If we want to stay relevant in the digital age, we have to make a shift to continuous learning in the workplace. Despite the fact that the Netherlands scores fairly well on lifelong learning compared to most other European countries, the majority of workers participating in lifelong learning have an incidental and short term focus. This is shown in our research 'Lifelong learning in the Netherlands'.
Digitalisation and automation are fundamentally transforming the way we work. This will have a profound effect on the tasks we perform and the skills that are required. Skills acquired in initial education become obsolete more rapidly as technological breakthroughs speed up. Skills such as problem-solving and communication, curiosity, adaptability and emotional agility are becoming more important. These qualities ensure greater resilience and success in the face of a changing work and social environment. They also provide a fertile environment for lifelong learning.
Despite our high labour productivity and the availability of many new technologies - suggesting labour productivity should increase - our labour productivity growth is slowing down. Research suggests that the slowdown in productivity growth is related to the slow transmission of successful technologies employed by the frontier firms to the other firms in the economy. Human capital also seems to play an important role in the productivity slowdown. These findings are particularly worrying since the world is digitalising faster than ever.
Businesses should take three steps to shift to continuous learning:
Most importantly, as individuals we will have to develop the awareness that staying relevant is important and develop the right mindset to act on this. We need to ask ourselves how we can keep doing relevant things that are also fun and interesting to us. We should regularly ask ourselves, ‘what can I learn today and what am I good at?’ These are the key questions to stay relevant in the digital age.