The Future of Work and E-Learning

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The future of work.  It’s being pushed out everywhere you turn. How COVID19 will speed up the future of work.  How COVID19 is changing the future of work. How the future of work is a digital one, which is the next industrial revolution.

You hear about companies applying the future of work, by allowing some of their employees to work from home.  I note some, because I have yet to find a company who allows their blue-collar workforce to work from home.  Work in a warehouse?  There isn’t a future of work for you, we need you on the floor.  Ready to adapt to the digital age of working? Sorry, you are a factory worker, digital age of the next industrial revolution doesn’t apply to you.

Rural economies will miss out on this future of work, because as it stands today, it isn’t applicable to these places.   Internet connectivity is usually non-existent, and the skills needed aren’t necessarily the same ones, okay, most of the time, just aren’t – the ones pushed by the corporate world.

When the future of work is talked about though, in the corporate world, where is the mentioning of learning?  The Future of Work’s transformation must be integrated with learning and training, and if FOW is in the new digital age, then that said learning and training, will come from e-learning (aka as online learning).

If we are to say that the success of Future of Work is based on skills development, which is another component associated with Future of Work, then all companies, regardless of size, location and so forth must say they are committed 100% to skills development, which even today, is not across the board. 

For example, if you are offering only compliance and regulatory content to your workforce, that is not a form of skills development. Rather it is a protective form to avoid being sued if something happens.  I can’t think of anyone who says, “By taking this compliance course,” I have acquired a new skill that will help me grow as a person and provide me with personal development.”  Nor have I heard of any prospective employer ask someone if their skills included taking compliance courses. 

Future of Work Points

You do not need to search for a data point to know that the Future of Work isn’t being utilized for blue collar workers. After all, how many of your employees for example, who are in blue-collar jobs have the same opportunities as those that worked in the office (pre-COVID)?  How many had the same learning content opportunities as though who were not working out in the field, or on the factory or warehouse floor?

How many leadership development courses/content was offered to your blue-collar workforce?  Better yet, how many of your employees were provided the same option to move from their factor job, for example, to say working in the office?  How many of those career paths that are pushed heavily with skills development as a cornerstone, are available to those in the warehouse, factory or similar?

Does the Future of Work apply to them as equals? 

From my perspective it does not.  Nor does it apply when a learning system or a skills development platform or coaching platform is utilized by the majority of companies.  I’ve never heard of someone at any of these vendors mention blue-collar when discussing job roles based on skills. 

Thus, how could we honestly say the Future of Work, this new digital industrial revolution applies to everyone?

I won’t even go into those individuals who do not have access to the internet, or can afford to do so. That is another issue that must be resolved.

Rather, let’s tap into this Future of Work, which again, to deliver will need the success of Online learning at all companies, businesses, even shall I say it – governments too.

I have seen a few articles mention the phrase “low skilled workers” and I can’t decide whether that phrase is better suited to use than say, ‘blue-collar’. 

Part Time or Full-Time Impact in job roles that are not associated

When you think of all those folks who work part-time or work in retail or hospitality in various roles, that will be impacted (and for the most part still are being impacted), due to COVID19 and thereafter, they will need continued skill development.  Would you place them under upskilling? Re-skilling?  Secondly, are they “low-skilled” or “mid-skilled” or “highly-skilled”?

With the Future of Work, those individuals are left out in the cold.  Disposable and not a word I take lightly, would seem to be the “hidden” word behind this digital age of the Future of Work – which is again, heavily pushed with in the office workforce.  

Where then is the Future of Learning to jump start this Future of Work?  Where is the entire plan for skill development within online learning?  What is the content that will be provided to all workforce for said skill development?  As of today, that content is skewed to office workforce, as mentioned earlier, not on the floor in a factory, warehouse, in the field and so forth.

Skills Development

Every time I see re-skilling coming out of a CEO’s mouth or some Government spokesperson I cringe.  Re-skilling is a nice soundbite, but it is rarely done.  Millions of people are out of work, where may I ask, are the re-skillling opportunities for them?  If they have the net and can access say a learning system, where are the entities – I’m talking to the Governments here – providing them free access to various content on new job roles and skills? I’m not talking about MOOCs here or how to learn to play the piano via GreatCourses Online or Masterclass. 

I’m talking about asynchronous based learning, with content providers who are known for creating exemplary courses (regardless of format) on various skills?  If I have an interest in learning how to code, but in my last role I was a cashier, where do I go to learn this?  Who will be willing to provide me this free access, this free option to do so?  Who will provide me the content – which needs to be asynchronous, interactive and engaging?

I can tell you today, it isn’t any government entity out there, definitely not in the U.S. or U.K. for that matter. 

Even in pre-COVID there were very few training centers set up by states or governments, where someone who has lost their job, could go in, and learn a variety of skills that are not low paying.   One that did exist was in Appalachia, which is an area in the U.S. with an extremely high rate of poverty, and with a vast workforce that worked in the mines.

It offered re-skilling and those who took up the opportunities, were offered courses such as coding.  Funding dried up, they couldn’t stay open with said funding, and it shuttered.

Re-skilling in the office workforce is questionable, even in today’s new business world. I would love to know how many companies who laid off their employees, continue to offer them free access to their learning system, to take any content they so choose, that is personal and professional development (assuming they have that) and/or job related. 

Upskilling for a Few

Skills development should be on-going and based on the interest of the learner, and yes equally on the employer, if said employer can guarantee that by taking those required courses for upskilling will lead to something.  Maybe a raise or more job responsibilities or for companies who offer the ability for people at the company to apply for internal jobs, in other departments to do so.  And have the same chance as anyone else.  The latter statement isn’t always the case.

I am a huge supporter of skills development because really what is being said, without it being said, is on-going learning and acquiring of knowledge.  Skills just sounds so better especially when mentioned with workforce.  But to acquire skills requires you to learn in a method you prefer, and in our case, it is e-learning – with options being courses, video content, audio content, e-books, etc. 

Upskilling is a nifty term, but I’d argue that not everyone gets the same opportunities.  It’s a pie in the sky term, IMO.  I am interested in AR but work in IT.  My manager assigns me content around IT.  I am not offered the availability of AR content, let alone anything else besides my job role. 

If I work in IT in networking for example, but would love to take some courses in programming, will I be able to do so?  My manager is the one making that decision, not me.  Would I consider it being upskilling if I am taking more courses in networking, because I work in networking?  Isn’t there a chance I may want to learn something other than only networking?  If I am interested, why can’t I?

Upsklling to me is a way to broaden the horizon.  To acquire new knowledge based on my interests, which will in turn increase retention, comprehension and synthesis, than something I have zero interest in. Upskilling at many companies though is used under the guise that by “up-skilling” this employee they are on the road to management or further opportunities at the company.  But is it?

If I am an executive assistant, am I being offered up-skilling, so that I may desire to switch to a different job role or place at the company?  Am I being provided on-going skills development, not just for my role, but to expand my skillsets on other interests?

I know that if I am selected for leadership development, then I will definitely be provided more up-skilling than say someone whom the manager seems as going nowhere in the company. 

All this may seem inconsequential or non-applicable in today’s business world, but let me say, unequivocally it is more relevant than ever before.

This is a part of the Future of Work. 

Learning Technology

The future of learning (online learning to be percise) is evolving.  Skill ratings were unheard of in the learning system space, five years ago.  Heck, Degreed were the first ones to offer skills ratings by the employee (end-user/learner).  They were the first to allow managers to change the ratings too.

Others have caught up, and some have surpassed, but skill development in the learning system space, can thank the LXP vendors (As a whole, because a lot did not) as the leaders in it.

It is worth noting that the term LXP is starting to change. More vendors in that space, now refer to themselves in some other manner, digital learning platform, learning platform. lifelong learning are just a few.  I could easily see someone tapping into the skills evolution moniker as part of their messaging, with Future of work not far behind it.

The concern though is that if you say that will it apply to customer training/education or B2C?  The jury in this case is still out, hence the push more on skills evolution, seems applicable.

VR technology is noted lately with skills development since the majority of the workforce (depending on your job role) is at home.  The problem though is you need to buy that darn headset, which if you are struggling to pay rent, or have food on the table, a $400 headset is not even remotely a priority, not should it be.

For the future of learning/training to succeed in skills development it will require two very important components

a. Content – OMG.  This is the #1 item here.  And not just content, good and above with interactivity and engagement front and center.  Reading a PDF or a taking a course that is all text with some pictures or a couple of hot spots, does not constitute interactivity.  Vendors who create real-world (as in TODAY, not six months ago) applications – real-life business environments experienced today are the ones that will lead the market in the long run. If your previous role was working in your cubicle on whatever in the office, and the content you see today, mimics that day in the office, it is no longer applicable – because you are no longer in the office.  Remote working content is one thing, but it is not skills development – not for a future job role, not for interest in acquiring new skills related or non-related to my role.

b. Adaptability of your learning system.  In 2019, I mentioned that 2020 would be the year of the hub, and guess what – it is.  But with COVID19, you must embrace adaptability of your system.  I and pretty much every reader knows this, is a huge fan of an ecosystem where everything comes with it (excluding HCM and/or performance for example), and If I am not using X, I just turn it off.  Then down the road, I can turn it on.  Maybe I was heavily using classroom management (for ILT), but was fortunate to have a system that has robust features for vILT.  With the virus, ILT is out the window, vILT is the norm, and so I was able to transition quickly without an issue.

What if however, I didn’t buy a system, that had vILT, because I was only doing classroom management?  What am I to do know? 

The future of work necessitates the need for the adaptability of your learning system or systems.  If you say, we offer customer training and employee training, and thus we need two systems – I say poppycock.  You buy a multi-tenant learning system with e-commerce (and plenty exist), and on the parent you go employee, child – customer or vice versa.  Cost savings? Huge.  Eliminates problems? YES.

Applies to the future of work?  Absolutely.

Bottom Line

I am not a naysayer of the Future of Work, rather I am a believer that it cannot be a phrase that can stand on its own, as the “all-is” when it must include e-learning (online learning) as a key piece.  Upskilling and re-skilling are nice sounding, but skills development is more suited.

Scratch that.

Skills Evolution.

E-Learning 24/7

Bonus – One on One with Karl Mehta, CEO of EdCast and Chris McCarthy, CEO of Degreed.

I am launching my new webinar series, One on One in just three weeks, with two outstanding sessions, with two leaders in the learning system industry.

August 18th, One on One with Karl Mehta, CEO of EdCast. We will be discussing the evolution of skills with the Future of Work, integration of learning systems with MS Teams and Office 365, and the new business environment.  100% FREE.  Register today!

August 25th, One on One with Chris McCarthy, CEO of Degreed.  We will be covering the Future of Work in the COVID19 world, tied to the digital journey of learning. Skills evolution and the future of e-learning will be also discussed.  100% FREE.  Register today!




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