Traditional learning, which focuses on the depth of the skill, doesn’t encompass the breadth of skill ecosystem
The digital future lies in cloud native, intelligent, mobile-first, and cyber-secure applications. Global organisations have recognised this need—79% of 3,160 CIOs across 98 countries surveyed in Gartner’s 2018 CIO Agenda Report consider it the top priority of their digital business to make their IT organisations more change-ready.
A traditional skill-set, however, falls short when it comes to initiating change. This is because traditional learning, which focuses on the depth of the skill, does not encompass the breadth of the skill ecosystem. For instance, a UX/UI developer will need the additional skills of design thinking, data science and consumer psychology to provide the optimal user experience as expected by the future consumer.
The only answer lies in re-imagining the re-skilling process.
For IT organisations to be future-ready, re-skilling has to be re-imagined across multiple dimensions, both from an individual’s perspective and from creating the right ecosystem that will foster re-skilling.
* Re-skilling by pursuing learning as an active instruction of knowledge and practice of skills: Education no longer can be viewed as a monolithic linear process; it has to be identified as a modular and continuous cycle. Where earlier a lecture delivered, or a video played to a group was sufficient, re-skilling for the digital future requires continuous learning along many parameters. For instance, participating in a webinar, followed by subscribing to a tutorial, and utilising the concept to create a solution is essential for understanding the concept and learning the skills.
* Re-skilling by perceiving learning not as a time-bound constant but a capability-bound concept: Traditional learning as a knowledge propagation has always defined time as a constant, with the outcome as a variable. Courses consist of six-month modules, with the emphasis only on the time frame, and not on the skill gained. This does not serve the purpose of a wide-reaching skill-set in an age where technologies and priorities keep changing within the same time period. A standard outcome of a capability, with a variable time component, best suited to the individual, should be the focus on how mechanisms of learning are provided.
* Re-skilling by changing testing mechanisms to instant response with constant reinforcement: To create a standard outcome of learning capabilities, testing mechanisms must change from the existing end-of-course testing to an instant response of what is being taught and constant reinforcement of learning. Such testing mechanisms—from a closed book to an open book—are closer to real world situations, where learning is spontaneous. Hackathons, which provide a risk-free environment to solve challenges, are a great example of spontaneous learning. Linking learning with an opportunity to apply is also critical, especially in a fluid environment when the shelf life of emerging technologies is short and varying.
We need prudent paranoia
A January 2018 report by the World Economic Forum brings to light the urgent need for massive re-skilling. The reports estimates that without re-skilling, only 2% of workers would have an optimal opportunity to transition to new jobs. The report, however, also highlighted that the provision of suitable re-skilling could enable 95% of the most immediately at-risk workers to find engaging and better paying work in emerging job families.
This need for re-skilling requires the creation of a paranoia for people and organisations to understand that constant learning is vital for survival. For, although, learning mechanisms can be put in place to facilitate learning, creation of ecosystems that will push individuals to take up learning is equally essential. Prudent paranoia will encourage the workforce to stay relevant through re-skilling. This will have to be accompanied by organisations establishing key pillars of re-skilling to enable the workforce to be future-ready.
By Srikantan Moorthy
The author is executive vice-president, Infosys