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Learning: the new career?

Welcome to our new editorial theme: Learning: the new career? An exploration of change, disruption and the future of workplace learning.

This is the big question that we’re going to explore to help you navigate the change and disruption affecting HR and L&D. With a focus on talent, leadership and skills development, we want to help you unlock the business potential and improve performance in your organisation.

Over the coming months, we will be asking a range of questions from ‘What forces are impacting our skills base?’ and ‘How is learning changing?’, to ‘What do we really mean by talent?’ and ‘Are we facing a workforce revolution?’. We’ll explore how technology is changing the way we communicate and, indeed, work, and look at the rise of the gig economy, the always-on culture and how to develop the next-generation workforce.

We hope you’ll find this future-focused journey full of smart, original and challenging thinking that sparks conversation and offers a different view-point on the future of skills, learning and talent.

​Changing times, changing needs

Change. It’s the only constant these days.

Technological. Political. Economic. Socio-cultural. It’s happening all around us and all over the world. No organisation is immune to this dynamic and disruptive environment we find ourselves in. No organisation can sit back and avoid asking what they’ll need to do differently tomorrow, from today. And nowhere is this context more concentrated, than amongst those charged with building organisational capability and managing talent.

The questions facing the HR and learning and development (L&D) community are myriad and complex. What talent do we need in the future? Where will we find it? How will we manage the flow of people through our organisation and what will career paths look like as we continue to respond to change? How do we need to respond to ensure our people and L&D strategies are aligned with an organisation subject to such a storm of external pressures? And how do we get ahead of the curve and find opportunity, not just risk, in change?

It’s inevitable that the capabilities and skills an organisation has today will need to be different in five years’ time, or even less. For some organisations, this may mean new ways of working; for others, it may be doing completely new things. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a new start-up or an established enterprise, the need to respond to change is there. In today’s world, an organisation’s workforce needs to constantly learn, re-learn and unlearn new skills, new thinking and new ways of working – crucial to keeping an organisation competitive, efficient and fit for the future.

But this imperative comes at a time when the concept of the career has been fundamentally challenged. Changing attitudes towards employment from millennials and the iGeneration, a growing start-up and entrepreneurial culture and an evolving education landscape have disrupted how organisations identify, attract, develop and retain talent. Many people have bemoaned the death of a job for life, whilst new concepts such as fluid careers have started to garner mainstream interest.

Will the collision of these two contexts – constant re-examination of capabilities and skills, and the erosion of the concept of careers – actually lead to a constructive, positive outcome? Is the career, in fact, not dead and the changing skills imperative, in fact, not an existential threat to organisations and people? Should we stop thinking in terms of functions, siloes and legacy and instead start thinking about learning as the new career path?

How should the HR and L&D community respond to this? Can we challenge conventional thinking on building capability, learning and development strategies and talent management programmes? If HR and L&D professionals think of continuous learning as the new career path, could they help position their organisations to not just survive but thrive in this world of constant change and disruption?

It’s these questions and more which we’ll be exploring through our new content series: Learning: the new career?