The Widening Gap
Our workforce is facing a great problem. We can all agree that things have changed a lot due to the Internet and mobile devices. However, the skills needed to fully utilize these tools have failed to evolve in our employees. I am calling this the Digital Skills Gap. An example of this gap is found in how these tools are being utilized for learning and productivity, and whether or not individuals use these tools for personal and professional growth.
This new society that we live in requires us to be constantly learning, unlearning, and relearning. Alvin Toffler, a futurist from the 20th century said, “The illiterate of the 21st-century will not be those that cannot read or write, but will be those that cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” As I look around the workplace and see the demands that are being placed on employees, I believe that Toffler was correct. We are constantly being asked to be more creative and innovative than ever before. And rightly so, we should be asked that as the world has become much smaller, with the global economy, and thus more competitive. If organizations are going to succeed in this new globally connected societythat is in constant change, organizations need their workforce to be quick innovators and highly creative.
A New Mindset
I believe that to meet these new demands of innovation and creativity, we need to retrain and re-equip the workforce with the new skills and knowledge needed to become independent, on-demand learners. We also need to change the mindset of our employees about learning. The old model of workplace learning was one in which the organization would develop and deliver all employee training. The employee then became dependent upon the organization to feed them learning when the organization determined it was needed. As a result of this dependency upon the organization to be the provider of learning, we now need to change the mindset of the employee from dependent learner to independent learner.
An independent learner is learning every day. This new independent learner is also connected to multiple resources and networks in ways that were never dreamed of 5, 10, or 15 years ago. Tools like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn allow the learner the ability to connect with experts that never could’ve been connected with before due to geographic distance and hierarchy of business leadership. This new connected independent learner then becomes a conduit of innovative and creative ideas that can now flow freely into the organization.
Daily Independent Learning= innovation and creativity = increased productivity and profitability
The Personal Learning Network
To build a workforce that is made up of independent, on demand learners, all individuals in an organization need to be developing their own Personal Learning Network or PLN. A Personal Learning Network is made up of digital tools and non digital tools such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flipboard, monthly professional journals, colleagues, annual conferences, and more. The illustration below is a great example of what a modern Personal Learning Network is as compared to a traditional learning network.