It is 10:00 AM on 7th January of 2030.
Andy enters the conference room for his first meeting as a member of the leadership team of Compusoft.
Just in December, it was announced, that Andy Sullivan, 42, the Chief Learning Officer of Compusoft, would be inducted into the 6-member leadership team. He replaced the Chief HR officer, Phil Tuffs, who recently retired from the company.
It has been quite a rise for him. He started in the company 20 years ago as an Intern, worked in marketing, and then sales, then in 2018 he led Enterprise platform business, which was the cash cow of Compusoft. He then made an interesting move into Human Resources to completely transform the HR function. He opted to become the CLO of the company 3 years ago. Now, he is in the Leadership team of a 10 billion USD company.
For his colleagues, it was a strange string of career moves and they were unsure how he would add value to the leadership team but they respected Andy for his extreme knowledge of business, industry, and customers.
Compusoft started in early 2005, as a software development company, survived the 2007 financial meltdown and transformed itself to provide cloud-computing services. They survived another financial crisis in 2020 to become a leading provider of Artificial Intelligence product and services. They were ranked 4th worldwide and had an ambition of reaching to number 2 in the next 3 years.
In the 6 member management team of Compusoft, along with Andy, there was
Chris Simpson, the CEO
Sanjay Kumar, the CIO
Sandra Anthony, the CFO
Peter Collins, Head of Robotics division
Maria Stanford, Head of Intelligent Components
“Well, first of all, I would like to welcome Andy to our leadership team” Chris started. “He has been instrumental in every transformation phase of this company and now that we have extreme growth targets for the next 2 years, I wanted him into the core decision-making team. I would love to get his inputs on our top priorities. Let's start with a quick action item from our last meeting on non-manufacturing cost, Sandra do you have an update?”
“Yes,” Sandra said. "We did very well to manage our NMC last quarter and now we are at 14%, down from 15.5% last quarter. We now have LINDA 6 fully rolled out as our financial automation initiative. LINDA 6 will now manage 90% of all planning, budgeting, payrolls, and forecasting activities. This obviously affected 75 employees, out of which, 10 have now been trained and will now be in the maintenance team of LINDA. They have moved to Sanjay’s team. 25 have been reassigned to other departments. Unfortunately, we had to let go of the rest”
“Also, LISA 6 has been rolled out as well hence most of the production planning, control, quality assurance, and supply chain will be managed by LISA. This affected 535 employees. 20 were trained and retained for maintenance of LISA. 120 are undergoing various skills training and will be deployed within engineering, design, and sales”
“Great work guys but our target is to have the NMC below 10%, Andy how can you help?” asked Chris
“Well, first of all, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to be a part of your team. 20 years ago, in 2010 when I started my career, it was unimaginable for a CLO to be part of a leadership team and for me personally to be part of this team. I am humbled by this opportunity.” Andy started.
"Answering your question, yes, all our top competitors have NMC below 10. What I will suggest is that we look into optimizing both LINDA 6 and LISA 6 even further. I would request Maria, Peter, and Sanjay, to please assign 3 resources each to create a project team to see how we can do that. From my team, I will ask one of our Transformation program managers to facilitate this. Typically in a project like this, detailed learning and solutions will be derived through the interactions with Existing Customers, Potential customers, Suppliers, Complementors and knowledge of competitors. Our team can then present a report on the optimization scope in the next Leadership meeting" he continued.
A short discussion took place on who should be in the project team, Andy gave his suggestions and the team accepted those.
"Next one is Net Promoter Score, It has gone down 10 basis points since last year, what are we doing there?" asked Sandra.
Andy replied, "Well, we also found out that most issues are indicating at the quality of interactions we are having with our customers. Somehow our customers do not feel that they can fully trust our salespeople. Selling AI and robotics based services is a sensitive issue.
So to tackle this, we are doing 3 things:
One, all primary customer-facing employees, such as sales and marketing need to go through a curriculum of Social-emotional learning, design thinking, and Ethics. This will not only help them empathize with the customer but also provide the solution, which is accurate with their needs."
“What about products training?” interrupted Sanjay
“Oh, that’s the thing of the stone age, Sanjay” answered Peter.
“Well, the sales have an overview of products and they all have access to DONNA 4, our digital performance support system, so I think product knowledge is not an issue,” Andy said.
"Anyway, the second thing we do to work on our NPS is that all secondary customer-facing employees, such as product managers and product designers have been asked to spend 40% of their time with customers. Design Thinking and Ethics is a mandatory curriculum for them but Social-emotional is optional. This will, however, add to their end of the year ratings.
Third, with the help of EVA 6, we have information on our resources on who is best suited for a customer-facing job. This is not based on our intuition but algorithms of EVA 6. We were surprised when EVA 6 recommended 10 people from finance having 95% suitability for customer-facing jobs. They all accepted the offer and are doing very well in their new career."
"Wow, EVA 6 can do that?" asked Sandra.
"Of course, it can! EVA was our first artificial intelligent system; by 2020 it replaced all recruitment and HR admin functions. By 2025, it was designed to have better engagement with employees than human HR professionals. And now, all talent management and leadership management aspects are managed in EVA with great precision".
"That's all great but I am a bit worried," said Maria "with the pace of changing technology, we need to hire great talent and I see that in HR we don't have enough people. How are we making sure we are hiring and training people in the right manner?"
"You are right, hiring and training are more important than ever before. We have a new approach here. Our recruitment process is now merged with our training process. We earmark kids in school, observe, educate and inspire them throughout the university period and hire 75% of those earmarked students. Our learning about them and theirs about us start much before they get an offer letter. We have seen that our recruits in the last 5 years who we hired through this program, consider joining Compusoft as a natural extension to their learning. They are actively participating in new projects, group learnings, and mentoring programs. We track these accurately in EVA 6. Periodically they have pushed learning modules and learning programs which keep their skills up to date."
"See Maria, my point here is that it is not anymore about following a template of recruitment, induction program and performance review. We need to understand, invest in and grow each employee individually and for that, the learning should be continuous from both sides." Andy said.
Everybody quietly nodded. It suddenly began to dawn upon people why Andy was in the Leadership team.
“No one knows exactly how the future workplace will look like but we can say with a great certainty that AI will replace many jobs in every sphere of work and humans need to reinvent themselves continuously”
Yuval Noah Harari
The Rise of the Machines and Changes in the Workplace:
We know for sure that we are in midst of the greatest technological revolution ever. Humans will have a fate comparable to horses of the early 20th century when the motorcar was introduced and they became irrelevant.
Companies in 2018 have no options but to compete and win this technological race. No one wants to be left behind hence they put their brightest minds in figuring out Automation, Digital, Artificial intelligence, and Machine learning.
By 2025, InfoTech will merge with BioTech to make all human hackable. The future computers will know more about you than yourself, let alone a recruiter, an HR or even your manager and it is probable that any job which requires less than 50% of human interaction will disappear.
This does not necessarily mean that we will have fewer jobs. It means that jobs are going to be completely different than what they are now.
In this dystopian future for a lot of existing employees, learning will be the only skill which will matter hence human learning professionals, will have an ever-important role.
History and Evolution of a Learning Professional
In the 20th century, the generations 1 corporate learning professional were better known as Training Managers or Trainers. Their jobs were bringing people together in a classroom and train them on products, services or soft skills. Few companies who were the pioneer of Gen 1 training culture spent millions on training their employees. Most of these Gen 1 trainees became business leaders during the Gen 2 learning ideology, which came about in the early 2000s. People started experimenting with eLearnings, then with mobile learning, games etc. And they got excited by technology, with relative ease of administration and cost savings.
I think this is where it took the wrong turn. Most of the learning professionals forgot that they were part of a business and their primary objective was to serve the business. Gen 2 started experimenting with technology on the company’s cost without viable business results. The Gen 3 even took it further to the concept such as 70:20:10 and confusing their role in its implementation.
In some cases, Gen 3 learning concepts attracted talents, which were high-quality thinkers but lacked execution capability. They either did not understand or were not able to find a practical solution to business problems of cutting costs, increasing productivity and impacting bottom and top line. They first lost the faith of their business leaders and then their budget. This resulted in a lack of motivation to join the learning profession.
The sad truth about learning professionals is that many of them started as Generation 1 and dragged themselves towards Generation 2. As the concept of Generation 3 came along and the formal learning got reduced to 10%, the Gen 3 saw their budgets and credibility reduced. After all, why would you need a budget if people learn from projects and by talking to each other? The budgets were used for things like business optimization and digital which were the top priorities for C-suit.
A part of the blame needs to be given to some of the big consultancy companies. They diverted the focus of the learning professionals from real business issues and took it towards technology and half cooked concepts for their own vested interest and charged a hefty fee for providing no business solutions.
Anyway, now with Artificial Intelligence giving unimaginable possibilities to optimize business even further, the question remains if the generation 3 learning professionals are equipped to lead the humans through these technological revolutions and inspire them to re-invent themselves.
The RISE of Learning Generation 4.0
It’s a big probability that by 2022, no Generation 3 Human learning professional will survive because the patience of your leaders will run out. After all, in most cases, the company leaders see Learning as a support function to a support function (HR). It’s also been widely predicted that most of the traditional HR functions such as recruitment, HR admin, Talent, and Leadership management will be completely automated by 2020.
I believe that the discipline of organizational learning is the only lifeboat left in the drowning future of Human Resources. I say this simply because Humans will still be at the workplace for the next several decades and the only thing which will determine their success will be the ability to reinvent themselves every few years and compliment the growing strength of cognitive computing.
Who will be Generation 4.0 learning professionals?
Whereas Gen 3 learning was all about ways people learn and how to provide them a platform of learning by themselves, The GEN 4 Learning will be about Learning of an organization from its external environments and stakeholders. A Learning Organization is an organization, which is learning through multifaceted factors and puts those learnings into actions. These Multi faceted factors externally are Industry, competition, Complimentary Industries, current, and potential customers and internally are business operations, employees and internal systems. A Gen 4 learning professional will not only be a champion in these areas but will also have to find ways for the organization to continuously improve through learning.
Simply put, the Gen 4 learning professional will be much closer to the business, will determine what the organization needs to learn and how they are going to learn it. Rather than waiting for instructions from business leaders, it needs to be a proactive partner for them.
Characteristics of Generation 4.0 learning professional.
A generation 4:0 learning professional will:
- Be a multi-faceted professional
- Be a doer more than a talker.
- Fully understand the business, market, industry and the customer
- Fully understand the technological revolution and the power of AI
- Fully understand business current priorities and can provide proactive solutions.
- Understand and practice human emotional elements. (Trust me you can't fake it as EVA6 will know)
- Understand and practice design thinking
- Have a passion for arts, music, philosophy, and spirituality
- Most importantly, have a passion for re-inventing self and will be a lifelong learner.
So, if you are related to the field of Human Resources or Human learning and have made it so far, this article is not to scare you but to urge you to take action now to be ready for what is coming. Re-invent yourself, be an inspiration for millions of Learning professionals and lead the human race.