Curiosity and the ability to continually learn new skills have become especially valuable in the Covid era. As business priorities change dramatically in an uncertain environment, companies are demanding adaptability and resilience from their employees.
A World Economic Forum report sounded an alarm early last year, saying that the world is facing a “reskilling emergency.”
Among the issues it highlighted:
- By 2022, 42 per cent of core skills needed for existing jobs are expected to change.
- As the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution transform jobs, more than 1 billion people will need to be reskilled by 2030.
- In addition to high-tech skills, specialised interpersonal skills will be in high demand, including skills related to sales, human resources, care and education.
In light of these realities, talent development has to continue evolving.
We often urge our clients to have frequent talent conversations with employees to discuss and implement talent development paths that benefit both the individual and the organisation. However, many struggle with employees who need more than just a nudge to begin learning with enthusiasm.
Ideally, companies want to be able to identify self-motivated lifelong learners during the recruitment process. Here are some techniques you can use to do this more accurately.
1. Ask About Their ‘Learning System’
This goes beyond learning styles to unearth whether candidates engage in intentional skills development.
How do they go about identifying the skills they need to acquire or improve. What factors inform their decisions?
Intentional learners looking to get hired might study industries expected to grow in the next 5 years and choose a few transferable soft skills and hard skills to acquire or improve upon, enabling them to transition into a new role. Perhaps, they have a natural ability or interest that sparks a desire to learn a particular skill. They then proceed to do the research to assess if this skill could get them hired. This discussion would reveal their ‘why’ for learning particular skills and help you assess their thought process.
Conscious learners often also do a cost-benefit analysis, weighing the costs (time and money) of learning a particular skill against the benefits (career growth, salary bumps, a sense of satisfaction) of learning.
2. Discuss How They Apply Their Skills
Ask them to describe their last significant learning phase and how they used and shared the knowledge and skills they acquired. How would they apply these skills to the job role they’re gunning for in your company? How do they plan to apply these skills in the future?
3. Ask If They Take Stock and Review
The next step is to discuss how they update their ‘Skills to Learn’ or ‘Skills to Improve’ list. Intentional lifelong learners would be conscious of pivoting and improving constantly and would be able to easily share this or some variation of it.
4. Discuss What Constitutes Learning
With a deluge of online learning courses and content including videos, articles, podcasts, etc., learning can take place in any setting.
By asking the candidate what they count as learning, you’ll be able to gauge their openness to learning all the time. Some candidates even talk about learning from sources such as movies, observations and informal conversations.
By discussing how they make sense of information and process it to improve their lives and careers, you’ll be able to better understand how they think and assess the potential value they can bring to the job.
5. Watch How They React to Learning-related Advice
Don’t hesitate to suggest improvements and watch how the candidate reacts to your suggestions. For example, if the candidate doesn’t have a ‘Skills to Learn’ or ‘Skills to Improve’ list, raise the fact that it’s something all employees in your organisation are required to do. How they react would give you an indication of their openness to lifelong learning.
Use the Information to Design Better Learning Programmes for Employees
Don’t fret if the candidate doesn’t tick all the boxes. Instead, allow the gaps to inform your development of better learning systems to inspire greater enthusiasm for learning across your workforce.
What types of content and learning modes would be most effective in achieving meaningful results for both the individual and the organisation? Asking how people learn would undoubtedly help you identify these more accurately. Being data-driven would also enable you to deliver customised programmes for various groups of learners.