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Is learnability the skill of the future?

The ability to learn fast is the new key to success for employees and companies.

So far you have been hired based on your qualifications and skills. But now companies are focusing more and more on learnability. The reason is quite simple. The business environment is changing constantly, which results in a necessity to learn new things continuously.

In the business world 4.0 the need for new skills grows as fast as the need for others decreases. According to a study by ManpowerGroup, employers believe that 65% of people born after 1995 will be employed in jobs that don’t even exist yet, and up to 45 % of people's activities can be automated. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be less jobs, rather there will be new jobs requiring different skills.

In such a world, curiosity and learnability are required of the employee of the future to be able to adapt to new business conditions. The so-called learnability, which means the willingness and ability to learn and adapt new skills during working life, will become the key to success for both employees and entrepreneurs.

“Successful recruiting depends less on the current skills of a candidate but on the willingness and ability to learn new things fast.”, says Herwarth Brune, CEO of ManpowerGroup Germany. “It will be a central task of our time to encourage our employees to adapt their skills-set to the constantly changing work requirements. As employers, we have to make sure that every person willing to develop their qualifications is able to do so.”  

For employees it's important to constantly develop their own abilities and skills in this dynamic market in order to stay attractive for entrepreneurs. For entrepreneurs on the other hand, it’s important to offer their employees the option to develop their skills so that they can stay up-to-date with new processes and technologies.

Promote learnability

Mara Swan, Executive Vice President of ManpowerGroup, described at the World Economic Forum 2016 how employers can take advantage of their employees’ thirst for knowledge and recommended the following four steps to incorporate learnability successfully:

  • Look beyond the curriculum vitae: the skills that students are taught in university are not necessarily the ones they need on the job market today. Recruiters should look for candidates and employees that show enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge.

  • Choose carefully: the best further education options should be reserved for employees who have proven their ability to learn fast and are highly motivated.

  • Give it time: if you want to establish a habit of learning, you have to create a space where the mind is challenged - for example by looking at a business case from an unusual angle.

  • Motivate learners: you can reward employees who initiate actions to promote learnability. Such actions are, for example, inviting external speakers or organizing discussion groups. The best employees want to expand their competencies, says Swan: “Give them the opportunity to challenge themselves”.

Learnability is an indicator of professional success. Looking into this ability can help companies invest in their employees and their development successfully. You receive advice on how to promote performances and make better decisions in regard to employee motivation.

More about learnability as well as a test to evaluate your own level of learnability can be found here: LINK.

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