When employers complain about the growing skills gap in the workforce, what they really mean is candidates aren't demonstrating what they can accomplish now or their capacity for growth over time. Companies are shifting recruitment efforts toward developing "learning workers" who are skilled at researching solutions and adapting to challenges. Technology evolves so rapidly that many skills quickly become obsolete, making it crucial to hire employees who continually diversify their skill sets through self-directed learning.
Self-Directed Learning Creates a Flexible Workforce
Knowledge-sharing was once restricted to people who could afford formal education or apprenticeships; having specialized knowledge meant candidates were in a distinct class of workers able to perform a specific job. Employers relied on degrees, internships and vocational training to measure the skills of "knowledge workers."
Today, educational institutions struggle to keep up with the ever-changing demand for new skills, while information technology gives workers universal access to learning resources they can use for professional growth. Many companies are recognizing the importance of learning workers who build on their educational background by collaborating and teaching themselves how to apply their skills in new situations, says Jacob Morgan, co-founder of the Future of Work Community. Employees who learn as they go can redefine their roles to fit an employer's needs, which simultaneously creates natural growth points for them to accept more responsibility and develop into capable leaders.
Learning Workers Benefit From Employer Support
The workforce shouldn't be wholly responsible for training and development, especially if companies want to mold current employees into learning workers. Before employers can develop better critical thinkers and problem solvers, they must foster a learning culture where it's okay if workers don't have all the answers as long as they are always looking for solutions. Employers should also nurture curiosity and independence by providing expert resources, courses and knowledge-sharing communities that offer what workers specifically need rather than forcing every employee to complete inflexible training and development programs.
Learning organizations give employees a reason to care about personal and company growth, increasing engagement while motivating workers to share knowledge that can help their colleagues improve. Instead of telling the workforce what to do, employers develop learning workers by showing employees how to ask critical questions and find the information they need to solve a problem. On this continuous learning path, the goal is for workers to define the tools they need for immediate success, the development they need to excel in current roles, and the skills and relationships they must build for future growth.
Digital knowledge-sharing is equalizing the job market and creating a new metric for employers to measure skills. To promote a culture of learning workers, employers must surround employees with information networks that help them further their career while bringing innovation to the company.
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