“Learnability” is the new keyword when it comes to weighing up staff. It’s being seen by some companies as the most sought-after attribute for both employees and job candidates, even up to senior executive level. Learnability describes someone's aptitude for learning, developing new skills and adopting novel ways of doing things. Those individuals who are highly proficient learners, are seen as adaptable and therefore able to keep pace with the dizzying level of technological and commercial change companies are currently coping with. Disruptive innovation doesn’t disrupt them – they figure it out, adapt and are rapidly productive in the new environment.
This, more than any skill or knowledge that the person already has, is what many companies are currently looking for. It’s not just the ability to learn new things either; learnability is about employees recognising that this is a key factor in employability and embracing self-development, along with any opportunities offered by their employer.
This is particularly relevant as we face the next wave of change that will be delivered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics. We expect manual and semi-skilled workers to adapt readily to changes brought about by automation in their work environment, and to learn new skills. But the AI wave may affect the jobs of those previously immune to these disruptions – such as doctors, lawyers, managers and executives. They too, are going to need learnability to prosper, as the employment market faces its most radical shake-up since the Industrial Revolution. Hence, the World Economic Forum estimates that 45% of current jobs could be automated, simply using current technology. And 65% of the jobs that people currently joining the workforce will do in future, haven't been invented yet. It looks as though learnability is a concept whose time has come.
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