Why Learnability is the Most Important Skill in a Digital World

Why Learnability is the Most Important Skill in a Digital World

Scroll through Twitter or open any newspaper and you’ll find headlines on digitalization and the impact of tech on jobs. And it can make for some pretty concerning reading some of the time. Too much focus on the threats and disruption, too little on the real issue: the need for a Skills Revolution. It’s time we flip the narrative. “The robots are coming” is no longer the threat of the decade, but rather the opportunity of our lifetime. 

Humans will be more important than ever in the future of work: 87% of employers plan to increase or maintain their headcount as a result of automation, according to ManpowerGroup’s latest research. Rather than reducing employment opportunities, organizations are investing in digital and automation, shifting tasks to robots and creating new roles for their human workforce. While just 29% of tasks are performed by machines today, this is projected to increase to more than half by next year. We believe this tech change will unlock new possibilities and allow people to take on more meaningful work - just as we’ve seen happen before. History tells us that each time we’ve experienced an industrial revolution, an education revolution needs to follow to provide a more skilled workforce to take advantage of the new jobs created. We believe the same kind of revolution needs to take place now to bridge the gap between those that have the necessary skills and those who do not, so that everyone can thrive in the future of work. 

This is why learnability – the desire and ability to continuously acquire new skills and in faster cycles – is one of the defining features of the Skills Revolution. When 65% of children starting school this year are predicted to do jobs that don’t yet existlearnability will be critical to enable people to learn, un-learn and re-learn throughout their lives. 

The best place to start? Help young people understand what kind of learners they are and provide them with opportunities to continuously develop their soft skills. It’s these human skills like adaptability, cognitive thinking and empathy that are increasingly in-demand as automation scales and machines prove better at routine tasks.

Coupled with real work experience, human skills and learnability will be the next generation’s passport to sustainable careers.

That’s why we are proud to partner with Junior Achievement and support events like #COYC19 last week to provide young people with hands-on work experience to unleash their entrepreneurial skills and develop their learnability, ensuring they are work-ready not just graduate-ready. 

Learning does not end when school finishes. Quite the contrary. The age-old cycle of “learn, work, retire” is long gone as people now live longer, work longer and change jobs more often.

With longer life expectancy, later retirement and changing skills needs comes the necessity to learn, earn, learn more, apply, learn, earn, learn more, earn, apply, and so on.  Education cannot end at graduation. Individuals across organizations of all sizes and sectors and at all levels need to continue to nurture their learnability. They must learn and practice new skills on the job and sharpen the human skills that drive teamwork, unleash potential in others and augment technology.   

As employers, we must promote a culture of learnability inside our organizations by guiding and supporting people in their learning and providing upskilling opportunities for all employees, not just those who would develop their skills anyway. That’s why at ManpowerGroup we’ve designated 2019 our Year of Learning: we’ve designed learning pathways for our people at all levels of the organization, including senior leadership, so they can broaden and deepen their digital and human capabilities.

I passionately believe leaders have an important role to play here – CEOs must become Chief Learning Officers to ensure people develop the skills they need to succeed.

And it’s a win-win: companies that nurture their workforce’s “hungry mind” can expect to outperform their less curious rivals.  

The future of work is now. Tech is here to stay and will continue to impact the workforce of today and tomorrow. It’s our responsibility as employers to work out how we capture new opportunities by helping people develop the new skills they need to integrate with machines and unleash their human potential in new ways. Learnability will be the passport to growth and employment security - for all generations – enabling us to work alongside our robot colleagues, rather than be replaced by them. 

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