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Learning at Work Week 2019: ‘Shaping the future of your Technology Business

17/05/19 Jake Harris Consultant, Contract & Interim

We are living through a fundamental transformation in the way we work. Automation and ‘thinking machines’ will replace some human tasks and roles thus changing the skills that organisations seek in their people. These momentous changes raise huge organisational, talent and HR challenges – at a time when business leaders are already wrestling with unprecedented risks, disruption and political and societal upheaval.

 

The pace of change is accelerating and 2019 has, so far, been a year of uncertainty. With no sign of an immediate Brexit resolution, the UK jobs market continues to fluctuate and as a result, technology and engineering businesses are having to adapt the way they recruit. At the same time, retaining expert skills and knowledge means there is a growing demand in developing the need for more digitally enabled engineers.

Competition for the right technology and engineering talent is fierce. And ‘talent’ no longer means the same as ten years ago; many of the engineering and technical job roles, skills and job titles of tomorrow are unknown to us today. How can organisations prepare for a future that few of us can truly define? How will your tech talent need to change? How can you attract, keep and motivate the employees a business needs?

In most technology businesses today, there is a mix of formal and self-directed learning. The formal tends to take place either through external training providers or often carried out by internal training and development professionals.

Learning at Work Week provides an opportunity to promote work-based learning rather than the more traditional training courses or lectures. For example, this could be through talking to customers and/or specialists, working with them to determine their technical requirements, secondments and job rotation or job shadowing.

When professionals from different levels of seniority share their work experiences within a business, whether through mentoring or training, it allows others to learn different skills sets and competencies. 

An organisation’s attitude towards learning tends to depend on the culture. In the new world of work, which is highly influenced by technology, today’s successful businesses are those who ensure their employees receive the right ongoing training and development. 

A strong learning culture can better position an organisation for future needed skill shifts and primes employees to think and act more like owners when it comes to their own development needs. At Google, 80% of all tracked training is run through an employee-to-employee network called “g2g” (Googler-to-Googler). This volunteer teaching network of over 6,000 Google employees dedicate a portion of their time to helping their peers learn and grow. Volunteers - known internally as “g2g’ers”- can participate in a variety of ways, such as teaching courses, providing 1:1 mentoring, and designing learning materials, and they come from every department of Google.

Many of the most popular classes led by g2g’ers focus on general professional skills, like negotiations and leadership, and role-related skills, like sales training and Python coding. It’s also helped upskill huge numbers of employees around new opportunities. For example, as mobile computing on smartphones exploded, thousands of Googlers went through an Android training bootcamp run by the very Googlers who worked on Android.

According to Google, “your own employees are perhaps the most qualified instructors available to you.” The role of the manager to establish a “healthy team culture” for group employee learning.

So how can you stimulate curiosity and exploration of what the future might bring to your organisation? How will our world be transformed? What are the trends and predictions that might affect business, work and life and what might their impact be?

Jake Harris, Redline’s Contract and Interim consultant discusses how today’s technology and engineering businesses can build and enhance their learning culture in order to retrain, develop and motivate their existing workforce.

“Automation, robotics and AI are advancing quickly, dramatically changing the nature and number of technical jobs available,” says Jake. “Technology has the power to improve our lives, raising productivity, living standards and average life span, and free people to focus on personal fulfilment.

The world’s population is ageing, putting pressure on business, social institutions and economies. Our longer life span will affect business models, talent ambitions and pension costs. Older workers will need to learn new skills and work for longer. ‘Retooling’ will become the norm. The shortage of a human workforce in a number of rapidly-ageing economies will drive the need for automation and productivity enhancements.

According to PWC’s Workforce of the Future report, there were three key predictions:

  • Today - Assisted Intelligence: Automating repetitive, standardised or time-consuming tasks and providing assisted intelligence. Increased demand for STEM skills to build new tech ecosystem.
  • Emerging - Augmented Intelligence: Fundamental change in the nature of work. Humans and machines collaborate to make decisions. Uniquely human traits – emotional intelligence, creativity, persuasion, innovation – become more valuable.
  • Future - Autonomous Intelligence: Adaptive continuous intelligent systems take over decision-making. The future of humans at work is questioned.

Facebook’s approach to L&D is multidimensional. With an objective to “promote respect and foster a culture of continual learning,” Facebook’s learning culture is designed to provide employees with personalised experiences for individual learning.

Their most recognised program, Managing Unconscious Bias, is based on the “belief that understanding and managing unconscious bias can help employees build stronger, more diverse and inclusive organisations.” The goal of the program is to train employees to acknowledge workplace bias and reduce its negative effects.

Where an organisation’s culture is attractive to applicants who value development opportunities, they have an edge over the competition when competing for talent. Additionally, employee brand advocates in the organisation are more likely to refer their personal contacts for vacancies when they know the organisation invests in the future of staff.

Meanwhile, Amazon’s training program called ‘Pivot’ raised lots of questions in the business world and the media. The goal of the program is to give guidance and support to underperforming employees by pairing them with a “subject matter experts” called Career Ambassadors.

In an internal email, the company told Business Insider that “Pivot is a program for employees who show a sustained period of underperformance, despite coaching and support. The program provides employees with options to (1) improve performance, (2) voluntarily leave Amazon with severance, or (3) appeal their manager’s decision to place them in Pivot.”

The company launched the program as a part of their performance improvement plan, also known as “PIP.” The program is designed to track employees on their path to reaching their goals and put pressure on those that are failing. With their “annual stacked-ranking,” the company pulls out the lowest-rated employees before putting them on PIP.

Netflix is said to have one of the most enviable engineering cultures in the global software industry and developed “microservices”. Microservices are fine-grained units of execution. They are designed to do one thing very well. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the development of microservices at Netflix is the way in which it affected the engineering culture. Every developer runs what they write. They're responsible for fixing their tools if they break, writing the documentation, and dealing with any operations pain they create.

Creating a culture of innovation and learning is a difficult challenge in any company. Management can't just wave their hands and tell everyone they must be innovative from this day forward and declare success. Changes from making continuous learning part of the culture may not be easy, but they may be dramatic.

Knowledge is the foundation for new ideas, and the learning that produces knowledge is what keeps brains malleable to create innovative and disruptive solutions. 

What should organisations consider with reference to the training and development of their existing tech workforce?

  • Design the Future: Arrange co-design workshops with colleagues and users across the business. Use them to identify and understand problems and generate ideas and prototypes for new products, new services and new designs for learning.
  • Essentials: Provide opportunities for colleagues to gain and brush up on the essentials in maths, English and digital skills to enhance future learning and development
  • Learning journeys: Broaden colleague’s perspectives of how they might develop at work by promoting internal career pathways (across and up) the organisation. Arrange careers conversations to discuss being skilled for the future. Ask former apprentices to talk about their learning journeys with new apprentices.
  • Knowledge Exchange: Arrange knowledge exchange seminars with research organisations to discuss theory, latest research and practice in relevant fields for your organisation. 
  • Learning Matters: Talks and Q&As by leaders and senior managers on how they’ve dealt with and deal with change, how continual learning can help and how they learn to keep up to speed.

We can help your technology business

At Redline, we’ve streamlined the recruitment process into an efficient method based on our significant insight and research, taking you through competency-based interviews, offer and declination and onboarding processes.

Redline Group offers knowledge-led, tailor-made recruitment programmes to suit clients’ specific needs, adopting a ‘partnership’ approach to ensure a detailed understanding of clients’ objectives and requirements.

For more information regarding how we can help your business, please contact Jake Harris, Redline’s Contract & Interim Recruitment Consultant on 01582 878872 or email JHarris@RedlineGroup.com.