Learning should not stop when schooling does. Empowering learners to evolve and work autonomously can lead to a highly collaborative and communicative workplace, argues Ariel Camus.
It goes without saying that the pandemic has fundamentally changed not only the way people work but also how they feel about where they work. According to Buffer’s 2022 State of Remote Work report, 97 percent of employees want to work remotely for at least part of the week, with nine out of 10 also recommending remote work.
Even prior to the pandemic, remote work had been steadily increasing in popularity as advances in technology allowed for it. Organisations have recognised that remote teams give them access to a much more diverse talent pool, across several time zones and from all over the world. While workers see the benefits of greater flexibility and better work–life balance.
Yet the rapid rise of digitisation and remote work has placed new demands on employees who now require different skills to get their work done. It is no longer a case of applying the same techniques and processes for an entire professional life. Indeed, for many, the skills and knowledge acquired through education or training have already become obsolete, putting them at a disadvantage.
With technological tools and processes ever-evolving, people must continue learning every single day, pretty much until the day they retire!
But businesses looking for global talent want more than just people skilled in the programs and services they need to deliver results. They want people who know how to work independently and are comfortable working alone.
The problem is, not everyone has been ‘wired that way’.
Old-fashioned approach to learning
One of the main problems is that our education system – from primary school to universities – is mostly based on structures that are decades, perhaps even centuries, old.
This system prioritises rote learning, with a focus on memorisation and repetition, and neglects things like creativity, critical thinking and collaboration.
It is focused on learning very specific things, instead of helping people learn how to learn so that they can continuously reinvent themselves and integrate new learnings in order to work autonomously.
Yes, the internet has led to the availability of a plethora of free online learning resources, but there is more to evolving our skillsets than simply absorbing new information.
If people are not taught ‘how to learn’ in the first place, they are going to be at a huge disadvantage in the era of remote working.
As an example, when employees are in different locations, they cannot simply count on a colleague being available to help them with a query or problem, and they could end up wasting hours just waiting for that person to become ‘online’.
The learners of the future
Future learners could also be described as a ‘manager of one’. They can manage themselves without other people telling them what to do. They do not ask for permission. They are proactive. They move forward and risk making mistakes because they know that is the only way to make progress.
Strategy drives the what and the why at an organisation, but the learner of the future will figure out the how on their own.
These learners know how to complement independent learning with training and coaching to obtain the best final results.
They are also excellent at finding their own answers, whether that is online on the internet, or by reaching out to other people who happen to be available, or by finding internal documentation until they get what they need.
They are collaborative in that while working autonomously, they know who needs to be informed and involved in the process and they are proactive in their communication.
So how can we help develop future learners?
Train people how to find their own answers, so that for the rest of their professional lives, they will have the skills to find their own solutions. The internet has democratised access to learning content; it has become a commodity. By showing people how to make the most of these resources, they can continually evolve.
Continuous learning: support training needs
Provide learning budgets as an organisation so that you are proactively giving people the autonomy to invest in their own education and in their own learning. They have the support to find the answers and knowledge that they need to do their job.
Learning through collaboration helps people get really good at some of the most important soft skills of this century – communication, teamwork and remote work. Collaborative learning is the key to scaling world-class education.
Create a less hierarchical organisation where people feel encouraged to reach out to whoever they can in order to get the answers they need. It doesn’t make sense that for someone to do their job, they have to go through a manager or connect to another team to find the necessary documentation to do their job. The more things are documented, the easier it is for people to find their own answers without being blocked by waiting for someone to wake up in a different time zone
Look for people who seek learning opportunities
Organisations need to look for people who show a drive to always be learning. These eager learners are passionate about absorbing new knowledge and have a desire and curiosity to identify new opportunities and to learn something new.
Provide psychological safety
Celebrating mistakes creates psychological safety in the workplace. People become more conservative and start waiting for the right validation or answer. And that is what makes organisations move really slow and die. Mistakes happen; celebrate them, embrace them and accept them as part of the learning process and working autonomously.
Establish trust and transparency
Be transparent in every possible way: communication, compensation, financials, goals, the good news, and the bad ones, the positive and the negative feedback. This can help to establish a more fair working environment.
Ariel Camus is is the CEO and co-founder of Microverse, an online school for remote software developers. He believes the place where you’re born should not determine your opportunities in life.
Ariel Camus is the Founder and CEO of Microverse, a school that trains software engineers all around the world and connects them with life-changing international and remote jobs. Previously, Ariel founded TouristEye, a travel startup that Lonely Planet acquired in 2013. Ariel grew up in Argentina, went to school in Europe, built a business in San Francisco, taught in Africa, and lived in Asia. He’s now based in Barcelona, Spain.