Opinion

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The transformation of on-the-job learning in today’s business

5 Mins

Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte has said that on-the-job learning and development is the number one reason millennials choose an employer.

A key insight into this changing workforce comes from the shocking (for the older ones amongst us), but unsurprising, realisation that those born at the turn of the millennium turn 18 next year. And everyone born in the past two decades has grown up with the internet and mobile devices.

This generation of digital natives is radically reshaping the workplace. Technically gifted, they know their worth and what they need to do to get ahead. Recent studies show Gen Z are even more conscientious and career-driven than millennials.

Technology has an incredible power to accelerate progress, and that is also true for on-the-job learning.

A new model for on-the-job learning

We’re entering an age of continuous, on-the-job learning that can be taken on in bite-sized chunks. With micro-learning employees can quickly learn something new, put it into practice, get immediate feedback, and then get back to learning more. It is a cycle that keeps forward-thinking companies at the edge, pushing onwards.

In many cases the legacy learning models – classroom-based training, for example – are so inflexible that by the time a session is booked in, the skills requirement has changed.

That’s no use to people who needed to know how to do something yesterday. For many functions, this model of learning simply needs to be abandoned in favour of a more personalised, more real-time route to professional skills.

A new set of digital business models

Business models are changing too. With IT and digital innovation coming to the fore in many businesses, functional leaders are taking on greater responsibility for the talent at his or her disposal, and keeping staff constantly clued up on the latest methods can be challenging.

Take modern working practices like “agile” and “DevOps” for example, both demand an ability to quickly grasp new concepts, experiment and learn from the best. That’s why an on-demand technology, on-the-job learning platform is the right model at the right time for today’s software-driven world.

Upskilling continuously should be at the heart of operations for these three major reasons:

(1) Technology is always one step-ahead

New coding languages and practices appear as if from nowhere, quickly establishing themselves as must-haves. In the last few years, two new popular web coding frameworks (Node.js and AngularJS) rocketed into prominence from practically nowhere. Only on-demand digital, on-the-job learning resources can be delivered at scale can hope to keep pace.

(2) It establishes a meritocracy within an organisation

With the right tools, companies can now empower and entrust their employees to better themselves. By using a technology learning platform, both the employer and employee can track progress in a measurable way based on the quality of their work and performance in training modules.

(3) It protects the business from competition

Gaining a competitive edge is key to corporate success. Real-time learning allows companies to stay ahead of the curve. Rolling out new technology innovation has never been so cost-effective thanks to the web, but your talent must have the skills to make the most of the opportunity.

On-the-job learning – especially in workplaces increasingly defined by technology and digital innovation – needs to change.

Only by making each employee an expert, always on-the-job learning, always looking for what’s next, will companies have the best chance of remaining competitive and safeguarding future success.

And the legacy models of traditional classroom-based training – and even traditional mentoring and coaching – need to be paired with more real-time, more interactive capabilities that deliver these real-time learning pathways.

With this evolution, businesses will be infinitely better placed to take on the challenges and opportunities posed by the digital transformation of business that is happening today.

Julian Wragg is VP of EMEA & APAC at Pluralsight

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