Building a learning culture for the future of work

Businesses are faced with an unprecedented number of disruptions impacting their workforce. Automation is threatening to displace jobs, new employment models are emerging and there is a growing expectation for social transparency. The result is an urgent need for companies to reimagine their organisational structures.

In a recent study by human resources (HR) consulting firm Mercer, three quarters of HR leaders predicted significant industry disruption in the next three years, up from just one in four who said the same last year. More than half of the HR departments surveyed believed artificial intelligence (AI) and automation will replace one in five of their organisation’s current jobs by 2022.

During the same time period, however, the World Economic Forum anticipates that AI and automation will create 58 million net new jobs. With unemployment at historical lows in the UK and United States, and a growing digital skills gap, the solution must be to retrain and upskill current employees rather than looking to a limited talent pool to replace them.

Absorb Software provides a learning platform that empowers organisations to embrace learning and promote it in their environment

“The idea that AI may be displacing workers in certain industries is a clear disruptor,” says Mike Owens, chief executive of Absorb Software. “But in the midst of an exacerbating skills shortage, it just doesn’t make sense to look to fulfil resourcing needs with external talent when very few good people are unemployed and particularly when you have staff who could be reskilled to be productive in different ways.”

Adding to the challenge are the evolving ways in which staff are employed by businesses. The cost of labour and need for specialised skills have driven organisations to meet employment needs through contractors and offshore companies. Meanwhile, the emergence of gig workers, who are hired for short-stint projects, has created a far more distributed workforce that can result in non-employees interacting with customers.

“You need to make sure the customer experience remains consistent with the company’s mission and brand values,” says Mr Owens. “Being able to train distributed workers to not only meet compliance regulations and feel connected enough to the customer, but also fully understand the purpose of the company is a huge challenge.”

As companies face up to the trends transforming the future of work, it’s increasingly clear that a learning culture is a central component in the new definition of business success, enabling the flexibility and agility needed to thrive in the digital age.

“Recognise that learning and development is advantageous to both them and the competitiveness of the company,” he says. “Creating a learning culture must be driven from the top down, while also providing the right infrastructure to support it from the bottom up. Encourage employees to carve out time in their day to engage in micro-learning and provide a learning platform that enables peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, content creation, tracking and feedback.”

Keeping employees engaged in learning also means understanding how its delivery has evolved. The days when people would go to listen to subject matter experts through instructor-led training programmes are fading. The ubiquity of personal computers initiated the concept of e-learning, whereby courses were delivered online, while the YouTube generation gave birth to micro-learning. Digital learning solutions now fuse instructor-led training with e-learning and more in a cacophony of formats and styles that learners require.

The latter allows anybody to learn very much in the moment of what they were doing by simply searching for short, easily digestible content concerning what they need to know. Much of this content is generated by consumers themselves by capturing and sharing their own knowledge on a particular topic with the world. The key to perfecting a learning culture is taking that notion and integrating it into the workplace in ways that deliver for both the worker and the business.

“These micro-learning experiences have been pervasive in the consumer world and are also very effective, engaging ways of learning in the flow of your job,” says Mr Owens. “By populating easily digestible videos, tips or other content inside the platforms that workers live in, such as Salesforce for large sales organisations, companies can transform learning from being a destination to being completely aligned to tasks.”

Absorb Software provides a learning platform that empowers organisations to embrace learning and promote it in their environment. It has a traditional learning management system (LMS) that allows companies to build work paths, integrate with a variety of course catalogues and serve employees with the right content at the right time. However, it has also become the first LMS solution to enable companies to build learning into their workflow logic.

With Absorb Infuse, organisations can customise and configure Absorb code behind their firewall and build it entirely into their task flow to infuse learning right into the applications where workers spend their time. Absorb is also focused on educating the market on how to build a more learning-centric culture that prepares organisations for disruptions in the future of work. At the heart of this is development and training as an enabler of innovation and growth.

“Regardless of who your employee is and what criteria they have, what tasks they’re responsible for and what needs you have as a company, you can build our technology into the logic of your workflow system and deliver learning into the flow of work,” says Mr Owens. “Your employees are your best asset, so it’s crucial we educate the C-suite on why learning is so central to a company’s productivity and competitiveness.

“From a thought-leadership level, we’re providing the counsel and from a technology perspective we have solutions that fully integrate content into the workforce, providing them with any topic they would need and in-the-flow learning configurations.”

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