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Preparing generations for the next workplace evolution

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/gpointstudio)

We’re on the cusp of the next workplace evolution and we shouldn’t be afraid of it. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is on its way and it’s going to transform how humans work, how we interact at the workplace and the skills we require to do our jobs. It sounds daunting but it’s not. Technology has already transformed economies. From using email to coding to data manipulation and factory automation, we rely on technology to do our jobs effectively and efficiently. There is so much technology out there and it’s clear that the workplace will only grow more dependent on using it.

The UK once had a manufacturing core to its economy and still does to an extent but now it’s very much a service-centric economy. Just look at the City of London and the rapid growth of Canary Wharf to see where the money has flowed into. Data shows workers need technology to perform their job but many admit they still lack the critical tech skills needed to succeed. So at a time where the Government has recognised the impact of AI and robotics by introducing the National Retraining Scheme, what can companies do to support their workers during what is a radical transformation of our workplace?

Mind the gap - social training is required

We’re in an exciting time where digital natives, labelled generationally as “Gen Z”, are entering the workplace. However, this has caused some hysteria and negativity in some circles, as this generation of workers is perceived to be ill-prepared for the workplace. A more charitable, but still damaging, perception is that they are so technically skilled, they will be able to outperform some of their senior colleagues on technology based tasks. In either case there’s a mistrust.

A recent survey conducted by Docebo also found that different generations need training on different skills i.e. baby boomers wanted more tech training whilst millennials felt they could do with more training on softer skills like line management or presentation training. Companies need to adopt a sociable culture, not just for morale, but for the sake of employee development.

Companies that have a culture of learning will prosper. Investing in technology that enables this increases the likely hood of continued success. For example, millennials could upload content on how to use Slack or Asana whilst baby boomer colleagues could share their tips on how to present effectively. This approach to learning fosters good will amongst colleagues and encourages development at every level in a company. Colleagues can learn so much from one another but they need the encouragement and the structure to be able to share knowledge.

Content is king

Oxford Economics predicts that 20 million manufacturing jobs could be replaced by robots by the year 2030. This is quite a frightening figure but not one to be afraid of. As mentioned previously, the National Retraining Scheme will go some way to supporting workers impacted by this but better learning and development is needed now so that the workforce is prepared to transition to new roles in the next decade and beyond. Companies need a suite of training content to ensure its workforce is best equipped to develop new skills. However this isn’t just a one time moment. Workers will need to constantly evolve their skills to meet today’s and tomorrow’s demands.

We also cannot expect HR teams to shoulder all of the burden in developing  training to meet tomorrow’s demands. Splitting the responsibility with employees not only provides a sense of empowerment, but it also provides them with a chance to effect their own career development. And senior management, responsible for the strategic direction of the business must also play a role in helping to develop skills. Gone are the days of relying on one or two structured training days per year. We need learning and development to be mobile, accessible and convenient for the user.

Creating a safe culture to learn

It’s clear that training is insufficient in many workplaces. We should be encouraging development and empowering our employees to do more with their time but more importantly, give them the platform to drive their own development. Good business performance has been linked to workplace happiness and the opportunity for team members to develop is central to that.

Diversity is critical too. The different combinations of age, race, belief and skills ensures a multi-faceted workforce that can offer more. A safe learning culture can help foster this and company growth as upskilling staff can lead to more opportunities and help with staff retention. We’re now retiring later and so we need to continually learn new skills and share new learnings with one another. 

Implementing the correct infrastructure and approaches for social learning will only foster business and employee growth. At a time where we’re working longer, it is critical that we’re able to foster development over someone’s career, not just with those who are getting started after school or university. Technology has transformed so many sectors including learning and development. Harnessing it in the right manner will help us through the next workplace evolution.

Josh Squires, Director Enterprise Solutions EMEA, Docebo