Wednesday, July 16, 2014

21C Workplace Skills and L&D

Back from Ladakh and settling into my “normal” routine. Needless to say, it’s not at all easy after visiting a place like Ladakh. I will put up a post on the trip over the coming weekend.

For now, I am focusing back on my other passion outside of traveling—workplace learning, enabling performance and social learning.

Going through my blog-roll, I read two related posts – Four Basic Skills for 2020 by Harold Jarche and Technology Changes Everything by Jane Hart.  Harold’s post also pointed to a report called Future Work Skills 2020 published by the Institute for the Future for the University of Phoenix Research Institute. While published almost 3 years back, it is as—if not more—relevant today. And is a #mustread for all L&D and workplace learning designers.
The report talks about the key drivers of change as well as the skills needed to ride the wave of these disruptive shifts.

The future work skills required and defined (as per the report) are: 
  1. Sense Making - ability to determine the deeper meaning  or significance of what is being expressed 
  2. Novel and Adaptive Thinking - proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based 
  3. Social Intelligence - ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions 
  4. Design Mindset - ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes 
  5. New Media Literacy - ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication 
  6. Computational Thinking - ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning 
  7. Transdisciplinarity - literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines 
  8. Cognitive Load Management - ability to discriminate and filter information for importance, and to understand how to maximize cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques 
  9. Cross-Cultural Competency - ability to operate in different cultural settings 
  10. Virtual Collaboration - ability to work productively, drive engagement, and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team

As I read this, I was also reminded of a post by Jonathan Anthony (@thismuchweknow) where he highlights some of the new/evolving trends and behaviours, which I have copied from his post for quick ref:
I will come back to why I mentioned @thismuchweknow ‘s post. Going back to the future work skills mentioned above, there are two aspects to this: 
  • Do organizations realize that these are the skills they have to help their employees to acquire? 
  • Do individuals realize that these skills are going to ensure their continuing relevance in the workplace?

And the most critical question for us to ask is: 
  • How will L&D enable individuals and organizations acquire and hone these skills?

I have written/pondered on the role of L&D in the 21c workplace in my last two posts here and here. As I revisited my posts in the light of the article mentioned above, I realized I had neglected to mention quite a few significant aspects of L&D’s role in the 21C workplace.

And these involve enabling employees to become better learners, i.e., foster the skills of meta-learning. 

We are so used to thinking of courses and training, skills gaps and learning objectives, sessions and modules…that it is going to take a conscious and collective effort to step back and move up a few thousand feet in the learning and performance sphere. We have to trust that once individuals are equipped with the skills and tools available today, the learning will take care of itself. It is more critical for us – the L&D / Performance Support folks – to come up with ways and means of supporting the meta-skills mentioned above. The challenge lies in the HOW.

While courses around specific topics and skill areas are easier to pin down, design and disseminate (and these will still be needed), it is much more difficult to design a course on “Design Mindset” or “Sense Making”. These lie in the nebulous zone of meta-learning and require the following to get started: 
  1. A growth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset 
  2. A willingness to view technology as an ally (be neither overwhelmed by it nor see it as an enemy) 
  3. An ability to gauge the culture of the organization and make small changes to accommodate some of the new skills 
  4. An experimental disposition and readiness to work on the edges (bring in the change from the edge to the core) 
  5. A serious and wholehearted attempt to move from scalable efficiency to scalable learning

On one hand, L&D will have to be the one practicing and displaying the skills, and on the other, they will also need to provide the infrastructure and organizational culture needed for individuals to acquire the skills. Since these are not skills that one can acquire by taking a course, the challenge multiplies. And here I believe, that some of the memes/behaviours that @thismuchweknow defines could help L&D.

While each organization will have its own requirement, L&D can do some of the following to foster the skills: 
  1. Ensure there is a robust enterprise collaboration platform in place (if not, make a strong case for one to stakeholders) 
  2. Facilitate a culture/practice of working aloud (micro-blogs, blogs, podcasts, videos, etc.) as a method for sharing, peer-to-peer learning, and sense-making 
  3. Instead of responding to each request for training with a course, connect employees to experts in that area or to resources on the open web 
  4. Enable and promote “pull” learning by moving from courses to shorter bytes of performance support content 
  5. Provide simple FAQs and guidelines around virtual collaboration for distributed teams; encourage team members to contribute to the creation of the guidelines (UGC will have greater buy in) 
  6. In consultation with management, encourage job rotation (Josh Bersin writes about it here
  7. Socialize short Common Craft like videos on different aspects of new media literacy; these can be augmented with specific organizational context 
  8. Move from helping HR with planning replacements to integrated talent management (refer to Bersin diagram below) 
  9. Encourage/enable visitors from other global offices to hold short sessions on their culture, ways of working and so on as a means of building cultural sensitivity and appreciation for diversity 
  10. Move from reactive course creation mindset to proactive skills and capability development in keeping with the needs of the workplace of the future 

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