The business world continues to be subject to a plethora of unprecedented changes and evolutions, which are now taking place at break-neck speeds, and leading to not only wide-spread but also ‘fundamental’ transformations.

Tech disruption and the availability of high-speed Internet have transformed the business world at large, and today’s organizations are now faced with the pressing need of drastically revolutionizing themselves every other year just to stay relevant, let alone competitive.

Today, we truly stand at the precipice of a new revolution that is fundamentally altering the way we live, work and ‘learn’, and there is a pressing need for HR and L&D leaders to be mindful of the demands of this digital world and truly embrace digital transformation, emerging technologies and future skills.

Digital Transformation and L&D

In this fast evolving digital age of ours, where an organization’s employees as well as customers are highly connected and aware, and make up a key part of its value chain, digital transformation is about leveraging the right technology to provide unparalleled experiences, through agile methodologies to unlock the desired value. An organization’s people are at the heart of this entire shift, and as L&D teams play a pivotal role in ‘employee enablement’, it is only obvious for them to fully embrace digital transformation.

The effective synergy between any technology and the people is what eventually defines the success in the digital age. That’s why L&D must be mindful of this synergy parameter to bring its people on par with any and all capabilities pertaining to the technology in use. Likewise, it is imperative that L&D actively partake in change management and be very strategic about the change, beginning with shifting the mindset to ‘digital’ and readiness to adapting to constant transformations. Moreover, L&D must primarily focus on learners’ expectations and demands, along with business priorities to effectively compete in the digital age.

As Andy Lancaster, Head of L&D at CIPD, notes, ‘(There is) A new learning paradigm for L&D practitioners and a move away from occasional face-to-face learning sessions to learning that is embedded in the organization. L&D teams must now focus on specific business needs which requires a performance consultancy approach with the involvement of leaders in order to translate goals into development actions.’

Learning in the digital age leans more towards continuous learning and infusing learning with work. L&D needs to drive this transformation to continuous learning by providing innovative learning experiences through modern tools and solutions, and help employees learn in-the-flow of work and not as a separate task.

Learn-tech as Enabler

Digital disruption demands a constant ear to the ground, and L&D’s ability to be agile in its strategies will be pivotal going forward. Likewise, constant search for and adoption of effective learning technologies to drive continuous learning across the organization must be leveraged. For that to happen, there needs to be better understanding and awareness of how technology is transforming the business world.

Today, we live and work in a ‘platform economy’ with the likes of Uber, Amazon and Airbnb taking the world of commerce by storm every day. As a result, modern learners expect their learning to be delivered in a similar fashion that mimics their experiences with other platforms. Successful enterprises with innovative learning programs are privy to how digitization has already impacted modern-day learning and leverage learn-tech to complement their programs to build a highly-competent and future ready workforce.

That’s why the changing behavior of modern learners and their expectations must be at the heart of technology adoption. Nowadays, learners are better informed and expect personalized programs that facilitate unique learning experiences. L&D must rethink what their learners value most, and develop ways to leverage latest technologies to offer that value proposition. 

Technologies like AI and ML, along with cognitive computing and cloud technology, are driving a range of innovations across business functions, including L&D. The cloud and AI-enabled LMSes and LXPs are revolutionizing modern workplace learning.

As Josh Bersin notes, ‘Digital Learning does not mean learning on your phone, it means bringing learning to where employees are. People have been trying to apply technology to corporate learning for more than 30 years. From the original video disk to CD-ROMs to e-learning to YouTube, we have been through a rapid shift in technology enabled training and education. Today’s digital learning does not simply mean producing videos that are easy to view on your phone, it means bringing learning to where employees are.’

Addressing Skills Gap & Future Skills

A Gallup study suggests that workgroups engaged in continuous employee development witness an increase in sales and profits compared to those that don’t do it at all. Continuous training and development of the workforce leads to better engagement, which in turn leads to improve business performance.

Identifying skills gap in your organization and newer ways of delivering the right training will indubitably help a business grow in the future; while assimilating traditional learning techniques with innovative learning platforms and a creative blend of training delivery will all ensure that the modern employees are skilled today and in the future. However, there is no stop-gap solution to address skills-gap and a one-size-fits-all approach to training often comes down to a tick-the-box exercise that burdens the already under-pressure employees.

Fortunately, by adopting continuous learning and leveraging the right tools and solutions, businesses can surely take a step in the right direction. A perfect synergy of an innovative learning platform and a comprehensive collection of high-quality and ready-to-use online training courses is desirable. This is the closest one can come to addressing the skills gap, offering continuous learning and doing it without incurring astronomical costs of custom content development.

The current pandemic has clearly highlighted the need for digital transformation, not in a single but in almost every business function, and as businesses prioritize continuous employee development in times of uncertainty, online solutions like a SaaS Learning Management System or a Learning Experience Platform, coupled with in-demand skilling courses stand to offer a ready package of proven effective learning delivery mechanisms.

While employers are offering both hard skills and soft skills training to their workforce to ensure a balance of professional development as well as personal development, here are some of the most in-demand skills out there today.

Hard Skills:

  • Artificial intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is fast becoming a must-have technology for businesses worldwide, and thus the demand for AI skills has skyrocketed. Tools like Chatbots, deep learning algorithm, recommendation engines etc. are already augmenting the way people work and live, and businesses want individuals with the skills like machine learning, data science and other related topics to leverage this technology.

  • Blockchain

Surely you’ve heard about cryptocurrency and Bitcoin. But, you may not know that Blockchain technology is what makes Bitcoin tick. Blockchain is one of the most cutting-edge fin-tech trends out there today. Mastering Blockchain could lead to meteoric rise in one’s career and be highly sought-after by global employers.

  • Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is, in many ways, the future of the corporate sector. Most enterprise solutions, SaaS products etc. leverage the power of the Cloud to deliver their services to businesses worldwide, and it has become an efficient and cost-effective way to deliver several services, including data hosting, analytics and more.

Soft Skills:

  • Communication

Strong communication skills are critical in almost every aspect of life, be it at the workplace or in the household. Strictly from a business POV, communication is the bedrock on which all functions reside to achieve any business objective, and having excellent communication skills is not only an essential characteristic for employees, but also leaders and managers.

  • Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is one of the most in-demand skills for businesses today, especially in terms of leadership development. It plays an all important role in the workplace, be it collaborating with colleagues, bettering interpersonal communications, or handling stress and driving productivity.

  • Critical Thinking

While critical thinking is a key skill for professionals like engineers, data scientists, analysts, lawyers, doctors etc., in today’s evolving workplaces, it has become an absolute must-have for almost every business function. No wonder why the World Economic Forum touts critical thinking as one of the most sought-after skills for businesses in 2020.

There is no way around the fact that evolving workplaces will demand newer skillsets from the employees, as the skills employees have today may not be relevant tomorrow, which is why it becomes business-critical for companies to embrace adopt continuous learning in the face of digital transformation.

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