Business Agility Series #4 – Careers and Learning

Few weeks ago I was talking with some managers about the difficulties in finding talent for their company. When I asked them “What is your answer when a candidate asks about their professional development?”, their faces turned white and the answer was “well, we don’t have an answer for such a question”.

This situation is not specific to this company. Many organizations are still operating as if they were in the 1980s where companies chose talent. In 2010s it is talent that choses companies, so if your firm doesn’t have an attractive value proposition with regards to careers and learning you are doomed.

Besides, 70% of CEOs say their organizations don’t have the skills to adapt to technology changes and new ways of working.

The Problem

  • Professionals now enjoy the prospect of 60-year careers
  • Skills are becoming obsolete at an accelerated rate. Half-life of skills is currently 5 years.
  • Average tenure in a job is 4.5 years
  • Companies worldwide are scrambling to catchup with employees desires
  • Technology is changing at an unprecedented rate

Thus, continuous learning is critical for business success. A nice office and a modern culture is not enough, you need to deliver learning solutions that inspire people to reinvent themselves, develop deep skills and contribute to the learning of others.

The answer lies on career development and learning.


The concept of career is being shaken to its core.

Among millenials the ability to learn and progress is now the principal driver of a company’s employment brand. The idea of a static career in the same company with an immutable skillset is dead.

Career development is not only upwards anymore but in many directions. Being a manager and a senior manager is not the aspiration of many professionals who want to progress in other areas of expertise, move across areas of expertise, become freelancers or change job every two years.

Besides, as companies adopt new organizational models and become leaner by reducing layers of useless management and organizing in networks of teams and value streams there will be not so many options to develop a vertical career.

Companies must shift to flexible, open career models that offer enriching assignments, projects and experiences, rather than a static career progression.

We must allow employees to take responsibility of their career and provide them with systems to build skills quickly and easily on their own terms. We must support and coach employees not tell them what they have to learn.


In the past skills were for a career, now the career itself is a journey of learning.

As a professional your responsibility is to take care of your career while organizations are responsible for providing an environment of continuous learning, multidisciplinary skills, mobility and coaching.

As I was pointing out in my initial post on Business Agility, the harsh reality is the fast declining half-life of skills which is 5 years currently. So, as an example, if you currently have 100 skills required for your job, in average, only 25 of those skills will be useful in ten years.

What you should be doing

  1. Take advantage of the abundance of high-quality, free or low-cost content learning: Coursera, Udacity, Udemy, …
  2. Deliver learning solutions that inspire people to reinvent themselves, develop deep skills and contribute to the learning of others. Again, tapping into the main human motivators of mastery, autonomy and purpose.
  3. Learning adapted to a world of increased employee mobility
  4. Interdisciplinary skills development is critical because these capabilities align with the organizational shift to networks of teams. We are moving towards an environment of generalizing specialists.
  5. Expect and encourage people to change roles every few years


More on Business Agility series




5 thoughts on “Business Agility Series #4 – Careers and Learning

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s