The key is to empower

Ryan Knipe, Managing Executive of Alexander Forbes Empower, explains how disruptive technologies have impacted the company's approach to learning and development.

The word disruptive is a fitting descriptor for the changes taking place in our societies, economies, places of work and daily lives. It accurately captures how new and unsettling change is and implies that we need to do more than simply adapt if we want to do more than simply exist. Modern organisations have moved away from managing people in jobs towards managing human capital to achieve exponential growth. This requires employers to rethink how they connect with, develop, build, retain and attract the workforce of the future.

Ultimately, employees, managers and business executives all want roughly the same thing, which is to make sure they are ready for the next opportunity or threat, and to continue growing.

But that’s not as easy as it used to be. The business landscape isn’t as stable as it was, so careers aren’t as stable as they used to be. Lifelong learning, continuous upskilling and reskilling has become an economic imperative.

The skills disconnect
Studies in the US, by San Francisco-based award-winning learning platform Degreed, reveal that up to 85 percent of employees do not feel like the training they get at work is preparing them for their next position. When customer behaviour changes, however, new developments reshape industries, or new competitors emerge, business strategies (and therefore people’s skills) need to adapt.

And yet 77 percent of CEOs, according to PwC’s annual CEO survey, say a lack of key skills is a serious threat to their business growth prospects. These disconnects show that traditional approaches to education and training, and to quantifying and communicating people’s skills, are not responsive enough to keep up with the pace of change.

For this reason, Alexander Forbes, in partnership with Degreed, has introduced a new online learning service that provides access to educational and skills content for both employers and employees. We are bringing a best-in-class lifelong learning platform to enable the workforce to really learn.

Learning has traditionally been knowledge-based, rather than skills or competency-based, and most traditional learning solutions have been developed to manage training, not to enable learning and skills development. Degreed’s research reveals that self-directed learning, largely through informal means, is considered more effective in professional success, with nearly 78% people relying on self-directed learning rather than that provided through an employer.

Need to change our approach to learning
We learn for two, four, maybe eight years in higher education, primarily through formal education such as classes and online courses. Then we go into the workforce and develop for another 40+ years, mainly through informal and self-directed methods, such as reading and gaining experience. Most of that doesn’t get tracked or quantified anywhere, which makes it harder for businesses to make informed, objective decisions about who to hire, develop and manage. There should be a better, more up-to-date way to build, measure and communicate skills.

Nobody becomes an expert from one source: we build our skills over time, stitching together a variety of experiences comprised of courses and books here and there, along with articles, videos and podcast and many other sources. In the process, we connect with people in the know, share insights and thoughts, and coach along the way.

This calls for an integrated approach to learning, that will help employers do three things: discovering, building and measuring workforce knowledge and skills. Discovering the skills (and experts) your business needs next, so you can make more targeted and cost-efficient investments in training and career development. Building your workforce’s knowledge and skills every day, and capture and share the learning in their daily habits, so you can make learning and development more productive and effective. Measuring certifying and visualising your workforce’s skill sets, so you will always know if you have the right people to do what you need to do next.

It’s for these reasons that Alexander Forbes, already the leader in helping Africa’s workers secure their financial futures, is now helping employers to grow and develop the skills of their employees by creating a lifelong relationship with education and learning.