The rapid pace of technology change is sparking debate on L&D’s role in the reskilling revolution and the increased importance of constantly reskilling your workforce.

At the recent Learning Technologies Conference in London, I had the opportunity to hear Rohit Talwar, CEO and Founder of Fast Future Research, share his vision on the impact of emerging technologies for businesses and specifically, for L&D’s role.

He described a world where technological innovation is moving at a faster rate than we ever imagined. From driverless cars and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to the Internet of Things, technology is progressing at a breakneck speed and in its wake—creating brand-new jobs, new business models, and new markets.

L&D as a reskilling machine

In this era of rapid technological change and ever-evolving skills, L&D’s role is to train employees for jobs that don’t exist yet. L&D must become a well-oiled “reskilling machine” and provide the tools to constantly re-skill workers for new, emerging roles. James Cook, Global Partner of Workforce Development at IBM, a speaker at the Learning Technologies Conference and proponent of L&D as a reskilling machine, said IBM reskills 25% of its workforce every year.

A recent World Economic Forum report Towards a Reskilling Revolution: A Future of Jobs for All predicts 1.4 million US jobs will be disrupted by technology between now and 2025. Moreover by 2020, 35% of the skills people need will have changed. According to another World Economic Forum report, one in four adults reported a mismatch in their current skill-base and the actual skills they need to do their job. This rapid pace of change is placing a higher importance on continuous learning throughout a person’s career.

L&D’s new role is to create a growth mindset

Futurist Rohit Talwar also proposed L&D’s new role is to challenge employees to think about business opportunities that don’t exist yet. How can you as an L&D leader get employees to understand emerging technologies and the potential new opportunities for your business? Beyond teaching employees about new technologies, L&D must help nurture a change or growth mindset in their employees.

What does this mean? People who are open to constantly learning something new to improve and change themselves are known to have a “growth mindset.” Companies can nurture a growth mindset by encouraging continuous learning, moving people horizontally to new roles, celebrating failures and the subsequent learnings, or giving constructive feedback to help employees grow.

Innovating a new business model, restructuring a supply chain, or going after a new market—tackling these new challenges require people who can overcome blind spots and think differently. “A Deliberately Developmental Organization”—according to Robert Kegan Harvard Professor’s book on this topic—is the best way to continuously grow your employees and their ability to adapt, innovate, and transform your business, product, or processes. See how to create a Deliberately Developmental Organization.

L&D must move up the value chain

But how can L&D do all of this and transform into a reskilling machine? First, L&D must move up the value chain and become more integrated with the business. L&D should move from being a standalone function to evolve into “learning within the business.” According to James Cook at IBM, L&D should be so deeply embedded in the business that it becomes “invisible” and no longer viewed as a separate entity. For example, a significant portion of an internal company home page could be dedicated to learning to better integrate L&D with the business and keep learning top of mind.

What’s more, moving up the value chain also means bringing on new roles and skills to the L&D team, such as cloud architect, design thinking guru, or curator & community leader. We have already added newer titles like “digital learning manager” to our L&D repertoire, but expect more roles to evolve as L&D becomes increasingly critical to whether companies thrive and survive in today’s world.

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