The labour market acts as a living entity in constant evolution. Hence that many theorists, researchers and experts in emerging professional skills have come lately to one of the most innovative concepts in the field of HR, which is a result of the advent of the fourth industrial revolution: learnability.
In 2018, the very own World Economic Forum reflected the concept of learnability, defining it as “the curiosity and the capability of learning new skills in order to remain employed in the long term”. For this international body, the characteristics that define “a good learnabiliter” are the following: easy learner of new concepts or procedures, willingness to research and acquire knowledge in new fields (“thirst for knowledge”), and a positive attitude before new challenges.
On his part, the prestigious Spanish philosopher, writer and educator José Antonio Marina, considers learnability as “the word of the future” in the world of labour, so much so that it will end up replacing the term “employability” eventually. People in charge of talent attraction in companies and organizations will recruit professionals with “desire and ability to learn quickly and effectively”, instead of those having more skills and knowledge. In addition, as Marina points out, organizations will be increasingly “fascinated” by knowmads, the nomads of knowledge.
Raúl Grijalba, Chief Executive of ManPower Group in Spain, concurs with José Antonio Marina when analyzing the learnability phenomenon: “employability is no longer relying so much on what is known, but on what can be learned, because learning curves are becoming increasingly shorter”.
What does the learnability philosophy require?
In short, for future professionals (those who are currently finishing their studies), success in a business world where robotics and artificial intelligence will destroy millions of jobs, continuous training will be a fundamental pillar. In fact, HR experts forecast that these individuals will have to retrain between 10 and 14 times during their working life.
To refer to this profile of talent, former executive director of Google and current chairman of Wikipedia Eric Schmidt has coined the term “versatile learning animals”.
The philosophy of learnability will require on the part of human capital an effort to step out their comfort zone since, as claimed by the World Economic Forum, “specialists in a single procedure or function are heading towards extinction”. HR consultants who have been focusing their attention on this innovative skill, however, point out that learnability only makes sense within a same professional field.
Organizations, on their part, will have to promote that continuous learning among their members so that they can develop professionally and avoid losing their competitive advantage. In this sense, the specialist in digital transformation Juan Luís Polo reckons that learnability “must become the main target profile” of companies’ HR departments from now on.
In essence, apart from talent attraction most capable of broadening their training as quickly as possible, companies betting on learnability strategies should implement policies such as investing on those individuals with greater disposition to learn new skills; leading by example from the higher levels of responsibility so that members of organizations adhere to the dynamics of continuous training; and rewarding -with more opportunities of professional development, for instance- those who show more commitment with said strategy.