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The Future of Work and Learning: Utopia or Dystopia?

Tuesday, February 6, 2018
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Research shows we are conditioned to think negatively 70 percent of the time, largely in ways that express our fears—things we don't want or are actively trying to avoid.

As we leap further into an uncertain world forever changed by jittery markets, rapid digital transformation, disruption, hyper-competitive marketplaces, shifting cultural landscapes, and the end of the “job for life,” it’s only natural to be daunted by our own position as talent developers in the evolving workplace.

Yet there is much to be optimistic about if we’re open to change and the exciting new opportunities that present themselves with it. I will be delighted to present the 5 Drivers for Workplace Success in the 2020s in May on our research into the key areas important to future success, and how to build a workforce fit to win.

While conducting our research, we interviewed many professionals and leaders across business, HR, and learning fields. This reinforced much of the research but also exposed differences within regions, markets, and cultural norms. Despite these differences, there were five common themes that were reinforced time and again, as organizations prepare themselves and their workforces for the future.

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Be Ready

We are living in the “fourth industrial revolution”—the advent of sophisticated automation and the Information Age. We have transcended the “electronic” era and are firmly in the digital. This revolution is not about to happen . . . it’s happening now. Yet too many companies fail to accommodate new technologies and new ways of working. This is understandable, with the pace of change being quite overwhelming; but companies can make incremental changes to ensure they exploit the latest technologies and systems to their full advantage. Digital transformation is here to stay, and this is one area exposed in our research which too many organizations, worldwide, are not tackling quickly enough, with the right research and in an efficient way.

Embrace Social Technologies and Experiment

Social media has taken over the workplace like nothing else. Many people are aware of its existence and probably use some platforms socially, such as Facebook or Instagram, in their personal lives. However, many leaders are unsure just how social media and technology fits into the vast scheme of things. The point here is to experiment and learn. There are countless new ways to connect, to market, and to be educated. There is likely something out there that could really make a difference to your place in the market, but you don’t have to succeed immediately. What you absolutely must do is experiment, learn internally and externally, and act.

The Old Ways Are No Longer the Best

Even in 2018 there remains much talk of how companies should respond to the needs of Generation Y and Millennials to engage them in the workplace. Millennials and Generation Y represent a generation that has grown up with the Internet and who don’t necessarily fit the narcissistic and lazy stereotype they are often labeled with. Millennials are challenging the old ways of working, and adapting to a whole new landscape: one devoid of a 9-to-5 workday and top-down management. Rather than pandering to Gen Y and Millennials—as their elders often feel pressured into—the most successful companies are finding new ways to work cross-generationally and embrace diversity. And this is yielding some very positive results. In fact, it will become even more important to “flatten out” the cross-generational debate as we welcome Generation Z into the workplace within the next two years and, in many worldwide markets, define how to utilize and benefit from an aging population of “silver stars” who are ready to commit for longer and contribute more.

Think Positive

It is so important for leaders to build motivation and clear direction for the future. It inspires positive thinking and commits hearts and minds. Consider the start of this post—many people fail because they frame objectives in a negative way (such as, “We cannot miss our target this month”).

As we navigate the 2020 workplace, a positive mindset makes a huge difference, at all levels. Learning how to motivate your workforce so that they embrace change is paramount in any modern organization.

Adopt New Ways of Learning

More agile working methods, ongoing business transformation, and disruptive new competitors mean we need to learn more—new knowledge, skills, and behaviors to help us compete, collaborate, communicate, and win. Corporate learning needs not just to evolve but requires a mini-revolution of its own. We only have to look at the education sector to see how learning can be different. The school classroom of today is flipped completely to focus on building knowledge remotely through online student working groups, and then in the classroom by applying lessons to real cases, projects, and challenges. Learning takes place through peer-to-peer collaboration and action.

Transforming HR and learning for the digital era is the single biggest challenge facing many human capital professionals. More important is to find the right blend of solutions that suits your organization, personalizes learning to new levels, and impacts growth—of the business, leaders, managers, teams, and individuals. After all, in the increasingly digitized world of business, one could argue that the human touch is more important than ever.

I am looking forward to taking you on a journey to the future of work—which, of course, is now! Join our session at the ATD 2018 International Conference & Exposition, 5 Drivers for Workplace Success in the 2020s, to learn more.

About the Author
A commercially minded L&D entrepreneur, Jeremy Blain has 14 years’ experience in the industry as a managing director, partner, trainer, coach, and program author specializing in all aspects of commercial excellence in today’s globalized workplace. He is currently a partner with Cegos Group and regional managing director for Cegos Asia Pacific, where he heads up the company’s operations and activities from its Singapore hub. He has held previous roles at Procter and Gamble, PepsiCo, and his own point-of-sale software business. Jeremy is a fellow of the Institute of Directors, and holds a master’s of management in international business from the Australian Institute of Business and an honorary BA from Sheffield University. As one of Cegos’s senior executives, Jeremy is a frequent international conference speaker and media commentator on topics related to the global L&D market. Connect with him via LinkedIn or on Twitter @learntheplanet.
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