Stay Competitive Through Lifelong Learning and Reskilling
Individuals who take pride in not having opened a book since high school or college, may need to rethink their priorities. Granted, there is a difference in people in that some love learning and could devour books, research, and webinars all day every day. Others only want to learn about topics when they need to know something to accomplish a task or complete a project. Still others think they know everything already and learning is not necessary, and they can skip this article. However, being a lifelong learner does seem to be a trend now. Why is that?
The bigger question to ask might be, is lifelong learning just a trend or is there something more important driving this circumstance? According to Jennifer Gardner the drivers toward lifelong learning are:
- Inter connectedness
The above list contains serious and complicated business drivers. However, there are other drivers such as for those who wish to make career changes or start their own businesses. Learning about a different career that might entail entering an entirely different industry and that isn’t something one accomplishes overnight. The learning and reskilling must begin long before the leap is taken.
The same goes for someone who wants to become an entrepreneur. A good example is a young man, who while still working in an Italian restaurant at night, flipping Eggplant Parmigiana (can you do that???) began flipping houses during the day. The learning process took a while but Robert learned what he needed and he was able to give his notice at the restaurant and start his own business Bogino Properties. For the future, lifelong learning and reskilling will be one of our survival tools in many areas of our lives. Now back to our list…
Certainly, the changes that technology brings and the learning and reskilling it requires is no surprise to anyone. According to a recent report by McKinsey, while automation and AI will bring increased productivity as well as economic growth, it will impact over 50% of occupations and all workers will experience some level of change. Ms. Gardner posits that the increase in automation leaves time for workers to engage in activities such as critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and problem solving. There are three topics that will no doubt need reskilling for many as well!
Both the cost of not doing and doing activities come with a price tag. A report by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with Boston Consulting Group entitled Towards a Reskilling Revolution addresses the costs. One specific area is the difference in cost of reskilling a current worker or, displacing a current worker and hiring a new worker. The business sector, according to the report, and the government have some widely differing views on this topic.
As an example, a mid-range estimate of the “share of the displaced workers able to find a new job through transition with a position cost benefit balance”: the business sector estimate is 30%, the government estimate is 81%.
Anyone who experiences change initiatives in organizations understands inter connectedness and the anticipated and unanticipated effects change can thrust upon a workforce, an organization and its customers. The reskilling dilemma is no different.
A report by Brookings entitled Realism About Reskilling concentrates on the 53 million low wage earners in America between the ages of 18 and 64. The report addresses concerns such as:
- Who and where low wage earners are
- Opportunities for job transition and mobility
- Opportunities for learning
This report includes a six-step “End to End Reskilling Journey”. The second step is building self-efficacy. You, no doubt, recognize this as the belief that one can succeed at something. This step strikes a chord with me as a coach and because I did not start my journey into higher education until late in life as I thought I didn’t have enough smarts to attend college this coupled with being poor led to me believing that I could not succeed in higher education. I now proudly hold a masters. Leaders at every level in every organization must have the ability to recognize potential in workers. They must be willing to not hold people back and to establish paths for developmental opportunities through learning programs, mentoring, and coaching. Further, development is a must have the millennials look for as a criteria for accepting a position with an organization.
A report by Learning Technologies Group (LTG) discusses our shrinking workforce and its effects on reskilling. This report posits that between our high number of retirees and our low number of births in the United States, we will experience a shortage of 85 million workers by about 2030. The report goes on to say that lower worker numbers will be a global concern as well.
LTG offers a solution and that is to ensure that your organization is the employer of choice. Indeed, entire industries need to take up this mantle. The way to accomplish this goal is by putting enriching development programs in place.
Tips, Tactics, and Tools
One tool that might be useful is the Reskilling Toolkit developed by the office of the President and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). This is a 30+ page guide with definitions, directions, and resources that might prove helpful in establishing reskilling practices.
If you have people who don’t enjoy learning, it is doubtful that you can instill a passion for learning in them. However, there are some ways to help foster interest in learning and find those who want to grow.
- Develop a culture of learning. An article on the website for SHRM offers several steps if you want to read it in its entirety. There must be buy-in from the top, and employees must feel safe in wanting and pursuing learning. Integrate various learning platforms and always adapt and measure.
- Identify self-starters. Look at who takes initiatives on projects. Who volunteers both internally and externally? If you find someone who volunteers teaching time, nab them!
- Identify people who are good at time management. We’re not talking about the multi-tasker here. That doesn’t really work well, but rather coworkers who keep to do lists, respond in a timely fashion and, know when to say , “No.” We all make time for the things we really want to do.
- There is nothing wrong with the two learning styles described in the first paragraph. The person who loves to learn may get lost in the pursuit of knowledge, waste time, and is therefore less efficient. The person who only pursues information as needed may miss details.
Like learning or not, you will need it to stay competitive for career advancement. There are many ways to learn so even if you don’t like learning, many of the activities you do enjoy carry an element of learning with them and you can stay ahead of the competition through being a lifelong learner and reskilling.