This rapid evolution has triggered forward-thinking organizations to make learning and development a more prominent and even central force in their daily operations. They’re committing to make sure employees not only learn emerging technologies and edge skills, but also develop expertise in soft kills and human interactions, in order to satisfy the requirements of modern learning cultures.
This task is so monumental that some corporations are restructuring their internal operations to adapt. Visa, for example, moved its learning function out of HR and into the corporate strategy division. Now, reskilling Visa employees is seen as something much larger than just sending people to compliance training.
Tim Munden, chief learning officer at Unilever, is creating a strategy for upskilling and reskilling more than 161,000 employees around the globe — not as part of a separate learning function, but as an integral part of the company’s digital transformation strategy. In an interview for the book, Munden told me he believes that “as organizations become networks—networks of people not just employed by you, but networks of people inside and out of the company—skills are what form the connections of the network. Networks form around what a person can do, and we employ people for what they can do, as well as their purpose in doing it.”
Governments can be powerful forces in launching skills initiatives to help train workers of the future, such as through updating what schools teach and emphasize. But it’s up to companies and their top executives to lead the way.
This is why AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has made learning new skills a part of what’s expected of all employees. He told the New York Times that people who dedicate less than an ideal 5-10 hours a week to learning “will obsolete themselves with the technology.” This same thinking is also fueling the Data Science 5k initiative from Booz Allen Hamilton and General Assembly, an effort to develop 5,000 new data experts over five years.