If you’re going to remain competitive in the labor market, you have to develop your competencies. If you want to monetize your workforce, you have to be flexible and willing to learn. Hardly anyone works his whole life in the same profession. This applies to both companies and employees. In the USA, sometimes competencies are already more important than the vocational qualification once acquired. Is the idea of competence development the future?

The ever shorter half-life of once obtained knowledge has been further shortened with the advent of the computer, rationalization, and automation. Since the 1980s,  it has become increasingly clear that lifelong learning and competence development are essential in many occupations. The professional idea, which is based on having undergone a clearly defined education and which has since developed further through real on-the-job training, is becoming more and more defensive. Today, the profession is at best an entrance ticket to the foyer of professional life, which after a few years is hardly suitable as a ticket for the next levels of the career ladder.

Competence Development in the Age of Digitalization

In the developed economies of the West, further development of the professional idea – today competence development – can already be observed in the nineties. In the USA, labor market researchers and labor ministers such as Robert Reich already recognized in the first Clinton Administration since 1993 that the dependent middle class needed access to the labor market even without a university degree. Inspired by the theses of “New Work”, which the Austrian-American social philosopher Frithjof Bergman founded in the 1980s, employment and education programs were developed that no longer addressed the deficits of the rural unemployed, but rather the existing competence that needed to be developed. Starting from the thesis, which has been refuted today, that the job system is at its end, the freedom of action and independence of people beyond gainful employment must be promoted. After the New Work was discussed a dozen times up and down, the term is now experiencing a renaissance with digitalization, but with different signs. Again, the motive is to open access to the labor market to a detached “working class”. Unlike Bergman, however, it is not a question of the emancipation of the former industrial workers in the “Rust Belt”, as the Democrats call them “White Trash”. Rather, it is digitization and the shortage of skilled workers and the associated lack of digital skills in companies that have led to the emergence of new competence development programs in the USA.

TechHire relies on competencies beyond formal qualification

If you can do the job, you should get the job: Since 2015, the social enterprise TechHire has been expanding in the USA, operating over 200 training facilities in 72 municipalities in social partnership with 1,300 employers. The model is similar to a dual training program according to the German model. The experts use online entrance tests to identify competencies and interests. Discussions with potential employers follow this. After a few months of all-day training, the participants complete an internship in a company. A wide variety of local TechHire companies specialize in qualifications in technology industries. Specifically, they have improved matching between job seekers, employers, teachers, policy-makers and local training groups: the online tool “training finder“, developed by LinkedIn’s business network, links relevant information on competence profiles and income opportunities, skills required, training programs and vacancies for different job advertisements.

Thus even applicants who do not formally have any qualifications, but who have acquired competencies even in self-study, have a chance to specifically promote them in order to get them into jobs. Autodidacts, for example, who work on computers in their spare time also have a chance to get a job as a software tester with 40,000 dollars after a qualification. TechHire’s competence-oriented approach has already enabled companies to fill 4,000 vacancies that would otherwise remain vacant today.

Conclusion: Competence development creates a vocation

TechHire and its partners have thus managed in an unbureaucratic and, above all, intelligent way to make a contribution to reducing the shortage of skilled workers in companies and to imparting new individual perspectives to people by promoting competencies. A mission to which TÜV Rheinland Academy has committed itself, particularly in the field of technical professions. Digitalization is constantly creating new requirement profiles for which it is necessary to establish appropriate competence models that enable people and organizations to remain capable of action and to actively shape both the present and the future. Artificial intelligence, digitization and automation will create many new jobs that will have to be taken over by today’s “skilled workers”. The way there is competence development on the job, actively supported by companies that have recognized the value of lifelong learning. It is also important to lay the right foundations in the field of initial vocational training for young people and to start thinking about tomorrow’s requirements today. Application cases of TÜV Rheinland Academy, which as a partner supports governments in various countries worldwide in establishing competence development via the dual training system according to the German model, close the technical education gap between state schools and degrees and the requirements of the industry. In this way, people and companies are actively enabled to master the challenges of digital transformation. In individual cases, personnel certifications ensure that competencies are always up to date and ensure a uniform quality level of the employees in the company.

Competence Management TÜV Rheinland Academy

Overwhelmed, distracted, restless: Regain your employees’ attention! Insufficient participation, low commitment, lack of satisfaction: When it comes to in-house training, companies today can find it difficult to motivate their employees to obtain a qualification. Why is that? According to a U.S. Bersin by Deloitte study, the main reason for this is that companies themselves, their employees, and trainees are experiencing rapid changes. This primarily has to do with digital development. Employees worldwide are constantly available, continuously exposed to a flood of information, and often overwhelmed by separating the relevant from the irrelevant. Many personnel development departments have recognized this, but cannot keep up with the corresponding prepared offers. They usually lack a starting point, a clear definition of employee development. That is why we would like to give a jump start with an overview of different learning types and the appropriate learning strategies.

Overview of different learning types

The study aims to clarify who it is that companies are dealing with today. Who are today’s employees? And what do they need to stay up-to-date in their jobs? According to Bersin, five learning types can be identified.

1. Overwhelmed type

Between receiving and sending countless emails per day – not to mention meetings, telephone conferences, and the irrepressible burden of information overload – there is increasingly less time for “real” work. This leaves many people very little time for formal training and development – on average, only 1 percent of a typical week. Are you also the overwhelmed learning type?

2. Distracted learning type

Since everyone is connected virtually, employees are now interrupted every 5 minutes – ironically, often with collaboration tools such as emails and instant messages meant to facilitate cooperation with each other. Doesn’t this sound familiar? Many people check their smartphones up to nine times per hour. Such digital “snacking” of the distracted learning type can lead to superficial information rather than more valuable activities and insights. How often do you look at your smartphone in an hour?

3. Impatient types

Maintaining the attention of adults for more than a quarter of an hour has always been a challenge. Now, however, attention spans and patience are measured in minutes and seconds – especially on laptops, tablets and smartphones. More than 70 percent of trainees turn to search engines to find out immediately what they need to do for their work. How long can you concentrate? Are you the impatient learning type or when did you have your last flow?

4. Collaborative types

People also want to learn from their colleagues and share what they know. According to the Bersin by Deloitte study, 80 percent of all workplace learning takes place through business interactions with peers, teammates, and managers – often without involved HR developers. The distribution of knowledge is correspondingly uncoordinated and inconsistent. In the best case, this leads to an at least rudimentary applicable half-knowledge. In the worst case, there are blatant gaps that lead to disorientation and lack of productivity. Because if I do not know how to do it right, I would rather not do it at all to avoid making a mistake. Are you familiar with this collaborative learning type phenomenon? Are the training groups also gathered around your coffee machine in the break room rather than coordinated in a workshop?

5. Empowered types

Increasingly fewer people have the time, patience, or inclination to learn on a “just in case” basis. They want to know whether what they have to know is really being used in their daily lives. Only then the empowered learning type does have the necessary motivation to really absorb the knowledge. If this is not the case, many skills have a half-life of less than five years. Nothing is permanent, everyone has to keep on learning without knowing where to get “quickly” secured information. A greater number of people are looking for opportunities for themselves for further education. At least 50 percent of the approximately 10 million people enrolling in open online courses are adults who volunteer for further qualification.

Which learning types need which learning strategies?

Companies seeking effective training for tomorrow’s work environment should identify the composition of their workforce, learning strategies, and opportunities accordingly. Entertaining and appealing formats that compensate for reduced attention rates are important.

It is obvious that workplace learning is poisonous for learning types 1 and 2 and will hardly produce any results: both the overwhelmed and the distracted types are not masters in discipline and self-management. You need guidelines and fixed free-time that are reserved exclusively for learning and do not allow excuses, preferably in the form of face-to-face seminars outside the workplace and, if necessary, even a cell phone ban during class time. Attention and concentration can thus be more effectively focused and distractions avoided.
Sending the impatient and empowered learning types to a moderated external face-to-face seminar with a fixed daily schedule could prove to be a failure. Short, targeted and, above all, self-determined learning units are much better – e.g. in the form of web-based training, training on demand or dialogue simulations with timely user feedback – “which lead to much higher self-effective success with these target groups than analogue half-day formats.
For the collaborative learning types, interactive webinars and serious games (gamification) are ideal formats; aligning to fixed dates is no problem for them. Webinars usually have live chats, which allows them to make contact and benchmark themselves against others. The social factor is a big plus, especially in serious games: the participants can connect with others, compete against each other, or simply work together and exchange ideas.

Personnel development that wants to keep up with the times should at least know some modern, innovative working and learning methods. It is best if they also apply these to themselves and set a good example. At this level, they achieve more coherent, continuous learning experiences that better meet trainees’ needs and ultimately help their organizations perform better.

So, who actually works for you? And which learning type are you?

More information is available at: www.tuv.com/academy

Competence Management TÜV Rheinland Academy