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Working in the New Age Economy – Essential Skills for Knowledge Workers

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Introduction

It is no secret that in the past two decades most Western economies have moved largely from manufacturing/agricultural economics to predominantly services-based economies. We are rapidly seeing, however, the emergence of the 'New Age' industry.

The 'New Age' industry is not the esoteric – it is an industry incorporating 'experience' and information based services including the creative industries, web-based commerce, health services, and new models of education and training.

In progressive states, 'New Age' industries are the fastest growing parts of the economy – organic farms and produce, life coaching, web development, specialist health services, and elearning (to name a few).

In mapping this new territory, we are likely to see many new worker roles emerge in the coming decade. For those of us who are trainers, working with 'New Age' companies requires different skills than in other industries such as manufacturing, retail, or financial services.

Tips and Techniques for Trainers in the 'New Age' Industry

So what training competencies do we need to work in the 'New Age' industries?

1. Information Management

Trainers should understand information management problems and solutions.

A core characteristic New Age organization is that of being information-intensive. For instance, institutions like Government 2.0, web-based companies and health providers have lots of their resources tied up in information.

Working in information-intensive industries, managers face three major challenges including keeping up to date with the production rate and speed of information, 'staff-generated content' on social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and sorting and filing. While this is a core activity, many managers are increasingly swamped by data.

As such, L&D trainers can help managers in many ways. For instance, trainers can help managers train staff in information management, research skills (i.e., how to sift through information and where to access information), and quality assessment of information. Some L&D consultants will help L&D professionals move away from information, 'humanizing' their staff through values-training, relaxation, creativity workshops, and team-building workshops.

Tips

  • Study information management, productivity and good information management practices.
  • Consider incorporating tips on productivity, information management and time management in training industries.
  • Emphasize the importance of good quality communication and train staff in techniques to eliminate ineffective and inefficient communication.
  • Plan better-quality training materials and use less information (where appropriate). Think about the type and volume of information given to trainees. While the intention to provide trainees with volumes of information sounds good, in reality it can simply leave all feeling swamped.

2. Resourcefulness (Sustainability)

Trainers should be aware of environmentally sound techniques, models and tools.

Progressive organizations are increasingly interested in incorporating environmentally sustainability practices to build their business. Companies want to calculate the benefits of their environmental initiatives and are increasingly offering training in social impact analysis (SIA) and social return on investment (SROI).

As a result, there is demand for L&D professionals knowledgeable about 'Green Learning'. It is likely that many more training programs will be geared towards raising awareness of sustainable work practices. Indeed, it is quite possible that 'Green Learning' programs will consume a large proportion of corporate social responsibility budgets.

Trainers who are aware and knowledgeable about environmental projects, sustainability techniques and training models are likely to be in great demand. Learning and Development managers can increase their attractiveness to employers by offering training programs based on 'Green Learning' principles.

Tips

  • Understand sustainability training and the environment.
  • Incorporate sustainability techniques and tools and incorporate them into their training repertoire.
  • Apply knowledge of sustainability services to information-intensive organizations in areas other than OH&S. For example, accountants, lawyers, business managers, can be taught green practices in business management, leadership, and training seminars and workshops.

3. Training Online and Using Virtual Training Centers

Trainers should be able to use online tools and work in virtual training centres.

Trainers should also be aware that outsourcing is a key facet of New Age industries. Companies that provide outsourcing services will increasingly require their staff to be trained. Trainers can see this as a threat, as much of the in-house training will disappear because the business function will be outsourced (e.g., sales). Trainers can also see this as an opportunity, particularly those with advanced research and communication skills.

One of the big challenges for trainers is the breakdown of traditional work patterns. The 'industrial age' 9:00 to 5:00 schedule and a move to 'task not time' project-based work requires different methods and tools of training. Using online training tools and working in virtual training environments are two immediate tools to be employed to train mobile and flexible staff.

Trainers will need to learn how to train home-based and 'freelance' workers. It will be important for trainers to understand the challenges, difficulties and resource constraints in working as a freelancer. Trainers will also need to know how to add value to highly qualified staff working off site. They will need to develop stimulating training techniques, not solely process-driven, top-down compliance online 'elearning', but training based on professional interaction and 'knowledge sharing'.

Tips

  • Develop your skills and knowledge in online training, get up-to-date with online software, apps and cloud-based productivity tools. (Subscribe to tech magazines or join computer-based associations.)
  • Develop models and learning tools that cater to people with a range of e-literacy.
  • Study models of online team building and group learning strategies and tools.
  • Develop knowledge of e-commerce business models and the training needs of these business systems.

4. Training Across Organizations

Trainers can help 'outsourcing' businesses to build staff capabilities.

Many industry analysts and management consultants have highlighted the strong connections between outsourcing and productivity. With government, universities and corporations increasingly outsourcing tasks (such as administration and human resources), this has the flow-on effect of stimulating economic growth.

As a result, it is an opportunity for learning and development professionals to look to the emergence of services that are outsourced. This means not just being a source of outsourced work, but also providing services to growing outsource agencies on better training for their staff.

As an executive or L&D manager involved in outsourcing, it is important to be able to train 'coordinators' who can provide a bridge between supplier and organization. It is equally important to be able to work with the outsourced supplier, providing insight and input into training that can be outsourced and those that cannot. L&D managers should also have knowledge of calculating Return on Investment in training – crucial in comparing the pros and cons of in-house training and outsourcing.

Tips

  • Understand what outsourcing is and how common it is in both developing and developed nations.
  • Study training practices and techniques currently in use by outsourcing companies and look at ways these can be improved.
  • Be aware of the competitive pressures to outsource that many businesses face and provide solutions that build confidence in the skills and training competence of local businesses providing outsource services. One of the initiatives is to share skills and knowledge in the development of training programs and skills for outsourced workers.

In short, think outside the box. Thinking outside the box is our prerogative in the Learning and Development industry. It will be up to trainers to help new age industries to grow. One way to do this is by promoting further and new conversations, articulating the differences between new age companies and traditional service or financial services industries, and identifying great (local or international) examples to model.

Copyright © Dr. Brendan Moloney

About the Author
Dr. Brendan Moloney

Dr. Brendan Moloney is a management consultant for Darlo Consulting, educational consultants specializing in instructional design and online learning. Contact Brendan via his web site at www.darloconsulting.com

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