Lifelong learning is crucial for employees and businesses

Any halt in further training and retraining of staff will obstruct their digital transformation

“People will increase their personal investments in learning and development in order to stay relevant for the workplace”, claims Professor Nick van Dam in his inaugural speech Learn Or Lose, with which he accepted the position of Professor of Corporate Learning and Development at Nyenrode Business Universiteit on Friday, November 25, 2016. According to Van Dam, we are on the brink of an industrial revolution to which businesses, government authorities and employees are not responding adequately.

Employee development focuses on their current performance rather than their future performance. “If things don’t change”, warns Van Dam, “all employees will be affected. Businesses need to invest in labor to ensure that innovations can happen.”

The fourth industrial revolution
Not investing in labor can seriously obstruct a successful digital transformation, according to Van Dam. The onset of a fourth industry will characterized by technological innovations with a global impact. Robotics, cloud computing, machine learning, internet of things and self-driving cars are examples of new technologies that are being developed today. “But it’s not all good news”, says Van Dam. Studies by organizations like the World Economic Forum and McKinsey reveal that these innovations will go hand in hand with the loss of jobs in a wide range of industries. Moreover, employment will need to change and new competencies will be needed for many specialized, new jobs. To illustrate: the EU says that ninety percent of future jobs will require digital skills. That means adjustments to the way we think are inevitable.

The Learning Organization
To avoid hitting a disastrous future, businesses and organizations will need to embrace what Van Dam calls “Lifelong Learning Practices” and transform themselves into learning organizations. Many organizations would benefit from encouraging employees who “learn on the job”. According to Van Dam, it is essential to modernize and professionalize that development: “We need create an employment culture in which people develop skills for both today and tomorrow. Lifelong Learning Practices guarantee a more professional, more successful organization and ensure better and happier lives.

Six mindsets
Van Dam has defined six different mindsets that are relevant to modern employees if they are to become “Lifelong Learners”: Focus on growth, Become a serial master, Stretch, Build your personal brand, Own your development journey, Do what you love and Discover your IKIGAI – which is Japanese for “a reason for being”. At several points in their life, people will need to fully master a new discipline, although that discipline may be very close to their original field. At the same time, people will need to invest more of their own time and money.

About prof. dr. Nick van Dam
Prof. dr. Nick H.M. van Dam is full professor Corporate Learning & Development at Nyenrode Business Universiteit and Global Chief Learning Officer at McKinsey&Company. Within the L&D field he is seen as an internationally recognised consultant, author, researcher and lecturere with experience in learning strategies, lifelong learning and leadership development. Van Dam is also the Founder and Chairman of e-Learning for Kids, a global non-profit foundation that offers free, digital lessons for underserved elementary school aged children worldwide.

The publication of the inaugural lecture LEARN or LOSE can be downloaded here as a .pdf.


About Nyenrode Busines Universiteit
Nyenrode Business Universiteit is the only private university in the Netherlands. The institute was founded in 1946 for and by the business community. Nyenrode prepares ambitious and talented people for a career in a management, entrepreneurial or accountancy position within an international environment and attaches great value to social awareness and sustainable leadership with as motto: Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Stewardship.

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