17 December 2021 13:45:45 IST

The value of learning culture at workplaces

Here are four ways to get past the initial resistance from employees and enable continuous learning.

The iconic invention of the steam engine in the 18th century led the world to the era of first industrial revolution resulting in mechanisation, industrialisation, and mass urbanisation. The Second Industrial Revolution led to mass production using electricity and the Third Industrial Revolution used electronics and information technology to automate production.

Now, a fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) is building on, which is changing the way we live our lives and do business. The fourth industrial revolution has blurred the boundaries between physical, digital and biological world, and impacted all disciplines, economies and industries at a more rapid pace than we could ever imagine. The advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics and a storm of other technological advancements has disrupted almost every business sector.

According to Prof Michio Kaku, advances in technology may lead towards an economy which can be called as ‘perfect capitalism’. Capitalism is dependent on supply and demand and there is an information asymmetry about the product and services between buyers and sellers but in perfect capitalism, information is “perfect” (all knowledge available is freely knowable), and symmetric ( everybody knows everything about everything).

The contemporary organisations are in pressing need to prepare their workforce for the new world that lies ahead. Adding fuel to the fire, is the coronavirus pandemic. Due to the global coronavirus pandemic hit, the flux of change has accelerated and has amplified the concerns of organisations about how to develop a future-ready workforce.

Chaos is the ladder

The Future of Jobs Report 2020 by the World Economic Forum (WEF) reviews the impact of fourth industrial revolution in the context of Covid-19 pandemic. According to the WEF, presently, organisations worldwide are facing “reskilling emergency”. Nearly 42 per cent of the core skills required to perform the existing jobs are expected to change by 2022, and more than a billion people will need to be reskilled by 2030. The new world of work demands a “Great Reset” which integrates the continuous augmentation of technology with upskilled and reskilled workforce leading to global economic systems which would create broadly shared prosperity.

Employers and employees are already accepting the fact that the work will never be the same again. According to a recent Deloitte Survey, 75 per cent of organisations believe that upskilling and reskilling of employees is imperative to their success in near future, and 90 per cent of the employees say that they need to upskill themselves at least yearly.

Organisations are zealous to build future-ready workforce which is equipped with required abilities and competences to face tomorrow’s challenges and overcome impediments that are yet unimagined. However, they don’t know how and where to start. A “learning culture” could be a solution. The culture of an organisation comprises the values, norms and attitudes of the people working in an organisation and determines their behaviour with both inside and outside stakeholders.

According to Edger Schein, learning culture emphasises continuous learning and problem solving, committed to rational search of solutions oriented towards the future by trusting in their people and providing them opportunity to learn and improve themselves.

The foundation of the future-ready workforce lies in a ‘learning culture’, the culture of continuous learning, upskilling to new types of jobs which are integrated in the flow of work itself. Developing a learning culture for future ready workforce is challenging and is not at all easy. Here’s why: first and foremost reason is that employees have to unlearn previous ideas which is almost always distressing and psychologically painful. Also, establishing a learning culture takes lot of efforts, time and resources. The fear, anxiety, and uncertainty can turn into resistance which may result in making the situation more challenging.

Developing a learning culture for future-ready workforce is challenging and there is no perfect way to achieve that but the organisations that are preparing for future are working on following lines.

Workforce redesign using analytics : An analytics based audit of existing work is conducted. The jobs that are going to be affected in the years to come are identified, and a model is created to compare current and future state options.

Learning strategy : Learning strategies are developed which are aimed at developing new skills and capabilities to address the gap in current and desired future state and support organisation to changing requirements over time. It also requires investment in technological infrastructure to promote training and upskilling in required skills.

Tracking metrics : Assessment of workforce’s newly acquired skills and capabilities over time is required to integrate them into business effectively.

The perpetual learning culture has to be cultivated in organisations to become more agile, adaptable and future ready. Is your workforce future ready?

(The writer is Assistant Professor, OB & HRM, MDI Gurgaon.)