How Learning and Development Are Becoming More Agile
How Learning and Development Are Becoming More Agile
With the modern world changing rapidly and constantly, companies need to be Agile in order to survive. Fortunately, teaching is changing to make them so.
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Over the last couple of years, the world has changed, and that process is only going to accelerate in the years to come. Companies are moving further away from a steady workforce and ever more embracing a strategy of using outside talent, agencies, and freelancers – also known as Agile talent.
This isn’t just because it saves them money, but also because it makes them more flexible and allows them to bring in the people with the right skills more quickly. In this way, the companies can react quickly to new developments and implement new ideas while they’re still effective.
Even better, by using freelancers many people can trial run staff in ways that more traditional interviewing processes do not allow. If freelancers get offered more permanent positions, this is because companies are fully aware of their capabilities and whether they can work with them.
Learning and Development
Of course, the question then becomes what does this mean for development and learning? After all, the traditional idea is that freelancers are often expected to teach themselves the skills necessary to do their job. Don’t have the necessary skill? Then we’ll look elsewhere to hire the staff we need. As a result, we should see the average investment in training going down.
But is this actually true?
Not according to figures, it’s not. In 2015, for example, the expenditure on skills actually rose by 14%. That amounted to a 70 billion dollar increase. Where is this spending coming from and what is it directed at?
Peer to Peer Learning
The main reason why we’re seeing this change is because the way we’re learning is changing. Where before people would go on extensive workshops to learn everything about a broad topic, now, instead, what is happening is that people are often taking micro-courses.
These are much smaller than the extensive workshops mentioned before and instead focus on giving the learner a just-in-time skill boost so that they can more effectively do the necessary task.
The great thing about this kind of learning is that it can give the learner exactly what they need. Do they need a presentation? Then they can take a specific class on presentations skills. Do they need to understand a new online tool? Then that is what they can go and study.
Yes, all those other things around it will be useful as well, but there is always time to learn those later when they’re necessary. What’s more, because people are only learning bite-sized bits of information, they’re not overwhelmed by a huge amount of new knowledge that they suddenly need to digest.
As an added benefit, it is worthwhile for businesses to have freelancers that they’ve worked with taking these courses as they’re cheap and the benefits are immediate. In this way, even external staff can grow and diversify.
Another strategy that is gaining popularity is that instead of aiding employees to get academic help, we instead focus on problem-solving. The great advantage of this strategy is that problems are a lot easier for employees to recognize and understand, particularly if they’ve encountered them before themselves.
In this way, they can identify with what’s going on and draw it into their sphere of understanding. Suddenly the topic under discussion has direct relevance to the learner and therefore connects to what is already there.
This strategy can be expanded on by allowing groups to come together to solve problems, which can be a great way for them to bond before they are asked to work together. What’s more, as we’re social creatures, learning to solve problems in a social setting naturally appeals to us (and actually lets us learn more). This allows people to discuss different facets of the problem and different solutions, allowing them to bring their own knowledge to bear as well as teach and learn from each other.
Problem-Solving Across Industries
Then there is the idea of bringing one’s own employees into contact with people in other industries. The natural place to look for these kinds of opportunities is with clients. Now initially, this seems like a strange idea to many businesses. The thing is, it makes sense.
After all, it is exactly the problems that clients and suppliers have that are the most important for employees to understand and solve. For that reason, when they’re given a chance to work together, ultimately this will benefit both camps.
Naturally, you can also contact your suppliers and suggest the same thing. Perhaps they too would be interested in get-togethers, where problems are identified and resolved.
Note that you can deal with a lot more problems than only the ones that exist between your two industries. After all, different industries often have similar problems, but look at them in completely different ways. For, as the expression goes, when you’ve got a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.
This means that sometimes careful discussion about certain areas and problems can end up being immensely beneficial to all sides.
Bringing the Freelancers in From the Cold
As already mentioned, more effort is being dedicated to actually training freelancers to help out. This is particularly true when these freelancers are going to be working with the team for a period of several months.
Yes, the skill set might walk out of the door again, but that need not necessarily be the case. For one thing, freelancers that receive training are going to appreciate the extra attention given to them and will have more reasons to take on new projects and new ideas at the same company.
What’s more, even if the freelancer does walk out of the door, that does not mean that the training hasn’t been fruitful. After all, for those months when the freelancer did work with the team, they were more productive and more capable than they would otherwise have been. Provided that the expenses of the course(s) that the freelancer took aren’t too high, that means the company can earn back the investment many times over.
In fact, classes are now often being offered as part of a barter system, whereby the price of the courses can be included as part of the freelancer’s overall fee. Now, this won’t appeal to all freelancers, but it will certainly appeal to those who are looking to expand their skill set and broaden what they’re capable of doing.
The View of Learning and Development
Underlying all of these things that we’ve mentioned so far is a fundamental change in how different generations see learning. Whereas in days gone by most people felt that you learned in school only and then got a job, now that line has blurred.
Most people fully understand that to stay relevant in the marketplace, they have to learn new skills to deal with the new challenges and technologies that are coming out. In fact, to be offered a chance to learn is no longer considered a sign that you don’t have enough skills, but rather has become an indication that the company thinks you are valuable enough to train and to develop.
In fact, many millennials feel that if they’re not getting opportunities to develop, they’re not being taken seriously and will become dissatisfied with their jobs and become less engaged. That’s obviously not something that most employers are looking for.
For that reason, having a full-fledged training program (along with healthy snacks) set up for employees is no longer really a luxury, but has become a necessity to keep millennials – who are more likely than any other group to jump ship – on board.
The reasons outlined above explain without a doubt what has changed to make the modern office a learning environment like we’ve never seen before. And with good reason, as the world we’re seeing today (and we will see tomorrow) is unlike any we’ve seen before.
We’re going to have to learn to accept that if we don’t continue to develop and change, we’ll be left behind by the sweeping innovations that are constantly changing the fabric of our society. Companies need to innovate. And that doesn’t just mean embracing the new technologies that are coming out, but retraining staff to keep them relevant in these times.
This is something that will allow companies to continue to develop and remain Agile, and in that way stay ahead of the curve. Even better, by constantly training and enhancing the skill set of our employees, they will think of themselves as non-static individuals, who might not be able to deal with a problem yet but will be able to just as soon as they learn the skills necessary to do so.
People who look at the world in that manner are far less likely to give up when confronted with a problem that they cannot yet solve. And ultimately, that’s what matters, as employees can no longer just be people who repeat the same action again and again. We’ve got machines for that. Instead, they’ve got to be problem solvers.
And constantly teaching them new things will make them that.
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