How HR can prepare for the rise of technology

We talk to Jenny Dearborn, chief learning officer at SAP, about HR’s role in the workplace of the future.

How HR can prepare for the rise of technology
Jenny Dearborn, chief learning officer at SAP, talks about how to prepare for technological disruption and the benefits of informal learning.

What are some of the key driving forces of the workplace of the future?

There is a shift in the skills that we are looking for in the future and this is coming from changes in technology. We are seeing companies like Uber, which are replacing the global taxi.

How do we get our workforce ready to see what’s coming so that [disruption] doesn’t happen to them? That’s probably one of the biggest challenges: to be ready to adapt to the future.

I think a lot of companies are eager to do that, but they just don’t know how to get started. They say they are ready to start learning something new, but what to learn? What do I teach people to do differently?

A great place to start is around a learning culture. It’s the concept of continuous learning, to be ready when we have to be.

So that when we eventually do know exactly the content that’s needed we will be ready to learn it. We will be ready to absorb it because we have gotten ourselves into a habit and a pattern of always learning, always changing.

We don’t know exactly what that new technology is yet but we all know that something is coming and the best thing we can do right now to prepare ourselves is for everyone to get comfortable with a culture of continuous learning.

How can we prepare for the increasing influence of technology in the future?

I think that what we need to reinforce right now is that anything that can be automated will be automated. For instance, being a software programmer is not a ticket to job security because we have software that writes software.

So really it’s about understanding what are the skills that are uniquely human moving forward that will not be replaced by artificial intelligence and getting our future citizens ready for uniquely human roles and responsibilities.

And that involves looking at STEM and then marrying that with traditional liberal arts education around problem solving, innovation, creativity, cultural sensitivity and emotional intelligence.

What we really need to come to terms with moving forward is the way that we best learn is through experiences and is through relationships. It’s informal learning.

So informal learning, experiential-based learning is the best way that humans learn with the highest amount of retention. Consider the forgetting curve, that research where you look at people who remember content over a period of time. The way that they were instructed so that they have the best chance of remembering is through paced learning, learning that happens in little bits over time.

The best way to remember something is to experience it and have it built into a relationship of some kind like a coach or a mentor.

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