Blog Post

Learning 2.0: Cornerstone Convergence 2018 Takeaways From HR Expert Ira Wolfe

Ira S. Wolfe

President, Success Performance Solutions

Thanks Cornerstone! I was a kid in your Convergence candy score just a few weeks ago. As a result, I'm a bit wiser today, stuffed with fresh ideas, greater awareness, and many new friends. Here's what I observed and learned at the conference.

At the event, over 2000 participants listened to leadership and industry thought leaders and clients share stories, offer tips, and release practical pearls of wisdom about a few of Human Resources' biggest trends: artificial intelligence, the skills divide, the future of leadership, Millennials, Gen Z, candidate experience and employee engagement.

But it was the expo hall that brought the future of people management to life. As I strolled through a proverbial smorgasbord of products and services, an extraordinary thought came to mind: most of the new technology offerings rely on devices like smartphones and tablets that didn't even exist just eight years ago. The expo was a dazzling display of changing and disruptive technology, enough to create a sense of euphoria for the future-forward thinking businessperson and sheer panic for those intimidated by a smartphone.

The Disruption of Learning As We Know It

As I mulled over the significance of all I saw and heard, one realization came to mind— after decades of speculation about the importance of learning, its time has finally arrived. The ominous warning by Cornerstone CEO Adam Miller summed it up: "The skills gap has evolved into a skills divide." The scarcity of skilled workers is now too significant for management to ignore, and investments in learning must come quickly.

Miller also had a warning for any company that believes it can just recruit their way through the skills divide: "Skills have become the new digital currency [and] learning can no longer be a one-time thing." With a shrinking skilled labor pool and and an uber-competitive recruitment space, learning and development is now a competitive imperative. Just look at the story these survey results tell:

  • 91 percent of employees say working for an employer that offers learning & development opportunities is important (Ceridian).
  • 78 percent say a clear career path would compel them to stay with an organization longer (Mercer).
  • 42 percent are likely to leave because they are not learning enough (Deloitte).

In other words, you can't just buy talent because the skills you purchase today may not be what you need tomorrow. Whether you're a 20-year veteran or a just-graduated member of the Gen Z generation, there's a lot to learn.

But before you start picking up the phone to schedule that next one-day learning intensive and expect all attendees to get smarter overnight, you've got another thing coming. Learning must be continuous, and constantly evolving.

Because it's not just that the acceptance of learning and development is finally a reality in corporate America— it's not your grandfather's content and delivery either. It's time to adopt the approach that Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon have perfected. Traditional periodic classroom training is being replaced by a consumer model that's user-friendly, on-demand, personalized, and offers relevant content.

No longer will employees be forced to sit through the occasional one-day boot camp on learning. Short YouTube or TED-like videos and audio will be delivered on demand to employees when they need and want it. Practical how-to advice will be rendered in real-time. Content will be curated, personalized, and packaged for employees to improve essential skills in their current roles and acquire new ones for advancement and career growth.

A New Era of Learning

That's not the end of change either. Of course, desktop online training will continue to be available... for now. But soon, most employees will just pull out their tablet and smartphone, insert their earbuds, click on an app, and engage with a personalized, curated selection of videos and podcasts available to them. This is exactly how Millennials and Gen Zers communicate, get their news and learn so it's no surprise that they expect the same from their employer.

What's next? For some, this year's Convergence was a wake up call. You always need to be thinking forward. There is no pause or stop button for change and you ain't seen nothing yet! The convergence and combination of multiple technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), and augmented reality (AR) will rock our world in unimaginable ways.

Our state-of-the-art tablets and other mobile devices will soon be flea-market relics. Learning and development will evolve from a platform of watch-and-learn to learn-by-doing as employees stand in the shoes of a client or an expert craftsman. Learning that used to take months or years will happen in days, maybe even hours. The changes we've experienced in the last few years will soon seem like we were standing still.

Photo: Creative Commons

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