On January 14, 2017, The Economist published a special report on Lifelong Education. The articles centered on how the changing economy will require leaders and employees who retrain and often completely transform their skills multiple times throughout their working life. As technology and innovation transform the way companies do business, it will be imperative that the workforce of the future is able to adapt to these changes and thrive in an often-changing environment.
The concept of lifelong learning is not new, but it being an essential pillar of human capital success is currently trending. Think about it, just a few decades ago in many conventional organizations, a successful leader would have followed a traditional educational path, worked up the ranks in one or two organizations and retired doing essentially the same things he or she learned in school. This concept is now upended, and the need for Executives to constantly adapt is upon us. Leadership must be proactive in responding to the driving forces which are shaping the world economy or they will quickly become irrelevant in today’s fast-changing environment.
Lifelong learning can take many different paths. The more traditional formal education, certifications, degrees, etc will be more common, but just as important is the day-to-day learning that will be essential to keeping up with your workforce and market conditions. I am personally a fan of reading books, and then looking for ways to apply those learnings in everyday situations. Other very effective ways of living a life of learning are taking online courses, micro-learning, seeking one new experience every week or month or even benchmarking with someone whose job you have never done before.
Many organizations will be working to mitigate the risk of these changing times by beefing up training and education budgets, and thinking of different ways to be more innovative in their approach to on-the-job learning. However I would also challenge companies to drive the culture of lifelong learning versus immediately assume they can fill these gaps on their own by steadily inculcating the value of personal learning to complement the established methods of educational reimbursement, and other company-sponsored e-learning and formal internal and external development opportunities. While all these interventions are still critical components of any learning strategy, the culture will determine if they are successful or not. Ultimately an employee who takes the initiative to buy a book, or take an MOOC without any push from the company, is exhibiting exactly the type of behavior he or she will need in the knowledge economy of the future.
At Teleperformance in the Philippines we are working to build this culture through our own leadership. Our leaders are encouraged to take active learning seriously and not necessarily wait for the company to develop content, but instead pick up a magazine or book, take a free course on YouTube or volunteer to teach and mentor others. When you wholeheartedly embrace the concept of lifelong learning, the possibilities are endless.