditionally, coaching and mentoring were reserved for senior managers and company directors. However, companies now understand the need to invest in their people and are increasingly making them available to assist the emerging leaders within their organisations.

However, it’s not the sole responsibility of organisations to train and reskill their workers. Individuals must take greater responsibility for their personal and professional development.

Using the services of a professional career coach or mentor is becoming increasingly necessary for those who need to investigate a career change, or to maximise their potential with their existing employer.

How will coaching or mentoring help?

Organisations will need top talent to succeed. The key to retaining staff, or even long-term contractors is by building a culture of excellence by investing in people.

Research by Ceridian, a global human capital management technology company, shows that 91 per cent of top performing workers believe it’s important to work for an employer that provides development opportunities.

One way to develop talent is through coaching to improve performance by enhancing current skills, or or acquiring new skills by helping them to see things differently.

Days of face-to-face coaching are dwindling with the future of coaching based in technology. People with busy lifestyles Coaches can now connect with coaches through online platforms, and that offer webinars, online training and digital coaching delivery methods.

Another valuable vehicle for learning is mentorship, with research showing that high-potential employees, or emerging leaders, who participate in job-focused mentorships can increase their potential by up to 32%.

It also provides new opportunities for learning, which helps employees remain engaged, and increases corporate performance.

It’s clear that lifelong learning is a non-negotiable when it comes to surviving and thriving in the digital
revolution. However, it’s up to organisations and individuals to both take the lead and actively seek out
opportunities for continuing education if they want to keep up with the pace

What will it take Australia? Future of Jobs

Future of Jobs

The Future of Jobs Report 2018 presents information and data compiled and/or collected by the World Economic Forum. Data presented in the report are not foregone conclusions, but trends emerging from the collective actions and investment decisions taken or envisaged by companies today. We add some of our views throughout the paper.

This data is based on the results of a survey which focused on gathering the views of business executives—principally Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs) facing the workforce changes of today’s enterprises.

 Here we present a summary of highlights, with a focus on the Australian perspective and argue that the banks and telcos are retrenching over 50,000 people in the next 2-3  suggesting we are not doing enough to retain workers while they upskill or reskill so they can transition to the new roles created.

The full report from WEF can be accessed here

The new world of work offers numerous opportunities for individuals and businesses to flourish, the economy to prosper and society to progress.

However, in order to make the most of these opportunities, we will need to approach them differently to how we have approached opportunities in the past.

More jobs…just different jobs

 Much has been said about the industries set to lose out with the advent of artificial intelligence (AI). Yet, the Future of Jobs Report shows that the increased demand for new roles will offset the decreasing demand for others.

However, these gains will mean difficult transitions for millions of workers around the world. Governments, organizations, educational institutions and the community will need to collaborative to ensure that workers develop the skills required for these new jobs.

Sharon Mackie Goh, CEO and Chief Customer Officer at Your New Gig, says we do not fully understand the extent of job loss to new roles.

The changes required to participate in the workforce for some will be significant, and this is why we need to start having the conversation now so people can reflect, adjust and then, move forward.

While individuals must be proactive in their quest to upskill and re-skill, governments will need to assist by creating environments and systems that rapidly and creatively support these efforts. Businesses also need to recognise that investing in their people has many benefits.

Otherwise,skills shortages and gaps may significantly hamper the adoption of new technology by business.

A snapshot of the future

Whether we like it or not, our job market is already being influenced by new technology and for organisations responding to new ways of working.

In 2018, an average of 71% of total task hours across 12 industries covered in the report are performed by humans, compared to 29% by machines. By 2022 this average is expected to have shifted to 58% task hours performed by humans and 42% by machines.

In real terms, this means nearly half of companies expect to experience some reduction in their full-time workforce, by 2022. However, 38% of businesses expect to extend their workforce to new productivity-enhancing roles, while more than 25% expect automation to lead to the creation of new jobs.

In order to cope with this rapidly changing landscape, between one-half and two-thirds of businesses expect to expand their workforce to include contractors, temporary staff, and freelancers who will perform specialised work. They also intend to engage workers on a more flexible basis and to embrace off-site working arrangements.

While this solution may fill skill-gaps, it raises other questions including how organisations can best manage a more fluid workforce of contractors and project teams, while simultaneously continuing to instil the values, culture, and purpose to their workforce.

Jobs of the future

Two concurrent trends which are driving business growth are the continued rise of tech jobs and skills; and ‘human-centric’ jobs and skills — those that depend on intrinsic human qualities.

These trends mean that over the next five years, there will be an increasing demand for:

  • Data analysts and scientists
  • Software and applications developers
  • E-commerce and social media experts

We can also expect to see new specialist roles such as:

  • AI and machine learning specialists
  • Big data specialists
  • Process automation experts
  • Information security analysts
  • User experience and human-machine interaction designers
  • Robotics engineers
  • Blockchain specialists.

Roles leveraging those distinctive ‘human’ skills will include:

  • Customer services workers
  • Sales and marketing professionals
  • Training and development experts
  • Organisational development specialists
  • Innovation managers.

Jobs that are expected to become increasingly redundant over the 2018–2022 period are routine-based, middle-skilled white-collar roles which are susceptible to advances in new technologies and process automation. These include:

  • Data entry clerks
  • Accounting and payroll clerks
  • Secretaries
  • Auditors
  • Bank tellers

Mackie Goh suggests that you could add middle management to this list, particularly in large businesses who are experiencing structural changes.

Top 10 skills: 2018 vs 2022

With the rapidly changing world of work, it only follows that the demand for skillsets will also change. The table below illustrates the kinds of skills that will be in demand, and on the decline by 2022.

Mackie Goh says this data shows there is a focus on what is often termed‘soft skills’.

“We see them as a combination of attitude, communication, aptitude and social skills and prefer to call them EQ, or non-technical skills. Also, there will be a need for us to have varying levels of digital literacy,” she says.

According to the Foundation of Young Australians (FYA) New Work Order report, there are four levels of digital literacy:

  1. Digital muggle: no digital skills required
  2. Digital citizen: use technology to communicate, find information and transact
  3. Digital worker: configure and use digital systems
  4. Digital maker: build digital technology.

“You would think that the majority of people are or will need to work towards becoming a digital citizen or digital worker, while many of the roles needed for the future will require a high level of digital-building capability,” says Goh

Based on this data, it’s obvious that reskilling our workers will be necessary. The Future of Jobs Report indicates that globally, by 2022, at least 54% of all employees will require significant re- and upskilling.

Of these, around 35% will need training of up to six months, 9% will need six to 12 months of training, while 10% will require more than a years’ training.

The situation in Australia

According to the report, Australian businesses anticipate that nearly half of Australians (49%) won’t require any reskilling at all, with 55% of businesses confident about their strategies to deal with changing technology.

Mackie Goh says in stark contrast, however, banks and telcos have announced that they will be releasing thousands of employees over the next two-three years.

While all have programs in place to support these people by paying for outplacement services or courses, they are not considering reskilling with the intention that they remain with the company. However, they will look to hire in areas where there are skill-gaps.

“We have to acknowledge that companies cannot be expected to retain all their people however there is an argument to say, they can allow people time and allocate more learning dollars to their budgets so they can reskill rather than recruit, to solve their needs,” she says.

“Most of the allocation of a business’s learning budget today leans toward senior management. You only have to look at the number of Executive coaches and courses offering services today. If that is correct, then you would have to challenge the reports 49% will not require reskilling.”

In terms of responding to shifting skills needs, 87% of businesses were looking to automate the work, while 84% planned to hire new permanent staff with skills relevant to new technologies.

Almost three-quarters (74%) planned to retrain their employees, while 73% are going to hire new temporary staff with the relevant skills.

Half of the businesses surveyed anticipated using their internal departments to retrain their workers, while 29% expected to outsource this to private training providers.

Opportunities for upskilling

In order to maximise the gains and minimise the losses expected, governments, companies and community will need to find win-win solutions for their workers and their bottom lines.

The introduction of automation technology has the potential to make or break businesses, which is why it’s imperative that companies face this challenge head-on, in order to develop a motivated, agile workforce who are equipped with the right skills for the future job market.

Businesses will need to invest considerable time and money in reskilling their workforce. However, the Future of Jobs Report found that most companies intended to limit their skills training provision for the next five years, to employees already performing today’s in-demand jobs, instead of thinking more long-term and creatively.

In order to increase the availability of future skills, and address an impending skills scarcity, it will be necessary for organisations and individuals to take a more inclusive and proactive approach, and create a culture of lifelong learning, to enable a wider range of workers to be retrained.

It’s important to provide learning opportunities to all potentially displaced workers such as the less skilled or middle managers.

While some may resist in the short term, we need to change mindsets to encourage everyone to embrace new job types and new ways of working.

Australia Post with their Post People 1st initiative is a great example of reskilling their existing workforce. This initiative delivers a range of employment and development opportunities for their people.

When the company reformed their letters service, it made a commitment that there would be no forced redundancy of any employees directly impacted by the restructure.

Instead, Australia Post prioritises and supports their people through retraining or redeployment.

Ensuring a sufficient pool of appropriately skilled talent will also give companies a distinct competitive advantage. Companies who invest in their people will increase productivity and have a motivated workforce.

The future for Australia

The impact of AI is something we need to deal with now, rather than an abstract concept of the future.

While it presents opportunities, the Fourth Industrial Revolution also poses a number of challenges that must be addressed.

Firstly, policy-makers, regulators and educators must commit to helping those who are displaced repurpose their skills or retrain to acquire new skills. They will need to work together to improve education and training systems, in order to secure the skills and talent required for the new world of work.

Organisations need to think longer-term about the types of jobs that will be available within their company, the type of talent they need to fill these gaps, and how best to secure that talent.

While moving towards a ‘gig’ economy may be part of the solution, they will still face the challenge on how to manage a transient workforce and keep company values, culture and morale intact.

Individual workers must take personal responsibility for their own life long learning and career development.

While many individuals will need to be supported through periods of job transition and phases of retraining and upskilling by governments and employers, those who are proactive about increasing their skillsets will be in a prime position to take advantage of the numerous opportunities that impending technological developments will bring.

Mackie Goh says it’s time for all of Australia needs to start working together as there is so much to do.

“Business, government, educational institutions and community must work together, so we are ready for the challenges and opportunities that are already on our doorstep,” she says.

AI is unlikely to replace human workers. However, it’s still uncertain as to what types of jobs will be created, how permanent they will be, working as a freelancer or contractor and the changes that can brings and what kind of training they may require.

To prepare the workforce for these changes, Australia must understand the trends that are shaping the future of work, and commit to helping workers adapt to rapid economic shifts.

This will include changing education and training systems, labour market policies, and developing a new attitude towards the way businesses approach their core business, in particular around skills development and employment arrangements.

While this may not be easy for everyone involved, it is imperative to adopt this mindset, as we need to be prepared.