There are three primary areas any organization moving toward digital transformation needs to consider: the physical workspace itself, the digital workspace, and the capacity for people to learn. Teams need to collaborate, both physically and online, and this collaboration can (and should) be extended to learning.
Current Talent is an Organization’s #1 Asset.
While digital innovation is a necessity, it’s tempting to go overboard on the digital revolution, hiring an entirely new tranche of tech-savvy millennials. That’s likely to be a costly mistake. The sweet spot lies in integrating the most successful elements of your existing organization and target operating model with the best of digital technology.
Although this may require engaging some new hires, shifting focus too far toward digital may alienate current employees and erode existing expertise. These employees already have valuable experience with the brand. They may fear that their service is unappreciated and become resentful or leave.
Moreover, the cost of repeatedly hiring new talent is far greater than the cost of reskilling. Typically, replacing an employee who has left costs an organization twice as much it would to retain them.
By reskilling employees who already understand the company, and simultaneously bringing in digital experts where necessary, organizations can achieve the best of both worlds. This has the added benefit of validating both the experience of longer-serving employees and the digital skills needed to thrive in the twenty-first century.
The key to making this transition smoothly is always-on learning.
What Is Always-On Learning?
Arguably, today’s university education is no longer fit for purpose. In a rapidly evolving world, a student who spends three, four, or even five years studying may graduate only to discover that their new-found knowledge is already out of date. Technologies such as blockchain and robotic process automation are evolving so quickly that there’s no guarantee existing knowledge will still be relevant in a few months, let alone several years.
Digital learning is bridging that gap by providing people with a personalized, relevant way to learn, in an environment where they feel comfortable, anytime and anywhere. This always-on approach addresses two primary challenges. It provides a route for digital experts to quickly familiarize themselves with an organization, and it gives existing employees an effective method of learning new digital skills.
In any business, the gap between hiring and productivity is bridged through the understanding of a new environment. Always-on learning can help new hires find their way around large organizations quickly and effectively.
In some cases, companies are even utilizing virtual reality (VR) to give prospective employees an insight into the experience of working there prior to them joining. This has the dual advantage of a better ‘stickability’ when they land, as well as boosting employee productivity and immediate impact.
For current employees, the challenge lies in enabling them to learn and use digital skills and Agile methodologies. Digital learning tools represent a way for them to learn the skills they need to do their jobs better, to feel in control of their learning experience, and even to gamify the process of learning digitally and connect with colleagues.
Utilizing Always-On Learning
Digital learning is an excellent tool, but it’s not a panacea. It’s undoubtedly possible to bring someone with twenty years of experience into a digital environment and for them to rapidly learn new skills. However, that person will not become completely digital-savvy immediately.
Similarly, even the smartest digital learning tools won’t enable a digital expert to instantly simulate twenty years of experience in a given industry or organization. The way to improve skill-sharing and compensate for the weaknesses of each group is to bring them together, in multi-skilled teams with common goals, so that they can learn from one another and fill in the knowledge gaps of others.
How does always-on learning work in practice? At Infosys, for example, we’ve created the world’s largest corporate university. Recently, we’ve digitalized that university to make it more accessible and flexible, allowing for always-on learning. This digitalized learning capability, known as Wingspan, also allows thousands of Infosys hires to study together, comparing responses and scores, regardless of their physical location.
Anyone with access to the app can study whenever they want, wherever they want. They can collaborate with colleagues or motivate themselves by trying to beat their high scores. The learning is focused on topics that they need for their jobs. It’s not theoretical—it’s highly practical and applicable.
This process makes learning feel real and tangible. People learn a new skill, then practice it on a project. The feedback they receive from putting their learning into practice helps them to improve, creating a cycle of consistent learning, practice, and development.
Reskilling Talent with Always-On Learning
In an increasingly digital world, the need for large organizations to integrate digital expertise is pressing. This needs to be done in a way that respects the existing foundations of those companies, blending digital innovation with their physical basis.
Always-on learning offers a way to target learning where it’s needed most. Employees with decades of experience can develop new skills in an accessible environment, while those who already have a strong grasp of the digital world can quickly get up to speed with a specific industry or company.
Partner – C-Suite Advisory, Infosys Consulting
Jonquil has a wealth of 20+ years of experience leading complex transformation change programs and providing strategic advice for large change initiatives for the CPG and manufacturing industries. As UK advisory practice head, Jonquil defines the go-to-market strategy for digitally strategic market offerings. She is passionate about people, ardent about leadership and about developing high-performing teams, internally leading all coaching initiatives for Infosys Consulting in the UK. Jonquil lectures MBA students at her alma-matter, Beuth University, Berlin. She speaks four languages - English, German, Italian and Spanish, and is a Forbes contributor.