Reorienting L&D For The Digital Age

Three areas today’s HR and L&D leaders need to focus on as they evolve their talent development strategies.

The digital age has created a massive increase in the speed and complexity of business, resulting in the largest job transition since the Industrial Revolution. Given this rapid transformation, the next five years likely will be more disruptive to HR and corporate Learning and Development (L&D) than the last 50. Today’s HR and L&D leaders should focus on these three areas as they evolve their talent development strategies:

  • Workplace Automation Driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • The Coming Skills Dilemma
  • The Competition for Talent

Workplace Automation Driven by AI

A recent McKinsey Global Institute report stated that AI will generate more than $13 trillion in business value by 2030, and it will disrupt and/or displace as many as 375 million workers— or roughly 14 percent of the global workforce. Workplace automation is touching every business everywhere, and nothing in our workplaces will be left untouched. Since AI technologies are primary disruptors for the future of work, we in L&D need to have a fundamental understanding of AI and its underlying technologies. One of the promises of AI for learning is leveraging it to drive personalized learning. AI can contextualize content for learners by providing recommendations based on their individual behavior and preferences. A key component in your learning strategy should be integrating AI technologies.

The Coming Skills Dilemma

Companies are significantly increasing their investment in digital transformation and are moving at a speed that makes it challenging for their current workforces to keep up. Currently, only 53 percent of Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs) are reasonably or highly confident in their workforce’s digital literacy, according to the World Economic Forum. Additionally, more than 50 percent of the U.S. workforce is aged 50 or older and they are beginning to plan their retirement. This mass exodus from the workforce will leave a significant skills gap for companies to close. Along with the coming talent disruption, companies need to continually attract, develop, and up skill the workforce to appropriately deliver on their digital strategies. More investment in current talent and a strategy to attract new talent is critical. We are on the cusp of a skills dilemma: Companies now need to both buy and build their talent, which requires an acquisition and development strategy that presents a compelling value proposition to the candidate in tandem with a comprehensive view of how the company plans to continually invest in his or her development.

Talent Acquisition as a Competitive Advantage

As the unemployment rate in the U.S. hovers at an all-time low, it’s becoming more challenging to identify and acquire the talent necessary for companies to execute on their strategies. Additionally, there are shortages of skills reaching significant numbers in software engineering and essential skills categories such as leadership, communication, critical thinking, and innovation. Currently, there’s simply not enough talent with the right skills. Acquiring and retaining the necessary talent is a strategic advantage because you’re competing in an open marketplace for the shrinking talent pool. Companies need to place a sharper focus on providing a candidate experience that appropriately represents the company as a workplace of choice.

Strategies for Success

Consider these two strategies when you revise your talent development approach:

1. Place digital literacy as a primary business imperative and invest appropriately. Increased investment in people strategies as it applies to digital literacy needs to be a CEO-level concern and should be driven by both HR and L&D as a strategic pillar across the enterprise. Companies cannot continue to invest heavily in automation and digital infrastructure without significant investment in their people operations, as well.

2. Change the culture to one of a growth mindset. Culture is the most important element in a company to drive commitment, trust, and productivity. As you apply new elements to your talent development strategy, commit to an inclusive culture that ensures everyone plays a part in their own development and in the company’s future. Focus on linking the business outcomes to this cultural change.

HR and L&D are at an inflection point where key decisions are now necessary to remain relevant and people-focused as the digital age continues to unfold. Now more than ever it’s critical for people operations to reorient for the digital age and resolve to preserve humanity in work and commit to continuously adapt the workplace to stay aligned to drive the impact necessary for businesses to flourish.

We will continue this discussion during my TechLearn Conference session, “Radical L&D: Reimagining Learning in the Digital Age” (#603), on Thursday September 19, at 10:45 a.m. in New Orleans ( I hope to see you there!

Delta Air Lines Director of Learning Brandon Carson has extensive expertise in developing learning strategies and learning technology implementation. A keynote speaker and best-selling author, Carson’s latest book, “Learning in the Age of Immediacy: 5 Factors for How We Connect, Communicate and Get Work Done,” explores how the digital transformation is affecting workplace performance.