Lifelong Learning — Shared Employer : Employee Commitment 50:50

It is with great interest that I read this article in Wall Street Journal today.

Here are a few noteworthy clips from the article.

Employers, politicians and educators are hammering the message that people need to continuously upgrade their skills because of advancing technologies. Even companies that invest in employee training expect workers to figure out their future career path, and some want workers to retrain themselves on their own time and dime.

“We’ve put huge emphasis on shifting responsibility to the individual,” said Tim Munden, who oversees employee training as chief learning officer at Unilever PLC, which provides employees with resources such as online classes. “There’s no way on earth we can send people to enough training courses to make the shift we need to adapt to the world around us. People need to take that on themselves.”

“We’re asking people to negotiate an increasingly complicated labor market on their own,” he said. It can be especially tough to make education and training choices when automation is making it unclear what the jobs of the future will look like.

“I am still under construction”

While the spirit is well understood and appreciated, “I am still under construction” as the title says is very tenuous and dis-comforting situation for employees to be as professionals or individuals. We believe that a shared responsibility between Employer and the Employee is a more constructive and conducive approach.

From 1920s to 1970s companies for the most part took significant responsibility to hire good, raw talent and groom them, so they develop employable skills and ongoing mentoring programs for them to rise the corporate ladder. While the employee shouldered some of the responsibility, the employer, forward-thinking managers and HR personnel took it upon themselves to mentor the employee. This has always existed in the Services (Army, Navy, Airforce) but private industry took it upon itself to play this supportive role. Since Universities were not in a position to mint graduates with fully employable skills, companies stepping in to fill the void was a welcome gesture to economy and society. There are plenty of examples of people who started out as entry level clerks, trench diggers and worked their way up to the mahogany row in organizations. GE Executive Education at Crotonville which will rival most Ivy League Business Schools is a shining example of the level of commitment companies placed on Employee Training and Development.

Since investment in employees has a longer term (5–10 year) payoff due to higher productivity, greater retention, etc., the 70s led to short-termism. This resulted in a spate of corporate takeovers fueled by junk bond kings who preyed on companies that had invested in longer term investments (R&D, employee education/growth, etc.). 70s and 80s business tabloid and Hollywood had a field day on “Chainsaw Al”, “Barbarians at the Gate”, etc. the net result being EPS (Earnings Per Share) was prioritized higher than employee development which in turn got short changed.

Change of approach in employee development

Given the pace of change of technology and the constrained labor market, companies are starting to invest in employee development. Unlike the yester-years companies are not to take a paternalistic approach to training and development but are looking for more equanimous and a shared-stake approach.

Unlike previous years where the infrastructure to deliver good training was in universities, training institutes and corporate training departments, today’s technology provides a very rich forum for consumers (employees, individuals) to consume self-paced curriculum to meet their professional goals. More importantly, training assets are widely available within workgroups in organizations.

What is needed is a flexible and agile forum to harness the training and information assets and empower employees. Just like Facebook marshalled the power of social networks and Slack streamlined the communications capability of workgroups, we at KloudLearn strive to provide employees and employers the tools to enhance employee learning and productivity. Modern day social structures and professional environments don’t have to deal with the asymmetry that previous business cycles faced. With KloudLearn we have the opportunity to create a forum of collaboration and parity, one where the employee and the employer have a stake in each other’s well being.

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