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Kelly Palmer, the former Chief Learning Officer at Linkedin and current Chief Learning Officer of education technology company Degreed, which has been hard at work studying what professional skills are required to help organizations hire and retain the best talent. She is determined to shift the way the world learns and refocus organizational thinking onto being able to leverage unique abilities rather than the status quo—like university degrees and titles.
In her new book, The Expertise Economy, Palmer and her co-author, David Blake, state that it’s actually our distinct expertise (our skill-sets) that makes us marketable for any job we desire. The traditional way of hiring and structuring organizations is based on accomplishments such as which college you graduated from and what previous jobs you’ve held. However, in what Palmer and Blake call the “expertise economy,” skills are actually the currency with which candidates can navigate within an organization. Instead of workers talking about their trajectory based on roles or credentials, they should, instead, think about what it is that they would like to be doing with the skills they have. For example, if an employee is highly empathetic but also a great programmer with top leadership skills, he or she might be able to make use of those skills in ways that may not have been possible had that individual been hired to only to program. The times are shifting and the future of work is becoming more about our diverse and unique skill sets than our static roles and traditional hierarchies as we know them in the corporate world.
In another example, Palmer states that: no longer will roles be confined to one set of criteria but, rather, curiosity will lead the definition of what a role might be. For example, if someone is interested in leadership and has a unique skill set that applies to multiple functions, a compound role could be created that allows the individual to rotate positions and leverage multiple skills and sets of expertise that utilize different strengths. This kind of “gig economy” would allow major corporations to use skills to play as a strategic lever for any business strategy—and it would not have to be just part of the learning platform but could be leveraged in any scenario.
As more and more companies big and small are transforming their employees into experts, the professional development opportunities needs to shift as well. The current professional development curriculum is more about directed learning—compliance training, learning roadmaps, and competency models—that meet current developmental criteria for performance. Yet “learning is about curiosity. It’s about going back to basics and looking at what really motivates people to learn and then empowering them to do it,” says Palmer. To accomplish this, the culture of learning within organizations will have to shift from compliance requirements and lecture-based approaches to expanding and building on what employees are most curious about. “People want to have control over how they learn and what they learn, and they want to feel like they have a sense of autonomy with what they do,” says Palmer. How that is done can differ from company to company, but it’s likely going to be about what that person is interested in and how those interests are going to contribute to their personal development as a whole, both inside and outside of work.
“Most CEOs think that they will need to re-skill a quarter of their workforce to be “‘future-ready,’ says Palmer. “It’s imperative that we look at this from a company perspective and empower workers to think about what’s next and not wait for an opportunity to land at their feet.”
Building, what are considered “soft skills,” like empathy and creativity, will be key to the success of future organizations. “We need to focus on how we will evolve as humans to work with technology. We are already seeing automation, robots and other technological advances doing many things that humans once did. The question is, What is our place in that model? We can continue to add value by using those types of human skills as we work side by side with AI and technology. We must also focus on learning agility—the ability to continuously learn new skills. People who can keep up and build new skills quickly will be in high demand in the workforce, “ says Palmer.
How we tell our stories is going to have shift as well. “Currently, when asked about our education, we talk about our university degree, but the goal should be for us to discuss our skills, what is it that we are best at and how those skills come together for the opportunities at hand,” says Palmer.
Palmer believes there are three ways leaders can begin to shift their organizational thinking away from traditional modes and more toward a future that looks at our unique abilities:
- Think about how CEOs and business leaders can create a learning culture at their companies.
“When I was at LinkedIn, we made sure that learning was part of everything we did and built into the overall culture of the company, says Palmer. “We talked about learning when we recruited people, when we onboarded new employees, and when we developed our managers and leaders. We talked about it at our all all-hands meetings and staff meetings. Everyone knew that learning was key to the value proposition at LinkedIn, and our goal was to help employees transform the trajectory of their careers through learning while at LinkedIn.
- Be able to answer these questions:
- Do our employees have the skills they need to ensure they are successful?
- Do we have a plan to up-skill and re-skill our employees over the next 3 years to be competitive?
“David Blake and I developed a model for understanding the skills you have versus the skills you need to be successful in the future to help your company succeed. We call this the ‘Skills Quotient’ and it’s a great way to help people, organizations, and companies understand where there are skills gaps, so they can put a business plan in place to address those gaps. We are currently working with several companies to help them identify and develop their skills strategies using the Skills Quotient so they can up-skill and re-skill their workforce,” says Palmer.
- Make learning and skill development part of your overall business strategy—not something separate. Empower all your employees to continuously learn and build skills.
For example, Tim Mundan, Unilever’s CLO, is creating a skills-focused learning strategy for more than 161,000 employees around the globe—not part of a separate learning strategy but as one that is integrated into the company’s overall digital transformation initiatives. At the core of that strategy is asking the question, “Do our employees have the skills they need to be successful?” Employees need to be asking themselves that same question as well.
January 3, 2019 at 03:04PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs