Focus: Upskilling The World’s Workforce.

Mission: Building World-Class Learning Engines

We have a problem. Our current workforce is in desperate need of upskilling and the old ways aren’t working. A fundamental shift in the way we think about workforce development is needed.  

We have unused capacity.  Among the unemployed, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) is 1.8 million and accounted for 25.9 percent of the unemployed. Do you what you can learn in 27 weeks?!?!? The number of involuntary part-time workers, who want to work full-time but can’t find a full-time job, is 5.3 million. That is 7.1 million workers who want to work and have some time on their hands. And yet we have have unmet needs. The number of job openings is 6.2 million.

The workforce is also changing how it looks at work.  One key area is their changing attitudes towards retirement. Many Baby Boomers have delayed it due to economic reasons.  Others have found it necessary to un-retire. Generations from X to Millennial continue to re-evaluate their relationship with work.  This has created gap years, freelancing and other workforce dynamics not seen before. These workforce changes create challenges for institutions built for linear upward skill development.

Magnifying this problem is that the pace of change continues to grow. In Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations, Thomas Friedman describes a world being continuously reshaped by technology, globalization, and climate change. As his subtitle notes, this is an “age of accelerations,” and all of us need to keep up or get left behind. Being replaced by a robot is one thing but moving into a better job and letting a robot take your spot is another thing entirely.

While innovation will need to happen in all aspects of education I believe the greatest innovations will come from those portions of the “lifelong learning” spectrum with the greatest incentives. That’s the economist in me speaking.  I think that the large enterprises and the corporate learning and development functions that support them are where the action will be in the near term. Simply improving the L&D functions of Fortune’s Global 500 touches over 67 million people.  Helping these L&D organizations innovate will allow them to better prepare the employees they serve for this accelerating world.

While improvements have been made in the last couple of decades, there continue to be challenges within the corporate L&D functions of large enterprises.  The connection to the business, necessary to provide learning that moves the needle on core company objectives, remains inconsistent.  The structure and processes used by L&D are often more a hinderance than a help.  Limited use of data in what is now a data-rich domain is also a challenge. In his book Friedman quotes AT&T chief strategy officer John Donovan on the company’s new pledge to its workforce: “You can be a lifetime employee if you are ready to be a lifelong learner.” My goal is to ensure that the learning offered by AT&T and other like them is the most effective and efficient it can be.

Innovation can come from all directions. I along with Ed Trolley have launched Running Training Like A Business v.2 to explore the potential applications of techniques used in other domains to the provision of corporate learning.  We have started with techniques used by early-stage, fast growing companies.  What can be learned from these industry disruptors regarding their approach to delivering value? Having spent the last 20 years with a foot in both L&D and startups this was a natural launching pad.

While RTLABv2 will be focused on actionable tools, techniques and concepts this blog will be my workshop.  This is where I will go down rabbit holes only to come up empty handed. This is where interesting ideas with no obvious home will be archived. This is where I will deliver the transparency that rapid innovation requires. Working together we have reshaped the  workforce before. We can do it…again.

All job statistics taken from the the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics June 2017 Report.