Time to adapt to new career paths

Time to adapt to new career paths

Today’s employees don’t expect the kind of simple career progression their parents followed. Martin Anderson explains how the most successful workers will be those prepared to reskill and relaunch themselves repeatedly over the course of their careers. And the most successful organisations will be those that update their learning strategies to future proof their workforce and retain their talent.

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  • The death of linear career paths means HR functions can no longer rely on traditional development plans for their workforce
  • A new era of dynamic learning must serve individuals’ interests and organisational needs
  • Automation and technology are reshaping the skills requirements of the workforce and the delivery of learning in the workplace
  • Failure to create the right learning culture will result in a new generation of employees looking for opportunities elsewhere


A new generation of employees is disrupting the traditional career path that HR functions could rely on when developing learning plans. 

The expectations of today’s millennial workforce are vastly different from previous generations. They have a new focus on work-life integration, and expect greater flexibility in how that work is done. They also demand a more personalised and varied career path – and are prepared to repeatedly reskill and redefine themselves to achieve it.

Organisations are increasingly operating using a mix of permanent, remote and temporary staff, freelancers and outsourced workers – each with distinct career stages, skills and aspirations. But far from being a problem, businesses face a unique opportunity to adapt their learning strategies to harness the power of this complex and diverse talent pool. 

Bespoke is best

Learning is a deeply personal experience. We all learn in different ways, at different rates and prefer different styles. Given so many individuals are following diverse career paths, organisations increasingly need to adapt their learning strategies to be more personalised. The vast majority of today’s employees want access to learning support that will improve the way they perform and enable them to bring their true authentic ‘whole self’ to the workplace.As a result a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model no longer applies. This approach may have worked in the past, but organisations now need to consider much more bespoke interventions that adapt to each learner’s individual needs.

Organisations, however, have as yet been slow to respond. According to the Towards Maturity – Modernising Learning Report 2014, L&D in most organisations is trailing behind the needs of learners. Only 37% pull key stakeholders together to advise on the design and implementation of L&D programmes in their workplace, while only 29% involve actual users in the design of the most appropriate learning approach.

In a world where organisations are also becoming more regulated, there is an additional requirement for employees’ performance to be based not only on what they do but how they go about doing it, working within compliance and meeting ethical working codes.

The Financial Services sector for example – which relies heavily on regulatory guidelines to function well – is already discovering how traditional ‘one-size-fits-all’ training no longer necessarily results in a more compliant workforce. Tailoring L&D to individuals in specific roles and areas of experience, such as money laundering, ethics, diversity and inclusion, is proving to be far more effective.

The balancing act

Successful L&D strategies such as these effectively match employee aims and learning styles with the needs of the organisation. HR functions can tailor learning plans to encourage this ‘whole self’ approach. But at the same time, organisations need to be clear on common benefit and impact. 

Achieving a balancing act between the aims of the individual and the aims of the organisation is crucial. Learning agendas must set boundaries that are aligned to strategic and operational outcomes, but must do so in ways that engage and motivate today’s millennial workforce.One of the key ways to tackle this tension is to understand what drives your staff. Approaches to skills development can then be tailored to individual and organisational requirements for critical roles, ensuring a shared purpose that is fit for today and tomorrow.

Automation for the people

The advent of automation is also an opportunity for HR directors to future-proof their workforce skills. The World Economic Forum predicted in January that as many as 7.1 million jobs could be lost by 2020 through automation, with the greatest losses in white-collar office and administrative roles1.

With this in mind, today’s employers and employees will need to focus on developing skills that robots don’t have. Softer skills – such as empathy, emotional intelligence, good verbal communication and listening skills – will give them an edge and will quickly become career critical assets.

Certain large Government departments have already embraced this approach, automating their back office administration in order to dedicate more people to a better front line interface with a human touch.

Knowledge transfer

There is also an opportunity for the HR function to make the most of how tech-savvy employees are in their personal lives by using social, digital and mobile platforms and channels in workplace training.

Some employers struggle to connect these technologies to L&D. But they are essential to reskilling – and attracting – talent as millennials increasingly expect digitally connected and personalised working environments.

A critical investment

There is no doubt that the ever-changing complexity of today’s workforce presents both challenges and opportunities. One key issue for HR is how effectively it can convince CEOs and CFOs to invest in a learning culture that recognises this change.

As more millennials enter the workforce, creating that investment narrative is an increasingly critical issue. The advent of predictive data analytics offers one way to demonstrate the value of ensuring learning is integrated with the needs and expectations of both the overall company and its learners.

By using data to uncover learning and behavioural patterns, we can now provide intelligent recommendations to organisations on how millennials like to work and learn.  We can then provide focused learning pathways to ensure learning is delivered in a way that resonates with individual and organisational needs.

In an age where talent is a crucial point of competitive advantage, investing in more tailored L&D activities will only become more vital. Failure to do so will find a new generation of employees looking for opportunities elsewhere.


For further information please contact: 

Martin Anderson

Director, People Powered Performance 


Source: https://www.weforum.org/press/2016/01/five-million-jobs-by-2020-the-real-challenge-of-the-fourth-industrial-revolution/ 

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