As the world enters a new phase of growth, courtesy digital transformation, organisations today must now contend with an expansion of technologies and concurrent need for skilled talent. A major element of this increased demand is the expiration of traditional skill sets that are no longer relevant in a digital ecosystem.

The evolution of the talent pool too has played an important part in this disruption as new hires now increasingly belong to the generation of digital natives who process information differently. The challenge now is to design policies that can help this new cohort upskill themselves using learning programs in an effective manner.

Understanding digital learners

Understanding the functioning of the digital native generation is the first step towards designing the right learning programs for them. Most individuals fall within the category of ‘watchers’ who are reluctant to engage with contemporary technology proactively and require the creation of structured programmes that can guide them through the learning process.

Successful efforts towards this goal help transform these individuals into ‘explorers’, who are now equipped with the fundamental skills to function within a digital ecosystem. The knowledge gained during the learning program also inculcates a sense of curiosity and independence that motivates them to look for solutions that combine existing information with newly acquired knowledge to resolve issues on a dynamic basis.

Over time, the results of this evolution in perspectives and industry outlooks help explorers become ‘self-motivated adopters’ who take a proactive approach towards new learning experiences and environments, showcasing their desire to consistently improve not only their functioning but also their organisation’s.

The art of engagement

In order to facilitate this transformation, organisations must look to create a conducive learning environment for their employees. The rise of the millennial workforce has altered the aspects that needs to be prioritised by firms today. One of the first aspects to be ensured is convenience.

Employees today require learning opportunities to be integrated into their schedules seamlessly, making them a supplementary aspect to their work rather than a separate time spend. Given this requirement, programs must be designed keeping mobility in mind to enable employees to complete sessions across devices no matter where they may be at any point of time.

The second aspect to consider is practical relevance. Research shows that knowledge retention among learners is significantly higher when set within relatable contexts. Traditionally, gaps have been common when employees are called upon to utilise acquired skills in real-life situations, ultimately rendering the training sessions ineffective. New-age learning programs must look to remedy this by using real-life, best-in-class curated content from subject matter experts and fail-safe practice environments that allow for flaws in acquired skills to be ironed out.

The third aspect revolves around the content of these learning programs. An engaged workforce is much more likely to benefit from skilling activities compared to an unskilled one, an insight that is extremely pertinent to digital natives. Learning programs hence must look to integrate gamification elements to build employee engagement, using contests and other activities as a means of leveraging digital channels to align with employee interests.

The final aspect to be considered is the position that such learning programs occupy within the organisational framework. Skilling initiatives cannot operate in isolation; they must be integrated into corporate functioning for optimal efficiency. The use of a continuous feedback loop is one such avenue that can be followed. Organisations can utilise digital channels to create real-time dashboards that track an employee’s skills sets over time and use the same data as part of their performance evaluation procedures.

Organisations today are beginning to move away from looking at skills using the traditional ‘T-model’ where the archetype of skills needed are addressed using the length and breadth of them required. A new ‘Z skill model’ has evolved, where deep business and digital literacy are combined with the soft skills centering around creativity and innovation.

This shift clearly illustrates the disruptive effect that digital technologies have had on organisational policies. The road forward, hence, requires companies today to devise relevant, next-gen learning programs that are capable of skilling the workforce of tomorrow in a streamlined and effective manner.

Views are personal. The author is vice president & head of education, training and assessment, Infosys.

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