During the last century, a career meant getting a foot in the door, and slowly, methodically advancing within an organization. People tended to stay with one company, maybe two—job-hopping was discouraged and did little but tarnish a resume.
But over the last few decades, nearly everything about work changed—including tools, approach (from a focus on individual work to an emphasis on cross-functional collaboration), motivation, how long a person stays with a company, employee and organizational expectations, and the amount of time spent working, both on a weekly and career-long basis.
Today, employees do not anticipate ladder-like career paths with one organization. Instead, they expect to have a “21st-century career,” a term defined by Deloitte as “a series of developmental experiences, each offering a person the opportunity to acquire new skills, perspectives, and judgment.”
The key to this new type of career is learning transformation—without it, employees cannot innovate and companies cannot grow. Yet, despite an increase in total U.S. training expenditures in 2017, numerous surveys show that corporate learning and development is not keeping pace.
Although many factors are responsible for the disparity between the critical need for new learning approaches and the lack of decisive action being taken by companies, the World Economic Forum Future of Jobs report points out two main barriers to change: an insufficient understanding of disruptive changes and resource constraints.
These are significant barriers, but they are not insurmountable. To get started, business leaders should keep four things in mind:
- Make reskilling, upskilling and continuous learning top priorities.
- Use data as well as other methods to determine learning needs.
- Focus on employees’ skills instead of their job descriptions. Use that knowledge to determine new paths for development.
- Be proactive: Don’t assume employees will find the resources they need. Provide them with a range of options and be sure they know where to access them.
In addition, Deloitte’s report offers a new imperative—“To examine, understand, develop, and implement a variety of solutions to support ‘21st-century careers’”—plus approaches for implementing change. In more recent reports, the World Economic Forum takes it a step further with reskilling roadmaps.
Regardless of the approach, business leaders must strive to understand how work is changing and recognize that organizations can no longer be “passive consumers of ready-made human capital,” according to the WEF’s Future of Jobs report. To ensure success in the digital present and future, they must prioritize learning and become active enablers of change, growth and innovation.