The following article was first published in The Wall Street Journal in 2018.
In the 21st century, careers may no longer be narrowly defined by highly structured jobs and skills, but by experiences and learning agility.
As technology becomes increasingly central to organizations’ business models and ability to compete, many successful CIOs have prioritized building and maintaining the pools of talent required to meet new challenges. Such efforts include recruiting and hiring top talent and then finding ways to keep these employees engaged, challenged, and advancing within their organizations.
What does the modern career path look like? It’s evolving into a series of developmental experiences, each offering a person the opportunity to acquire new skills, perspectives, and judgment. Among 10 trends highlighted in Deloitte’s 2018 Global Human Capital Trends report, 84 percent of survey respondents cite “from careers to experiences” as very important or important, making it the third most singled-out trend this year, yet only 37 percent think they are very ready or ready to address this transition (Figure 1).
Careers in this century may follow an upward arc, with progression and promotion at various times, but they will likely look nothing like the simple stair-step paths of the past.
At the same time, although 61 percent of survey respondents say they are actively redesigning jobs around AI, robotics, and new business models—42 percent believe automation will have a major impact on job roles over the next two years—human qualities remain crucial. Companies list problem-solving, cognitive abilities, and social skills as those most needed for the future.
Creating New Opportunities
This experience-focused trend is likely to necessitate reforms to learning and development programs and may fundamentally reshape career models, scrapping the traditional “up or out” ladder in favor of paths where employees continually learn new skills, gain new experiences, and reinvent themselves at work.
Although organizations are recognizing this shift and responding, many challenges remain. Nearly three-quarters of survey respondents indicate career paths in their organizations are not based on a traditional organizational hierarchy, yet more than half say they have no programs in place to build skills for the future; internal mobility is still driven by tenure, title, and internal politics. Indeed, only 20 percent say their organizations develop talent through experiential learning, and just 18 percent believe they give employees the ability to actively develop themselves and chart new pathways for their careers.
This fundamental mismatch between career pathways and needed development leaves many people feeling frustrated and powerless: Nearly 60 percent of respondents rate their organizations as only somewhat effective or not effective in empowering people to manage their own careers.
While educational institutions are developing more multidisciplinary degrees, companies will likely bear the most responsibility for career development. One enabler of a 21st-century career is an organizational focus on building a culture of learning. According to research, companies that practice a growth mindset, create “designed growth” and stretch assignments, and openly discuss mistakes to promote learning are three times more profitable and have up to four times better retention than companies that do not.¹
The corporate learning market is rising to meet this challenge, offering a vast array of new self-directed learning tools that enable employees to find content, take courses, and share information like never before. Companies can build on these tools to create learning networks and knowledge-sharing systems.
Leveraging Technology and Data
Another possibility is to use advanced technology such as AR and VR to provide on-demand access to learning materials, accelerate knowledge, and augment the job experience. Some companies have begun exploring using data-driven career development tools to identify the best “next move” for employees, while others have created AI-based self-assessment tools too help employees find training, job openings, and career paths most relevant to their personal needs.
Successful organizations are providing tailored solutions that empower individuals to reinvent themselves within the company. This is key both to enabling workers to navigate 21st-century careers and to allowing employers to access the skills of the future.
CIOs can help their organizations compete in the talent market by embracing new career models and experiences, thereby bolstering their employment brand. They can also work with HR to embed digital technologies into the learning process in ways that allow learning experiences to extend beyond the classroom and align with workforce expectations around accessibility and availability, potentially enabled by new developments in cognitive technologies and AI. This is particularly important considering many millennials say they place a high value on opportunities for continual learning, according to the Deloitte 2018 Millennial Survey report.
For organizations and business leaders—particularly those within talent-strapped IT—there is an imperative to examine, understand, develop, and implement a variety of solutions to support 21st-century careers. Focusing on experiences, new career models, data-driven tools, and learning and development offerings can enable companies to develop, retain, and reinvent the right talent at the right time.
- 1. Dani Johnson, High-impact learning organizations: Maturity model and top findings, Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP, 2017