As children we looked to our parents, our teachers, and other authority figures for guidance so that we could be properly equipped to navigate the world successfully. Some of my fondest memories are pedaling with new found courage after those pesky training wheels were removed, and of course as a teenager finally getting that much-coveted driver’s license. Being prepared and confident to try new things is a part of life, right? But, all those milestones that I remember so fondly are usually linked to some form of training that I undertook and which later helped me to achieve something worthwhile. I think it’s safe to say that most of our accomplishments have come from some form of thoughtful direction by someone who was there to help, support, and instruct us. So, now, in this era where so many things are changing so quickly and so dramatically, why isn’t this logic being extended to our work?
In past blog articles, I have discussed some of the increasingly problematic and unfair expectations that job applicants are dealing with today (e.g., academic inflation). For example, the art of a good job interview now being replaced with impersonal and excessively strict online job screening which puts many applicants at a disadvantage. I’d like to say that once someone has essentially ‘won’ a position through the ‘online employment lottery game’ (as one of my clients put it) they can breathe a sigh of relief that they have secured themselves a better future … unfortunately, that is not always the case.
In addition to computers and software (instead of people) doing the initial screening of job applicants, there are other routine and predictable tasks that are now being performed by automation and/or software. This emerging reality contributes to the predicament where workers may find themselves falling into an invisible crack in the workplace … and that is a lack of job training.
Often, training an employee can be costly and due to some bookkeeping and accounting rules investing in training and development is not advantageous. This motivates many organizations to spend as little time and money as possible on training so that profits are retained ‘effectively’ and ‘strategically’. Personally, I believe this is a real problem that will have long-standing consequences. It lends to the notion of being ‘penny wise but pound foolish.’ We may rely heavily on machines and automation for many tasks in the future. But, we’ll likely need people to take on higher level tasks that can’t be done via automation. The question is, will employees be able to take on those more sophisticated and nuanced roles that can’t be relegated to software if they’ve had little relevant experience or training? If we’re not careful, we may face a future where we have workers who are poorly suited to their new responsibilities. This could increase costs due to lower productivity. In the end, this could represent an overall loss for both employees and the employers.
In my opinion, having a new employee shadow a more experienced employee, or showing a junior staff member the ropes by having them work alongside a more experienced worker is cost-effective for several reasons. Yes, it may be time intensive at first, but the amount of nuanced, and insightful learning that can take place is well worth the effort for employees who are genuinely motivated and capable. I view it the same way I look back on my youth and being coached on how to swim, how to read, how to solve mathematical problems, etc. Once you acquire the skill it is useful throughout one’s lifetime. The same rationale should be extended to businesses who need to equip their staff to be competent and independent. Without adequate training, management may unwittingly become susceptible to micro-managing, high turnover, safety concerns/violations, and other costly mistakes.
It is wise for organizations to wake up and realize that yes automation and other technologies can and will replace some work once done by humans. But, instead of simply shrugging off the responsibility of investing in job training because a machine will take care of it, think in terms of how to evolve and reinvent existing roles for employees who will have invaluable skills that cannot be replicated by artificial intelligence (AI). That means there is even more reason to be investing in higher-level training and development so that staff who have great potential are well positioned to contribute in new ways. Especially, depending on what an employee’s previous role was there may be a gap between what they are accustomed to and what will be required of them in the future.
This means corporations are clearly at a pivotal stage where there is actually a greater need for work-related training … it is a smart way to stay ahead of the curve. My hope is that organizations soon realize that investing in job training is empowering to employees and businesses — and this strengthens our economy. For information about investing in developing the potential of Canada’s future workforce and a related white paper, see this recent Report on Business / Globe and Mail article (published after this blog article was written and posted).
If you’re an employer/hiring manager who wants to train staff for the future wisely or, you’re an employee who wants to stay relevant, I invite you to connect with me privately. I offer a free 15 to 20-minute initial consultation by phone. Or, if you prefer, you can contact me by email, or via direct message on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.
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