Lifelong learning: how to stay relevant in the digital age

From short term focus to continuous learning

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'.

Different skills in the digital age

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.

Human capital plays important role in productivity slowdown

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.

Steps for transformation

Businesses should take three steps to shift to continuous learning:

  • Identify future capabilities and skills: use predictive and prescriptive analytics to identify current and future capabilities and skills and communicate these to give your employees clarity and guidance on what the future of their jobs looks like.
  • Stimulate learning behaviour: offer customised trainings and digital learning tools, incorporate regular feedback and job and task rotation in your performance management cycle and stimulate knowledge spill-overs between your employees.
  • Connect your purpose and values to lifelong learning: be clear about your purpose and values and the way your employees can gain experience and knowledge. 

Take responsibility

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.


Jan Willem Velthuijsen

Jan Willem Velthuijsen

Chief Economist, PwC Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)62 248 32 93

Bastiaan Starink

Bastiaan Starink

Partner, PwC Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)65 375 58 28

Richard Goldstein

Richard Goldstein

Industry Leader Publieke Sector PwC Europe en Nederland, PwC Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)88 792 50 48

Follow us