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ATD Blog

The Future of Learning Influences the Future of Work


Wed Oct 31 2018


We’re hearing more and more about the future of work. There is no doubt that big changes are coming—indeed some are already here—that will deeply impact business, how work happens, and how humans and machines will coexist in the workplace. There is also no doubt that the future of work will be significantly influenced by the future of learning, and that is a future we must invest in and plan for now. I shared some thoughts on this in the foreword to ATD’s Action Guide for Talent Development.

The fourth industrial revolution is characterized by technologies that blur distinctions between physical, digital, and biological spheres. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are some of the products of this revolution that we are seeing in the workplace now. Forces of disruption and innovation will require new thinking about jobs, how we train for them, and how we upskill and reskill workers to be able to meet the demands of tomorrow’s workplace.


The rise of the fourth industrial revolution escalates the importance of change and agility. Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, said that the speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent, and this is being felt in every industry and in every country. He maintains that the changes “herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.” The implications for the talent development profession are enormous. We are uniquely positioned in organizations to identify skill gaps, create plans and programs to address those gaps, and identify what is needed to be competitive. As a profession, we must be diligent in understanding how technology impacts the work happening in our organizations so that we enable and empower the unique value that humans offer in creating cultures that are agile and change-able.

Advances in technology have influenced our field from day 1. What’s different today is the accelerated pace of change and advancement. In a profession dedicated to empowering people to develop knowledge and skills to meet the demands of today and the future, it’s our responsibility to be at the forefront of learning—and learning about the future of learning. We owe that to ourselves, to our organizations and clients, to our learners, and to our communities.

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