"They don’t want to train people on the job anymore"

In a recent Atlantic article, Zvika Kriefer talks to Elli Sharef, who runs HireArt, a recruiting agency, focused on the tech sector.

I also asked Sharef if she had any insights on the broader employment picture, since she spends most of her day trying to match employers with employees. The most striking trend she sees is that having a strong, well-rounded resume is no longer good enough. Employers are increasingly looking for specific skills sets that match their needs.

“They don’t want to train people on the job anymore,” she says, marking a shift away from the apprenticeship model that defined many sectors in the economy before the recession. “There are just too many people looking for work for companies to waste time on someone who can’t start, ready to go, on the first day. Candidates are left to fend for themselves.”

What could this mean?

For individuals, it’s getting obvious they have to start taking their professional development into their own hands. Also, as more work becomes contractual or part-time, workers have to take up the slack where company training used to offer some professional development. It also means that those buying any professional development are going to be more discerning and price-sensitive. The tide is shifting to supporting individuals through communities, separate from companies, as organizational lifespans continue to decrease. The popularity of the PKM Workshop also indicates that people want to take control of their professional development and only need a safe place to start. Participants this year have commented that the workshops have changed how they think:

“This program has made me think differently about my professional practice.”

“I’ve had more ‘conversations’ and been exposed to many points of view that I would not have encountered any other way.”

The Seek-Sense-Share framework of PKM has proven to be useful for many participants:

“Reducing my seeking and spending more time sensing (converting things into high quality content) is my most important goal for the next few months.”

“I need to increase the proportional amount of time I spend in “Sense.” I read a lot, I share quite a bit…yet when it comes to making sense of patterns and other “stuff” in the whole, I don’t always make time to do it.”

“I very much appreciate the simpleness of the Seek Sense Share model and the fact that together they lead to Serendipity (enhanced Serendipity to be sure). S/S/S = S.”

Staying in touch with participants has given additional feedback that the workshop participants’ practices are changing:

“Without any coherent strategy I often was not persistent in my undertakings. This course gave me an excellent opportunity to evaluate my position and to work out an appropriate approach.

My take-aways:
1. Take risks & engage,
2. Focus on who, not what,
3. Less is more,
4. Ritualize and organize to make time to reflect,
5. Trust the process.
6. Have fun.”

But what about training (L&D) departments?

If organizations are engaging job-ready workers, then training has to move away from course delivery and focus on performance and collaboration. But it is difficult to move a traditional training organization directly to a social learning focus. It is easier to start with performance consulting and then expand to social and collaborative learning, as I wrote in from training to performance to social. Nancy Slawski picked up on this on How to Live Social in the L&D Trenches:

“Kermit the Frog’s rendition of ‘It’s not Easy Being Green’ could be the theme song for L&D folk who are trying to push against the grain of workplace cultures that are heavily siloed , that define learning in terms of content heavy learning events and who see social learning and social media as one in the same.

On top of these internal challenges, learning professionals also have external pressures of learning and industry. We are reminded daily that unless L&D can morph ourselves into social, informal, collaborative gurus who have their fingers on the pulse of talent and performance , our days are numbered. (is that a DoDo bird I see?)”

The workshops provide only one possible way to start the shift in workplace learning support from Push to Pull, with an emphasis on Flow over Stock. There are many other options. But we think it’s very important to understand how work is changing, as every day there are indicators of the shift. When work is learning and learning is the work, none of us can just sit back and see what gets pushed to us. As knowledge workers, it’s essential to note that anything that can be reduced to a flowchart will be automated. In such a world, it’s best not to leave everything to centralized planning and control, whether as an individual or in supporting workplace learning.

4 Responses to “"They don’t want to train people on the job anymore"”

  1. Kevin Carson

    Another good argument for professional associations as guilds that provide continuing education and quality certification for members, as well as functioning as temp agencies and collective bargaining agents.

  2. Jon Husband

    .. and Unions 2.0 ?

    .. implying that the union philosophy and movement renews itself at a deep level through understanding, interpreting and integrating the principles of networked information-flow-based work as well as the types of deep changes that have occurred in skilled trades, administrative white-collar work, and semi-automated routinized information work.

    Huge challenges, and Kevin’s point underscores the probability that over time there will come to be a form or forms of advocacy and political force emerging from the new set of conditions. There will need to be, or neo-feudalism will take deep(er) root globally.

    I am forever reminded of the last section (titled Bribing the Knowledge Worker) of Peter Drucker’s 1999 Atlantic Monthly essay “Beyond The Information Revolution”.

  3. Guy Boulet

    I don’t see this a a trend but rather as a situation. This is evidently not the case here in Quebec City. With an unemployment rate around 6% many companies still hire unskilled workers and provide them with job specific training. I’ve recently seen that for welders, fork lift operators, lifeguards, and others.
    I think the situation describe by Sharef is more a conjectural situation based on an economy where the demand for work exceeds the supply than a trend based on new practices.
    Only the future will tell us but I tend to think that if the supply (number of skilled unemployed workers) decreases and employers can’t easily find qualified workers they will go back to offering on the job training. It’s just a simple matter of supply and demand.

    • Harold Jarche

      But Québec is unique, in that companies with +$1 million in revenue (about 10 employees for service companies) are required to allocate at least 1% of total payroll for employee training.


Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)