The Importance Of L&D In The Age Of Automation
Tavarius/Shutterstock.com

How Important Is L&D In The Age Of Automation?

The age of automation is not some farfetched concept but a likely future, one we are moving towards at significant pace. There are growing concerns (rightly so) about how automation could completely disrupt the workforce as we know it. And, it isn’t just the blue-collar employees at the receiving end, but also the white-collar staff, considering the technological advancements that can automate cognitive tasks as well as manual ones.

It is being widely considered that human employees will only be required to do tasks that cannot be automated, tasks such as critical thinking, creativity, emotional engagement, and innovative thinking to name a few. And, this clearly serves up a massive challenge for Learning & Development (L&D) professionals, as most of our present workforce doesn’t even possess the required skills or aren’t proficient enough to be competitive.

The Future Of Skills

Employment in 2030 report by Pearson lists several job functions, including (financial) clerks and specialists [1], administrative support functions, elementary sales and even customer service with a lower probability for increased demand in the future, which paints a glum picture for the white-collar workforce, unless L&D does something about it, which is to re-skill and upgrade the current workforce using effective eLearning programs and innovative learning technology tools.

With 64% of organizations stating digital skill gap as a key challenge, it is clear that organizations are in dire need of technologically-skilled employees to be able to compete in today’s tech-dominated marketplace. On top of these, for individuals to compete for corporate jobs, they must also possess desirable professional qualities, including leadership and management skills, strategic planning, and cross-functional abilities.

Role Of Learning And Development

This is precisely where L&D comes into the picture, to help retrain and re-skill the existing workforce. Professional training and development programs enable employees to upgrade their skills and capabilities to compete for in-demand jobs and functions. In addition, L&D needs to step up to the task of offering training programs to harness the latent talent in their workforce. According to Research and Markets, 77% of U.S. companies presently provide online training, with the global market for eLearning expected to grow by 13% year-on-year [2].

Similarly, there is growing restlessness among today’s employees about their personal and professional progress in this technology-driven corporate workplace. So, while the onus is on L&D to positively and effectively address these rising concerns, the organization need to equip the L&D function with the right learn-tech tools (LMSs) and resources to help them, help employees safely navigate the evolving digital landscape.

More than providing the necessary training, what L&D professionals really need to do is introduce a perpetual learning culture and help employees develop a mindset they need to excel at performing the skills they have learned. These can be as simple as how to self-learn and foster open-mindedness, listen to feedback, and connecting, collaborating and engaging with peers to carry out important tasks and so on. This, essentially, calls for establishing an organizational culture that encourages employees to excel not only in their professional development but also in their personal development; a culture that is centered around people, because as automation reduces human intervention, organizations need to take measures to remain a ‘people’s organization’ so as to drive encouragements amidst the workforce.

Learning Engagement

While, digital learning, training and development programs are the clear and present solutions for retraining and reskilling the workforce, it’s important to point out the engagement issue attached to some of these programs. Although online training is in many ways better than traditional classroom-based training, it is often accused of being dull and boring and missing the desired engagement quotient.

For employees to better engage in online training programs, they need to believe and be assured that it will benefit them on a more personal level. According to Bain & Co’s Elements of Value pyramid, any product’s or service’s value is determined by the kind of need it satisfies. So then, considering this theory, eLearning only addresses the basic needs of providing information, saving valuable time and money, while reducing logistical hassles. Although important, these are just not enough to engage today’s corporate employees.

L&D needs to start looking at eLearning programs that promote and encourage a shift in the employees’ mindset and behavior for the better, using the most innovative learning technology tools and techniques, a simple example being the ‘show, don’t tell’ approach in ‘how to’ videos.

On one hand, L&D is correct in assuming the seemingly not-so-pleasant impact of automation on our workplaces, but on the other hand, it can also use technology and automation tools to better engage the employees and offer lasting learning experiences. So, in this automation age, organizations that offer the most innovative and effective training programs to help propagate human learning will have the most competitive advantage. And, it is up to L&D professionals to kick start the new approach towards employee training that will enable them to be creative, innovative and disruptive, all at the same.

References:

[1] The Future Of Skills Employment In 2030 (https://futureskills.pearson.com/research/assets/pdfs/technical-report.pdf)

[2] Retraining And Re-Skilling Workers For The Imminent Age Of Automation (https://trainingindustry.com/blog/e-learning/e-learning-engagement-in-the-automation-age/)

Close