The Future of Workplace Learning
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In 1991, Harvard Business School professor Chris Argyris wrote, “Any company that aspires to succeed in the tougher business environment of the 1990s must first resolve a basic dilemma: Success in the marketplace increasingly depends on learning, yet most people don’t know how to learn.”1 Fast-forward 30 years and swap in “the 2020s,” and these words likely ring true for many executives today.
To be clear, learning is as high a priority as ever for corporate leaders. Before the pandemic, learning and development (L&D) efforts aimed at reskilling and upskilling workforces ranked among global CEOs’ top concerns. COVID-19 has accelerated existing trends in remote work and automation and shined a spotlight on digital skills gaps in organizations.
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Despite concern at the top and significant investments in training each year, many organizations are failing to meet employees’ learning needs.2 Gallup data shows that only 4 in 10 employees strongly agree that they have opportunities at work to learn and grow.3
So where do things go wrong?
For Argyris, the learning dilemma demonstrated that organizations make two critical mistakes: First, they define learning too narrowly, and second, they fail to reflect on how internal behaviors and thought patterns block effective learning.
Over the past year, L&D teams have had to pivot quickly and reshuffle priorities in order to meet the needs of remote workforces, from moving in-person learning models online to thinking beyond a focus on technical skills to the behavioral “human skills” at the core of virtual communication and collaboration. Along the way, companies are finding that some traditional systems of learning must shift to meet new needs.
The MIT SMR Executive Guide “The Future of Workplace Learning” examines this shift and explores opportunities for leaders to solve the decades-old learning dilemma facing organizations. Readers will benefit from advice and insights from executives at leading learning companies across the globe. For their article in the series, George Westerman and Thomas H. Davenport draw on conversations with HR leaders to examine what types of strategies companies are using to prepare for AI-enabled changes to job roles and employee skills.
Elsewhere in the series, we’ll look at how learning can serve as a valuable tool for CEOs to drive change and unlock execution.