Knowledge Is Power – Especially When It Comes to Workforce Engagement
An engaged workforce is quickly becoming a “Holy Grail” in the business world. It’s widely understood that an engaged workforce means productive employees who earn high marks for product and service delivery, as well as customer service. But the challenge is knowing how to create such a team – especially in this age of the multigenerational workforce, pervasive consumerization of technology of all kinds, and the desire of employees to feel supported and stay current.
This week’s episode “The Future of Work: Ready to Unlock Human Potential?” from The Future of Business with Game Changers, a special edition series of SAP Radio, discussed the role of effective corporate learning program in workforce engagement. The panel featured Richard Edwards, principal analyst at Ovum; Kris Pederson, vice president of Business Transformation at IBM; and Kerry Brown, head of Strategy and Alliances for SAP Americas.
Yesterday’s tools for today’s work bring employee frustration and operational delays
Richard Edwards kicked off the discussion by pointing out that there is a distinct trend emerging in the use of familiar technology in the workplace. “Tech-savvy employees clearly have a head start because they can make good use of those technologies. But they only represent a small percentage of the workforce,” explained Edwards.
According to Edwards, there’s a skill gap or technology ambivalence in the workforce. This larger percentage of the workforce population knows the basics of using a computer and a smartphone, but is not “super excited” by technology. This is presenting a two-speed workforce, where some are complaining that they do not have the latest tools with the right user experience and others who are anxious and frustrated whenever a new tool is introduced into their daily work experience. Although everyone has a different learning style and comfort level with technology, the interesting advancement is the use of artificial intelligence in corporate learning. Edwards suggested, “The idea that technology can facilitate ‘just-in-time education’ by using past inquiries to preempt future questions and answers is exciting.”
Learning is a lifelong process of staying ahead of change
Kris Pederson continued Edwards’ observations by conveying the importance of bridging the gap between the tech-savvy and those that are not. “Learning is an added essence of keeping abreast of change and helping people keep current. And that is what our role as learning leaders is all about: it’s helping to share best practices across sectors and transferring knowledge,” advised Pederson.
She further noted that learning-savvy companies typically invest in a learning officer as a critical strategic role. Whether this role is assigned to a single HR officer or an entire department, more and more companies view corporate learning as a critical component to long-term success. By expanding the concept of corporate learning into everyday practice, these companies are creating a culture that values knowledge and rewards learning. As a result, employees across all lines of business are better able to embrace change and are empowered to challenge the norms of the workplace and industry.
In the future, it’s possible that the role of chief learning officer may not be occupied by someone emerging from the traditional HR path. Pederson predicted, “They’ll either be a cognitive scientist type, someone who is very savvy in business analytics, or a Millennial who has taken different operational routes throughout the enterprise, and knows what the business needs to succeed.”
Learning and innovation: What’s sufficient today will not be sufficient tomorrow
Kerry Brown is seeing that employee expectations are changing in terms of how to be successful at work. “When you look at learning, people, expectations, and technology, we’re really changing from a group of ambivalent data personnel that finds technology overwhelming to a team of digital natives with this upcoming generation of workers,” stated Brown.
The challenge is to simplify corporate learning despite the complexity of the workplace. Brown commented, “I think what’s interesting and challenging is when the workforce and the corporate culture do not match. So if the corporation you work for has a more traditional face-to-face, command-and-control type of environment versus a flexible type of work environment with communication patterns that are seen now with technology, that disconnect is really where there’s an opportunity to fill that gap. And technology accessibility is helping with that.”
And with technology comes the gift of information and intuition that enables employees to make the right decisions and actions, when needed. Brown believes that we may one day see “an entire workforce that has less burden of memory in terms of how things have been done in the past and much more opportunity for capturing, learning, and sharing data in a different way.”
To listen to a replay of this edition of the Future of Business with Game Changers series, presented by SAP Radio, click here.
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