Kelly Palmer focuses on the future of work, including career development and the evolution of corporate education. She is currently on the executive team of Degreed, an education technology company, and was formerly the chief learning officer of LinkedIn. Prior to LinkedIn, Kelly was vice president of learning at Yahoo! and held executive positions in learning, M&A, and product development at Sun Microsystems. She is the co-author of the book The Expertise Economy: How the smartest companies use learning to engage, compete, and succeed. Palmer,who is due to speak at conferences in Dublin, Stockholm and Copenhagen this week, was recently interviewed by The Innovator about how corporates can effectively upskill their workforce.
Q : How important is corporate education in today’s environment ?
KP : Some 54% of the workforce will require signfiicant upskilling and reskilling within the next five years and 80% of corporate training programs need more innovation in learning and development. It’s why CEOs are worried. In a recent survey reskilling ranked as their number three concern, up from number five. In the past companies had time to adapt — they used to have years or even decades — but that is not true today. The 4th Industrial Revolution is accelerating the time scale and many are trying to predict what the key skills are for the future. Deloitte’s Center for the Edge states value creation will over-ride efficiency in the future of work since most routine tasks can now be automated. What will be important going forward is adding value, solving real business problems and spotting market opportunities so companies can innovate and grow. We have to help employees truly build capabilities and develop what I call ‘power skills’, those uniquely human skills like emotional intelligence, empathy, communication, collaboration, and learning agility. Basic digital skills as well as other technical skills will be important too, but the power skills will be the basis of success in the future of work
Q : What do you mean by learning agility ?
KP : Learning agility is when a person is curious and motivated to continuously learn and build new skills. The message to employees should be we want you to keep learning: you need to retool yourself and you should not expect to stop. The average shelf life of skills today is two years, and even shorter for technical skills. Employers that want to encourage people to continously learn and build skills need to create a learning culture at their company. There is a chapter in the book dedicated to creating a learning culture and making learning your biggest competitive advantage.
Q : What does that look like in practice ?
KP : At Degreed, we have developed a learner-centric education technology platform (or Learning Experience Platform LXP). It helps people discover, track and measure all learning, not just from traditional learning management systems but also from a variety of other sources such as reading or listening to books, attending events, watching YouTube videos or listening to TED talks.
In research that Degreed conducted with Harvard Business Publishing, the majority of learning that’s happening is through informal and peer-to-peer programs and a lot of companies had not been tracking that before. But Degreed and hundreds of big name companies like Bank of America, Cisco, Airbnb, and Unilever (just to name a few) are seeing the promise of how approaching learning differently coud be a whole new way of upskilling and reskilling the workforce in this completely new paradigm.
We wanted people to get credit for all their learning and want employers to be able to see analyics and data behind all that learning. The real value with Degreed, and where we really diffentiate ourselves, is helping people build skills for the future. With Degreed, you can create a skills stategy that ties an employee’s learning to the skills they are building and that helps them grow in their career. That’s good for the employee, but it’s great for the company too.
People learn when they care, and they care when learning is relevant to their career journey. By offering employees different ways they can learn and giving them more meaningful experiences, companies can provide purpose, autonomy and work that challenges them.
Degreed can produce analytics at an individual level and also at a group level from a variety of diverse sources. This is important because how can a company upskill its workforce if it doesn’t know what kind of skills people already have ? Or what skills they need ? This is why a skills strategy is important. This benefits not only the employee, but also the company. When you invest in your people internally and more people get promoted internally, and are given new assignments to help them really put new skills to practice on the job, in the flow of work, the longer people will stay at your company. The main question for everyone should be how can we make sure people are learning everyday as part of their jobs to build the skills of the future ?
Q : What do you advise companies to do ?
KP : Companies can lead the way to show what is possible with the future of education. When they think about reskilling they first need to broaden the definition of what learning actually is by extending it to informal learning and micro-learning,without leaving out peer-to-peer and in-person events. Most importantly, a company’s learning strategy needs to be part of the business strategy and the company’s overall digital transformation.
Companies first have to figure out where they are on their learning journey. The first step is to be able to give employees access to all the learning available (curated content pathways help with organization of content and machine learning can continously access the latest and greatest content). The data and analytics shows the company what employees are learning, from what source, what topics, etc.
Next, move to skills and understand what skills employees have and what skills and competencies they need for the future (at the company level, organization level, team level, and individual level.) Then, companies will want to tie the learning to the skills people are building, track their progress and then match skills to new opportunities and projects.