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The role of Agile learning in developing skills needed in the age of automation

While the COVID-19 pandemic marked a massive acceleration toward digital transformation, it is only a taste of what is yet to come. Even before the crisis, experts have already flagged the rise of technology and automation. As many as 375 million workers may need to find new jobs in 2030 because of automation, according to McKinsey & Company. The COVID-19 pandemic put an end to doubts that technology will soon be the end-all-be-all for businesses.

But why should the evolution (and denigration) of skills be of concern to companies -- not just the employees who are at risk in the increasingly digital future?

While humans will remain as the greatest resource for companies, they will need to work on skills that automation cannot replicate. The World Economic Forum named the top 15 skills that will emerge as the most important by 2025.

Top 15 skills for 2025

  1. Analytical thinking and innovation

  2. Active learning and learning strategies

  3. Complex problem-solving

  4. Critical thinking and analysis

  5. Creativity, originality and initiative

  6. Leadership and social influence

  7. Technology use, monitoring and control

  8. Technology design and programming

  9. Resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility

  10. Reasoning, problem-solving and ideation

  11. Emotional intelligence

  12. Troubleshooting and user experience

  13. Service orientation

  14. Systems analysis and evaluation

  15. Persuasion and negotiation

Source: Future of Jobs Survey 2020, World Economic Forum.

These are skills that will get a company through any crisis or sudden disruption, including technological shifts. Creativity, innovation, and speed brought companies through the COVID-19 pandemic. The technological advances that sprung forth were results of how agile companies were. While an automated workflow process may boost efficiency and productivity, strong 'human skills' will always be the greatest resource and advantage in the end.

The question is, does your business have a culture of learning to develop them?

Because the truth is, both enterprise and employee do not have and cannot envision all the hard skills that will be needed in the future. Both enterprise and employee face increasing competition against what technology can and will offer. Both enterprise and employee do not know when the next crisis, next stock market crash, next technological innovation will be.

With agile learning, they don’t have to risk losing value through it all.

Agile learning

Agile learning refers to 'any approach to training development that focuses on speed, flexibility, and collaboration'. These are crucial skills needed to gain awareness of disruptive technologies, and the strategies to make the most out of them.

It doesn't happen by magic, however, but through an agile learning system already in place. Agile learning means that training is fused in the work process, instead of a long and extensive traditional learning program that is seen as time-off away from work.

It means that an employee's individual learning is embedded with the goals of the team and the organization as a whole. Gartner calls this a process of '‘connecting learning curves with earning curves.’

Source: Gartner

Agile learners gain information through four specific sets of behaviors, as highlighted by the Center for Create Leadership:

Seeking -> Sensemaking -> Internalizing -> Applying

  • Seeking: I am hungry for growth. I see challenges as a way to broaden my knowledge and work experiences. But more than that, I actively seek them instead of waiting for them to fall on my lap.

  • Sensemaking: I ask 'Why?' 'How?' and most importantly, 'Why not?' in embracing new challenges. I tolerate ambiguity or uncertainty because I am aware that I do not know everything.

  • Internalizing: I seek feedback on my performance and respond effectively when it is given to me. I do not take criticism personally, but as points for improvement.

  • Applying: I am able to start over after setbacks. Through the lessons I learned from my experiences, I can adapt to new challenges. But I am also able to create new and different ways of solving problems, thus giving me the capacity to adjust to abrupt changes. When solutions to problems are not clear, I trust my intuition and creativity.

Agile learning in practice

What does agile learning look like when applied to work projects as a whole?

With agile learning, team members work in short bursts. They are able to meet outcomes and adjust them according to changing needs.

Each product or service release is constantly tested, and feedback is constantly given, until the desired product is achieved. The right technological skills and software can further perpetuate this process.

In a traditional work process setup, team members only release the final project once it is finished. Customer feedback is only given by then. It is ill-fit to adapt to increasingly changing environments, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and digital disruptions.

An agile work process avoids missed deadlines, wasted costs, and the risk of producing something that is no longer relevant once accomplished.

Difference between agile and traditional learning

How do I know if my company's training program is agile enough?

Companies can use the “Manifesto for Agile Software Development" for its agile learning program. The four values differentiate an agile learning program from more traditional learning methods.

  • Business outcomes over knowledge gained

  • Growth mindset over current skill set

  • Real-time embedded over training time offline

  • Community compounding over individual practicing

Business outcomes. New knowledge acquired is applied for the outcomes of the company under an agile learning culture. Knowledge gained. The skills being taught are irrelevant or are not being applied to the bigger picture.

Growth mindset. Learning never stops with agile learning, to help the business and employees keep pace with changing times. Current skill set. Companies hire employees based on their existing skills and utilize them for their services.

Real-time embedded. Training under agile learning occurs in small units called microbursts, embedded within everyday work activities. Training time offline. Training is considered 'time away from work', and it is the first resource that goes under cost-cutting when things get awry.

Community compounding. No man is an island. Individual skills gain more value when taught and shared with others, contributing to the shared goals of the company at a more agile pace. Community compounding instills teamwork, learner confidence, and creativity. Individual practicing. Employees are left to 'do their jobs' and think only within their own knowledge, as opposed to using the values of teamwork in agile learning.

In a nutshell, companies also have the responsibility to train and upskill their workers, as the world accelerates toward a more digital era. Apart from technology-related skills, workers will need to develop human skills that automation cannot address. This can only be achieved through creativity, innovation, and speed, spurred by continuous and agile learning. Companies should take a look at how they train their employees for the future and how fast they can launch technological innovations.

The time for agile learning is now!

Want to hit the ground running in the digital age? Let Prevo help you out. You may co our Prevo team at or may visit us at We have training resources that will make your company more agile, innovative, and digital.

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