We have all become lifelong learners, or at least today's message is that we should become one. Lifelong learning is a continuous journey to develop skills and competencies that are relevant now and in the future. Lifelong learning is a way to be future-prepared.
We are living the learning challenge already. The World Economic Forum stated in 2020 that 50% of the workforce needs up-skilling or re-skilling by 2025. In most branches, the critical core competencies are radically changing because of digitalisation and technological changes that shape industrial structures.
What do we need to learn?
Business critical future core competencies in most industries are something else that they have been so far. In Finland, Technology Finland has surveyed the most critical future competencies in the technology industry. For example, data skills, robotic software automation, business development, customer centricity and circular economy are essential competence areas needed in the future. The Finnish Energy future competencies survey concluded that the energy sector needs strengthening of data analytics, digitalisation, customer centricity, project management competencies and business acumen.
We continue to see many top lists on future work-life skills, often called meta-skills. Although there are always some differences in these listings, there are more similarities. Different stakeholders have a relatively unified opinion about the critical future work-life meta-skills. Yuval Noah Harari recently presented at the Nordic Business Forum that the most crucial future work-life skills are the ability to adapt to changes, the ability to unlearn and knowing what we need to learn. In addition, we need to be resilient and develop self-awareness. Creativity, data literacy, networking skills and empathy are also high on the future meta-skills lists. Relatively exhausting and even challenging listings, you might think.
"The good thing is that many future work-life skills are all independent of the branch."
For example, if you continuously seek relevant new knowledge, have networking and empathy skills, and have business acumen and a customer-centric view, you could be an asset in several different branches and industries. The question is how you can connect your skills and lead your career to find meaningful paths where you can use your competencies. Lifelong learners should thus think of their careers proactively, be curious about new opportunities and plan the next steps. A lifelong learner must actively discover the branches' relevant or interesting core competencies. Traditionally work identities have strongly been built around profession or work titles, but now we should learn to build our identity around evolving competencies.
Lifelong learning is a joint venture
During long professional careers, the learning challenge is often a joint one for you and your employer. Reskilling is needed to excel in your job or find new roles inside the organisation. Organisations need competence development and reskilling to build sustainable businesses and make strategic capabilities real. So, lifelong learning is a joint path for you and your employer.
Employers that see building new competencies as business critical expect employees to be curious take responsibility for their learning and share their knowledge in the organisation. But what can you expect from your employer? How do you know if you and your employer have a joint path in lifelong learning?
"Organisations that lead learning and competence building have built a bridge from business strategy to competence development."
Often this means that there is a definition of strategic competencies, suggesting a solid view of what competencies are of strategic importance for us in the future. However, competencies are sometimes vague and conceptual, so employer that leads lifelong learning has also clarified the future picture with definitions of future work roles and descriptions of potential development paths leading to these roles.
Employers that invest in future competencies have diverse approaches to competence development at the individual level. Competence development is possible with external education and training, job exchange, mentoring, development projects and coaching. Equally critical is that managers have the abilities and skills to lead competence and the career development of their teams. They should be able to discuss the business vision and future strategic competencies and coach and support people to find meaningful development paths towards a mutual future.
Responsible organisations lead learning and competence development. Do you have a shared vision and commitment to a future with your organisation? Can you learn and grow with your employer?
How you can lead your lifelong learning
- Consider, do you see a mutual future for you and your employer. What kinds of meaningful paths can your organisation offer for you? What skills and competencies are considered critical in the coming years?
- Find out more about the possibilities for competence development and discuss them with your manager. Could you seek external education or training? Is there coaching, mentoring or job exchange available?
- Create a learning plan: Map your current skills, draft an idea of new skills that you should master in 3 years, and finally plan how to develop each skill.
Could you or your team benefit from a competence boost in a specific area? Gain the most sought-after skills to advance your professional development and support your organisation in addressing critical challenges and opportunities. We offer programmes to fit the needs of experienced leaders and experts. Read more about our programmes and get in touch to chat more.
About the author
Kaisa Michelsson is Growth Area Director for Learning Solutions at Hanken & SSE Executive Education. In her roles in account management and career coaching she also supports corporate customers and individuals in their renewal and lifelong learning. Kaisa has 15 years of experience in working in executive education and coaching businesses. She is an enthusiast for people development, building meaningful careers and creating future prepared organisations.