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Continual Learning is an Ecosystem

Continual Learning is an Ecosystem

Continual Learning is an Ecosystem

 

By now we all understand the nature of work is changing. AI and automation are heralding a new dawn in the way we work. We are heading towards a reality where the ability to be adaptive, ask the right questions and to apply critical thinking will be just as important as the sum of the knowledge we hold in our brains

Although we say things like ‘learning is a lifelong pursuit”, the way we structure workplace learning is reactive.  As jobs are constantly changing, we need to adapt, reskill and upskill all the time. Applied learning throughout our careers is becoming essential. And, as we apply human plus machine, where we focus more on what it is to be human at work, personalised learning journeys become essential

Yet learning is not an individual responsibility and it does not happen in a vacuum. Companies are understanding more and more their investment in training has to translate into directed learning. It makes sense to recruit people who have the right aptitudes towards adaptation, communication and learning and then skill them towards companies’ changing needs. We hear a lot from companies who say ‘Our people make us who we are’, yet much of recruitment is still centred on skills before people and then spending resources to make those people ‘our people’. This may have made sense in an environment of slow or static change, but as the nature of work evolves, this recruitment strategy will become less effective.

Training can no longer be an added layer, brought in to fix a broken system.  Learning, upskilling, reskilling and empowering employees has to be part of an extended ecosystem. It needs to be embedded into and informed by the entire organisation. When we talk about personalised learning journeys we don’t mean people in a vacuum, we mean the individual AND the organisation. Personalised does not mean separate from, it means specific to the needs, learning preferences, skills, gaps, competencies of the individual in relation to the learning outcomes and objectives that have been identified by the organisation.

This is an approach that we at Boxspring take towards developing our workplace content and the environment in which it lives. As capabilities grow and we leave behind legacy systems, we will see the relationship between content, individual, purpose, objectives and skill development grow closer together.

This approach extends beyond the immediate employee-employer relationship. Imagine a world where you can apply this to your recruitment strategy. A true people focus can attract the right people for your business and allow them to develop the attributes your business needs before they start day one. We love what Workbay are doing as an example of creating connected ecosystems in recruitment.

It is an exciting time.  Change brings disruption but disruption allows us the opportunity to focus on getting the fundamentals right as we apply the inevitable new processes to our businesses.

Author: Alasdair Munn

The Costs of Reskilling

The Costs of Reskilling

The Cost Of Reskilling

As we enter the fourth industrial revolution where adaptive processes, automation, machine learning and AI fundamentally change the nature of work, much of the conversation we heard at Davos this year was around the dual crisis of future skills gaps and the need to reskill employees.

Change has to happen. Companies that resist change will be superseded by new entrants into the market, or by those companies that do change. The job market is going to be disrupted: some jobs will be lost, or cease to exist, while new jobs we have not even thought of yet will be created. As with any change, or venture into the unknown, there is trepidation and uncertainty. Yet we also know that the way we work and consume today is unsustainable. Change will need to happen anyway and we have an opportunity to direct that change responsibly. We have a workforce that is facing a mental health crisis. The way we structure work is not healthy. As repetitive tasks, developed over the last 30 years are being taken over by robots, we have the chance to put humans to work with a focus on ‘human’. What were once classed as ‘soft skills’ are now being rebranded as ‘crucial skills’. The saving grace for humans and the future of work is exactly what makes us different from robots—our humanity. And it is these skills that ironically will improve our mental health at work. Skills such as creativity, complex problem solving, empathy, judgement and cognitive flexibility are exactly what sets us apart from machines and a lack of these skills in the workplace can lead to increased stress, depression and poor mental health.

As we move towards a workplace that is increasingly more man plus machine, there is a mounting need to reskill, upskill and fill skills gaps. An interesting theme I have encountered recently when talking to business leaders and educators is who is to bear the costs of this reskilling? What is sustainable for an organisation? Is it the government? Is it the individual? A recent report from The World Economic Forum, ‘Towards a Reskilling Revolution” found that 95% of the 1.4 million US workers who are expected to be displaced in the next decade can be transitioned to new positions with similar skills and higher wages. But the total cost of reskilling all these workers is $34 billion – an average of $24,000 per displaced worker.

When looked at as a direct cost it looks daunting, however we all know that education, reskilling and upskilling cannot be seen only in the context of the cost of training. There are other questions we need to answer. What is the cost to the company for not reskilling with regard to lost productivity, employee welfare, workplace accidents, customer satisfaction, and competitive advantage? What is the cost to society when looking at the increased need for welfare, crime, family disruption, citizen unrest?

The fundamental question we need to ask today is this: ‘what is the future we want to live in and how do we get there?’ It is a tough question for companies to make time for when they are under pressure from shareholders to make short-term gains and returns. We already know that the average lifespan of a fortune 500 company has dropped from 58 years to just 18 years. Business is getting harder, but we also know on a fundamental level that it is the short term thinking that is contributing towards their shrinking lifespan.

It is inevitable that responsibility for this learning lies in a combined and collaborative approach involving all stakeholders from corporations, governments, educational institutions and innovated new approaches. The future is about connected ecosystems, collaboration and connected thinking.

It is an exciting time to be asking these questions. We at Boxspring have been tackling these questions over the last two years. We are taking this opportunity to hack learning, to reimagine not only what we need to learn in order to remain relevant in a future workforce, but also how learning itself needs to change. Workplace learning is seldom fit for purpose today and it is certainly not fit for purpose for tomorrow. Finally, we have a convergence of need, technology, human understanding, data and content production. We are excited and determined to play our role in shaping a responsible and sustainable future.

Author: Alasdair Munn

Shaping Our Future, Responsibly

Shaping Our Future, Responsibly

Shaping our Future, Responsibly

I read with interest an article in the New York Times titled The Hidden Automation Agenda of the Davos Elite This topic is certainly getting a lot of media attention. For the past two years, Boxspring has been focusing on the future of work, specifically the real need to reskill a workforce in the wake of automation, AI and the changing work landscape.

Perhaps it is because we have been looking at this for a while that I find this article a little alarmist. 

It is the case that, as we enter the fourth industrial revolution and automation and intelligent systems start to replace existing jobs and we find ourselves with a skills shortage for the new roles, we are going to have an uncomfortable time of both job losses and skills shortages. Businesses will struggle to adapt and there will be real hardships for people who find themselves without work or the means to adapt, reskill and refocus. To simply reduce this to an opinion that this is a hidden agenda, thought up by greedy elite capitalists is a little reductive and not entirely helpful. As this Forbes article points out  ‘Over the past six decades, the average lifespan of an S&P 500 company has plunged from 58 years to 18 years.’ For businesses today, staying put and not adapting is simply not an option. Companies have to adapt, and they have to disrupt or newcomers will enter and do the adapting and disruption for them. The path towards automation and adaptive processes is set. Work, as we know it, will transform and be redefined. Businesses will seek out new ways of gaining efficiencies and advantages from technology.

So, the focus should not be spent on blaming business for the hardship, but rather, how do we minimise or mitigate the hardship? How do we make sure we are prepared for this transformation? What is the most effective way to ensure reskilling, refocus and an engaged, fit for purpose workforce? How do we create systems, processes and content that not only address these issues today, but continues to address them in 5, 10, 15 years time? These are big questions, ones we have been working on over the last few years. We don’t have all the answers but we do know that the actions we take today are the ones that are shaping our future. It is beholden to us all, collectively, to work towards a preferred future, one which is equitable, sustainable, fair and just. Now is the time for positive and meaningful action, not sensationalism and despair.

Interview with Paul Daugherty, Accenture

Interview with Paul Daugherty, Accenture

Our CEO, Clare Munn interviews Accenture’s Chief Technology and Information Officer, Paul Daugherty about AI and the future of work. Here are the highlights from a longer interview that took place at the Turing Institute in London