Across my decade long career, I have always struggled with the fact that my learning in professional life was unstructured compared with a curriculum led and structured learning prior to that in school and college. As I looked for better avenues to further my learning, I realised the following:
- Corporate L&D was broken and ineffective: L&D departments are non-existent in a lot of organisations and wherever they do exist, you’ll find a 4-5 member team trying to address learning needs of a 1000+ employee organisation. It is quite an ineffective structure and L&D budgets are either not enough or ineffectively spent. Ask employees and mostly you’ll hear that they hate L&D programs because they are not relevant or not well organised.
- Online courses were passive and boring: I have signed up for quite a few courses but hardly have I completed any. These felt like boring video lectures with no feedback loops. It is no surprise that industry data also states that completion rates of online courses on MOOC platforms like edX et al are sub 10%.
- I learned more from peers: But unfortunately, my network was primarily limited to colleagues in my organisation, thus limiting my perspectives and knowledge. The LinkedIn network doesn’t count as an active network.
And to compound the problem, I was working in the technology industry where technologies were changing rapidly, new business models were evolving, the workforce was becoming more dynamic and skills required to navigate the increasing business complexity were changing at a fast pace.
The case for upskilling
The data too pointed to the magnanimity of the problem. As per WEF reports,
- In the rapidly changing work scene, the half life of a skill is 5 years and there's a large scale need around continuous re/up skilling
- In a world population of 7bn+ where ~50% are employed, 40% of workers will require upskilling/reskilling by 2024
- Upskilling the working population has a potential to create 5Mn+ jobs across the world, with most of the additional jobs getting created in growing markets like India, SEA, MiddleEast, North Africa.
Growth leads to complexity in running business operations and if you do not have the right talent density, there can be chaos. Unfortunately, without the right interventions around talent development, talent density starts to reduce with increasing business complexity. Yasir (my co-founder) and I have faced this first hand as hiring managers. Candidates with fantastic pedigrees just flounder in interviews because they lack the necessary skills. Hiring cycles become longer and even after the new hires join (if they do!), they need to be trained to be productive in their roles. Oh, but how do we train them with ineffective corporate L&D and passive and boring online courses that less than 10% would complete? So, you see how this becomes a vicious cycle.
Who should care?
Now when it comes to who should solve this problem -- there are usually 3 key stakeholders who are incentivised to care:
- Employers: upskilling employees can drive employee productivity
- Universities: alums’ success drives their brand equity
- Individuals: upskilling can drive their career growth
While all the three need to play a part in solving this problem, we want to focus on enabling the individuals who are the learners and perhaps the most incentivised to learn. After all, true learning happens when there is an intrinsic motivation to learn, isn’t it?
For start-up founders, it is important to work on a problem that you deeply care about and in this case, we do. We have faced this problem ourselves as individuals, as hiring managers and as members of the broader technology ecosystem. While we have started taking baby steps to build out NextLeap, we are firmly focused on our purpose: to accelerate talent development in the world.
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