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Sunday, April 18, 2021

CEO Spotlight

The Dawn of “You Are What You Learn” and What It Means for Employers

Yuri Kruman (Photo: File)

It’s not “what you know,” but how quickly you can learn.

Behind all the headlines screaming “workplace digital transformation” lies another sea change in how we work, hiding in plain sight.

While you were busy adjusting to Slack and ten other new systems for communication, project management, time management and productivity, your C-suite was already gauging your value to the company, in near real-time.

In our fast-changing remote-working world where information is basically worthless and even advanced expertise is often “hackable” or widely available by the gig hour, work has turned yet more into “what have you done for me lately” and away from a function of loyalty or tenure.

And on the flip side, companies have already learned through 2020 that the entire human shows up to working remotely, with children schooling from home through lockdowns, mental and physical issues (including burnout), Zoom fatigue, insufficient rest and sleep, among others.

Throw into this mix the “new normal” of continued high costs of living without meaningful government stimulus, remote gig work and access to much larger labor markets (for both employer and employee) and you have a perfect storm of “easy come, easy go.” That is to say, it’s easier than ever for highly qualified employees to leave and work remotely for many more possible companies, even as it’s easier for companies to hire from much larger remote talent pools.

In other words, without in-person facetime, work has become completely transactional, without any remaining illusions. In practical terms, this means two things. Firstly, employers need to see employee “activity” much more, now that there is no water cooler shmoozing or walk-in office hours. CEOs and COOs can easily monitor employee activity and productivity on Slack or project management software, on a slew of employee engagement and performance dashboards. Fail to send updates constantly and it’s as if you’re doing nothing, in the boss’s eyes.

Springtime is coming. The COVID-19 vaccine surge is slowly unfurling. But at work, many changes are here to stay, including new expectations from employees. In an unexpected way, the labor market has become at once more accessible (remotely, mostly for proven top talent) and more competitive for everyone else.

For talent, it’s a brave new world out there, hiding behind a screen no longer being possible, with all that competition out there, not just locally, but across the country and around the world, much of it less expensive, more motivated and with much less rent to pay.

This means it’s never been more critical for talent to reskill, upskill and continue seeking personal and professional development any which way possible. There’s no shortage of online courses, trainings, online certificate and degree programs out there to help with the process. And no, waiting for your employer to enroll you may not be the wisest choice.

And for the employer, what does this trend entail? For all but the perennial Best Companies to Work For in America, who are anyway at the forefront of learning and development, there is no sitting back and waiting for a flood of top talent working there. A more competitive labor market also means more competition from employers for said talent.

The costs of firing underperforming employees and hiring new talent (equal to 1.5x salary, plus recruiting and onboarding and trainings costs, plus the time ramp-up to high productivity), often remotely, with unpredictable results. As such, it may look more attractive for most to build up a meaningful in-house learning and development program to ensure personal and professional development, rather than risk taking on expensive new talent from across the country.

In that vein, employers may opt for hiring a strategic HR executive to build up said program, ensure efficient up-skilling and re-skilling, performance management and frequent feedback, career pathwaying, as well as constant training and coaching around communication, managing people, project management and systems.

Employees who see commitment from the company to help them grow and progress in their careers will stay longer and work harder (and smarter) than those left to their own devices. That goes double for high-potential employees who have their pick of companies to work for and channels for career progression.

Learning and development as a corporate function has also evolved. Whereas only the “classical” subjects mentioned above used to be the norm, COVID-19 has brought out the need for “total learning and development” focused on the whole human, not just the worker or manager.

Tens of millions are struggling with mental and physical health issues, childcare, financial problems and grappling with political, social and economic chaos. If employers want workers to be in their best mental shape for doing their best work, they must go the extra mile beyond useless perks and benefits to extend financial assistance where needed, childcare coverage, mental health counseling and the like, or else risk losing out to other employers providing these.

We live in a world of forced continuous improvement based on circumstances. The most important skill of our time is reinvention, not coding, according to historian Yuval Noah Harari. It is up to employees who want career and life progress to reinvent themselves. And if employers don’t want to miss out on top talent that stays and does their best work in the here and now, then they too, must adjust to the new reality of “total learning and development.”


Written by Yuri Kruman. Have you read?
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Yuri Kruman
Yuri Kruman is an award-winning CHRO/Chief People Officer of HR, Talent & Systems (named one of HR Tech Outlook Magazine’s “Top 10 HR Consulting Vendors in 2020”), CEO of Master The Talk Consulting, a top-rated executive leadership coach, and an HR transformation consultant for fast-growth companies. In his corporate work, Kruman builds HR teams and trains executives to improve internal communication, retain and develop top talent, implement learning and development, and improve productivity and performance. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Coaching at McLean/Harvard Business School and has spoken at EY, Google, General Assembly, UPenn, Columbia and NYU, among others. Kruman is author of the forthcoming “Be Your Own Commander-In-Chief” (Ideapress Publishing, 2021), as well as "What Millennials Really Want From Work and Life" (Business Expert Press, March 2019). He is a member of the Forbes Coaches Council, as well as contributor to Forbes, Entrepreneur, Business.com, Influencive and numerous other top platforms. He has been featured on Inc., Fast Co., Time, U.S. News, Mashable, PBS, BBC and numerous top blogs, TV and radio.

Yuri Kruman is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow him on LinkedIn.
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