Stay curious and step out of your comfort zone in order to win in the digital age.


13 July 2018

At the tender age of 45 I have decided to put the concept of learnability to the test. I veer between being scared and excited even as I write this! I have always had the urge to be able to sing (outside of my kitchen or shower) but my days in the school choir being urged to mime at the back are still with me. So given that I’m clearly not heading for a future on Ireland’s Got Talent, what has pushed me to challenge myself to leave my cosy comfort zone and learn to do something new that I know I will not excel at? Well I am fascinated by the concept of neuroplasticity. Plasticity is the capacity of the brain to change with learning by way of building new neural pathways. The gift we have as human beings is that every day that we are alive we can build new neural pathways. The more we use the pathways the stronger they become.


Success in the future will not depend on what you already know but on our capacity to learn.
So how is this relevant to the world of work? To quote Jonas Prising, Chairman & CEO, Manpower Group from their report The Skills Revolution Digitization and Why Skills and Talent Matter.

We are seeing the emergence of a Skills Revolution — where helping people upskill and adapt to a fast-changing world of work will be the defining challenge of our time. Those with the right skills will increasingly call the shots, create opportunities and choose how, where and when they work. Those without will look to the future and not be able to see how their circumstances will improve. Now is the time for leaders to be responsive and responsible: we cannot slow the rate of technological advance or globalization, but we can invest in employees’ skills to increase the resilience of our people and organizations. Individuals also need to nurture their learnability: their desire and ability to learn new skills to stay relevant and remain employable. We need to take immediate action to fast track the upskilling and reskilling of existing employees to ensure we have a workforce with the skills required for the future. We need to be ready for new jobs and new skills. That’s what we mean by the emergence of the Skills Revolution.”

The life cycle of skills is shorter than ever and change is happening at an unprecedented scale.
The expectation of the technology impact on worldwide businesses is expected to be enormous over the next 2 years. More than 90% of employers expect their organizations to be impacted by digitization in that period. Up to 45% of the tasks people are paid to do each day could be automated with current technology. Of course we have adapted to the evolution of the labour market before but the difference now is the life cycle of skills is shorter than ever and change is happening at an unprecedented scale. On average, by 2020, more than a third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will be comprised of skills that are not yet considered crucial to the job today. 65% of the jobs Gen Z will perform do not yet exist.


For the individuals within organisations in this changing world of work the skill that we all need to foster is the ability to learn and to take a lifelong learning approach.
For individuals, employability — the ability to gain and maintain a desired job — no longer depends on what you already know, but on what you are likely to learn. Gone are the days of getting to our forties or to management and thinking that we have learnt all we need to! Those organizations that can blend the right combination of people, skills and technology are those that will win. Encouraging the concept of learnability in everyone in the organisation and all staff understanding the importance of upskilling themselves. We need to cultivate curiosity and make the most of resources from within our organisations but also access the many tools available on the web. We need to foster a desire in everyone in the organisation to want to learn. Taking a lifelong learning approach is the best way that we can all help to maintain positions in this ever changing workforce; keep our skills relevant and ultimately support our on-going employability.


So what are employers be doing to meet this challenge?
Almost three-quarters are investing in internal training to keep skills up to date, 44% are recruiting additional skillsets rather than replacing and more than a third are easing the transformation by bringing in contractors or third parties to transfer expert skills to their own workforce. The more forward looking organisations are also starting to build this into their recruitment and performance management processes.


The act of learning something new means that our brains build these new neural pathways regardless of the content.
Which brings me back to my challenge of learning to sing. It is important to challenge ourselves to open our minds to learning new skills, behaviours regardless of the content of what we are learning. Finally an additional benefit to learning is that it has been proven to slow the aging process, need I say more!


So, the big question is your organisation creating a culture of ‘We know it all’ or a culture of ‘We learn it all’?
Microsoft have made this critical cultural shift under Satya Nadella’s leadership and their share price and performance have sky rocketed. Come and talk to Human Leadership about how we can help you make a similar shift in your team or business.

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