The imperative for learning in tech
The World Economic Forum estimates that up to half the world’s workforce will need to rapidly acquire new skills to keep pace with digitization and technological change. Yet despite the urgency, it’s not clear that workers and industry are prioritizing building the kinds of sophisticated skills the new economy requires. Consider that according to some studies, it would take more than two decades for today’s workers to acquire these new skills, given the amount of time the average worker devotes to upskilling, which is currently only about 24 minutes per week. And while the tech industry needs workers to keep pace with change, the same industry often fails to devote real-time attention to skills gaps in the tech workforce. This is a significant challenge for the tech industry, which is one of the most rapidly changing sectors today.
Keeping up with change is essential for professionals working in tech, but with new developments emerging at a breakneck speed, workers and organizations have to find ways to build skills while meeting commitments to clients and customers. By implementing things like strategic goal-setting and targeted upskilling approaches, tech professionals and businesses can maintain a competitive edge. To help build a better culture of learning in the tech industry, we’ve decided to take a look at some strategies for creating a great learning culture in your enterprise.
Support employees to build skills
The cost of most training programs can be a significant financial barrier for tech professionals seeking to upskill and stay ahead of industry developments, especially if they have to pay for this training themselves. And to build their digital skills, learners must take time away from the job to attend workshops or seminars. Letting that happen can be a big ask for some organizations, but it’s important to remember that in the new economy, the distance between lifelong learning and productivity is closing quickly. More and more, companies are finding that investment in upskilling means gaining competitive advantage. Not only is this true in terms of sales, it’s also true in terms of retention and recruitment. In the U.S. tech industry, for example, a recent survey found that up to 75% of tech workers said that an employer’s willingness to invest in skills development has an impact on plans to stay, or to seek other opportunities.
Know what you want to achieve
Studies have shown that the majority of workers in tech feel they have a solid grasp of what they need to learn in order to stay ahead. The same cannot be said for many employers, who are understandably focused on day-to-day business management. Unfortunately, this sometimes means that employers may not know what it is their employees need to know. Added to this is the fact that career models adopted by many organizations tend to de-incentivize learning by constraining employees to specialized job functions and linear hierarchies. Research in the U.S. indicates that more than half of workers are worried about their employers’ capacity to prepare them for the future of work. Other research suggests that globally, the biggest obstacles to skilling up personnel include ambiguous career trajectories, uneven access to training, and inflexible, antiquated training systems.
Make time to learn
Striking a good work-life balance is already difficult enough as it is, let alone staying up-to-date with tech and industry trends. Part of the problem is that as a society, we’ve tended to separate the culture of work from the culture of learning. But as we saw above, the future of work has to involve continuous learning, so bringing learning into the workplace should be a key strategy to help your organization stay ahead. McKinsey & Company suggests that the best kind of learning occurs in the workplace, and when employees are supported through a performance-first approach emphasizing performance outcomes that meet or exceed expectations. Additionally, there may be ways to eliminate the need to learn certain mundane tasks through automation.
Clearly, both workers and employers need to practice effective time management techniques, and tailor learning to short and specific topics. Careful delegation of learning tasks is key, just as it can be in our lives outside of work. For instance, if we’re moving from Ottawa to Toronto, we don’t have to do everything by ourselves. An expert team can get you settled so you can focus on other things.
Building a learning culture
Encouraging a culture of learning in your organization means building learning into nearly all aspects of your business. One place to start is to help your workers develop a mindset that prioritizes growth and curiosity. People with a growth mindset know they can change and learn new things, and this helps them to reach out and explore new ways of doing things. Meanwhile, people who are curious tend to be intentional about learning, and find fulfillment when they learn something new about the world, about people, or about clients and customers. These are two key attitudes that will help business—and the country—leverage innovation potential.
It’s not all about intangibles. There are concrete steps your organization can take to help build learning and innovation. An obvious start is to provide learning resources, but it can also include building learning outcomes into KPIs, tracking and understanding your employee’s skills gaps, or integrating learning outcomes into performance evaluations.
Walking the talk
As a tech entrepreneur and manager, it’s in your interest to make sure that you and your workforce are surrounded by, and are contributing to, a great learning culture. Why? Organizations with great learning cultures are also more productive, more efficient, and struggle less with talent recruitment and retention. And like a lot of things, creating positive culture change should start at the top, so that you and your senior managers are not just models, but conduits for learning and exchange.