Aug. 11, 2021

Rethinking Workforce Learning

Rethinking Workforce Learning

Augmented reveals the stories behind the new era of industrial operations, where technology will restore the agility of frontline workers. 

In episode 30 of the podcast, the topic is: Rethinking Workforce Learning. Our guest is George Westerman, Senior Lecturer, MIT Sloan School of Management and Principal Research Scientist for workforce learning at the MIT Jameel World Education Lab.

In this conversation, we talk about how the industrial workforce learning system is broken. We touch on the history of "Pre-K to gray" workforce training. We discuss transforming the way workers get the skills they need to thrive in the context of the evolution of digital transformation. The trick is balancing work with learning, and changing the way learning happens.  But what to learn?  Westerman’s work has yielded the Human Skills Matrix.  And how to learn?  His research identified a new model of corporate learning and development called The Transformer CLO.

Augmented is a podcast for industry leaders and operators, hosted by futurist Trond Arne Undheim (@trondau), presented by, the frontline operations platform, and associated with, the industrial upskilling community launched at the World Economic Forum. Each episode dives deep into a contemporary topic of concern across the industry and airs at 9 am US Eastern Time every Wednesday. 

After listening to this episode, check out J-WEL as well as George Westerman's profile on social media:

Trond's takeaway: Rethinking workforce learning is necessary, important, and wide-ranging. It will be a massive effort with digital transformation at the heart but with the need for educational institutions, employers and the workforce all on board. Do we all agree what skills to teach or be taught? This is unlikely but developing a skills matrix is a start.

Thanks for listening. If you liked the show, subscribe at or in your preferred podcast player, and rate us with five stars. If you liked this episode, you might also like episode 17, Smart Manufacturing for All, episode 2, How to Train Augmented Workers, or episode 3, Reimagine Training

Augmented--upskilling the workforce for industry 4.0 frontline operations.



#30 Rethinking workforce learning - George Westerman

[00:00:00] Trond Arne Undheim, host: Augmented reveals the stories behind a new era of industrial operations, where technology will restore the agility of frontline workers. In episode 30 of the podcast, the topic is rethinking workforce learning. Our guest is George Westerman, senior lecturer at MIT, Sloan and faculty director of the Jameel world education lab.

[00:00:24] In this conversation, we talk about how the industrial workforce learning system is broken. We touch on the history of pre-K to gray workforce training. We discuss transforming the way workers get the skills they need to thrive in the context of the evolution of digital transformation. The trick is balancing work with learning and changing the way you're learning happens.

[00:00:47] But what to learn, Westermans work has yielded the human skills matrix and how to learn his research identified a new model of corporate learning and development call that friends CLO. [00:01:00] Augmented is a podcast for industry leaders and operators hosted by futurists Trond Arne Undheim, presented by the frontline operations platform and associates mFG works the industry upskilling community launched at the world economic forum. Each episode dives, deep into a contemporary topic of concern across the industry and airs at 9:00 AM us Eastern time, every Wednesday, Augmented the industry 4.0 podcast, industrial conversations that matter. George, how are you?

[00:01:36] George Westerman: Oh, it's great to talk to you. Trond we don't see each other. 

[00:01:38] Trond Arne Undheim, host: Would agree. So our context, is a MIT, you're a senior lecturer there. You've been doing a bunch of different things lately that I thought we would chat a little about. But before that I wanted to cover, your background, you've got an interest background a lot of business and organizational development. How did you choose [00:02:00] your fields? You're currently deep into learning and organizations. How did that happen? 

[00:02:08] George Westerman: Yeah, I started as an engineer and like any good engineer. I think I felt like organizations would work so much better if there just weren't people in them.

[00:02:15] And as I moved up in the world, I realized people were important. And through a large interesting set of coincidences. I ended up going back for my doctorate at 30 plus years old, and I'm getting a doctorate in driving innovation and innovation leadership. And that brought me from the consulting world over to MIT and MIT.

[00:02:35] I started off by studying more technology organizations and I moved into digital transformation. Okay. About three years ago in studying digital transformation. We were all talking about what happens when the robots eat your jobs. And we realized, of course, they're not going to eat your jobs.

[00:02:52] They're going to eat parts of your jobs in most cases, but either way our society and our labor market is not [00:03:00] set up well to help people as their jobs change. They are really at the behest of their employers or the universities and. It's just not a good situation. So about three years ago, I shifted over to move most of my effort from the management school over to our open learning department to focus specifically on how do we transform learning and development, especially at workforce learning around.

[00:03:25] In the management department, I was talking a lot about driving digital transformation. I've got a great book on it and 10 years of research on that topic. And so what we're talking about now is how can we digitally transform workforce learning so that the people get the, have the same benefits that organizations do through digital.

[00:03:42] Trond Arne Undheim, host: George, let's take this kind of one step at a time. How you said the learning system essentially is broken. What is broken. 

[00:03:50] George Westerman: It's very heavily front-loaded first of all you do a lot of investment in yourself and in individuals through high school and through college. And at that point it stops [00:04:00] and the next 40 years of your career, there's not a lot, unless you go back for a master's degree.

[00:04:04] So number one is very front-loaded number two, it's very degree based, and these are very heavy investment, big chunks. Of information that may or may not be translatable to job skills and competencies. So number one is that pure education degree based focus works great to get you into a job it doesn't work as well.

[00:04:26] Once you are in jobs and as job careers move farther, that's hard. Second of all, the programs are available for you. Whether it's exec ed in different schools, whether it's online courses, whether it's a YouTube videos, you look at, there's a real lack of clarity on the value you get. And there's a real lack of clarity in employers on the value you obtained through that, right?

[00:04:50] If you add to that, that many employers are not really training their workers. At least, certainly not the way they were when I started in my career. So what we have is a situation where [00:05:00] employers are training their people less for career precautions, especially at the lower skill levels where this upfront heavy investment, big chunk education process is great for getting you started, but not necessarily moving you along.

[00:05:16] And also this idea that there's just not a good career. Degrees certificates from programs don't translate well to job requirements. Jobs are typically not specified in a clear currency. And so the idea that, if we could say what competencies your training, what competencies you have and what competencies you're hiring for could be fantastic.

[00:05:40] We're not at that situation yet on any of the three parts of the pyramid there. So it's broken. 

[00:05:48] Trond Arne Undheim, host: Okay. So there's a, got it. It's broken. But what you just said opens up a panoply of different questions. Let's so let's try to un-bundling the following rate. W why don't we look a little bit at the history?

[00:05:59] So you[00:06:00] you alluded to the fact that it's actually broken all across the board from, pre-K to gray. It's not just the school system. It is also workforce training that's broken and yeah. You have a bunch of people who are living longer and are interested in, in, in being productive, later on.

[00:06:18] So what is the history of, let's just take maybe workforce learning. How was that historically tackled and what's it was the path there. 

[00:06:30] George Westerman: Yeah. And I don't study the history of this world, but I can tell you what I've learned from talking to people. Number one is there were apprenticeship programs going back from the middle ages that would help you develop a skill and stick with it for your life.

[00:06:43] Those don't really exist, at least in the U S very strongly anymore. We had union systems, which would help you advance through your union progression. Those have certainly been devalued over the last 40 years or so. And then in, in educated in [00:07:00] corporations, partly because the contract, the social contract.

[00:07:04] That the loyalty on both sides, loyalty of workers, to companies and companies to workers has decreased since the eighties when the social contract changed. That's not, you're not doing as much learning there, either add to that, that the corporations are not necessarily good at keeping up their L and D investments in the contract, in the face of other priorities.

[00:07:24] So what's happened. We had a history where you could get an apprenticeship and move on. The lucky people could get an apprenticeship and move on or where the union job would help you move on, or whether you're where your employer would help you get the skills you need. And in the last 40 years or so, those are not happening the way they were.

[00:07:43] What that means is it's now the employee's job to own their own career progression and to obtain the learning that they need to obtain. And the lucky employees can, the ones that have time that have money the ones that often need it. Most, those are at the lower educational levels. The lower [00:08:00] income levels are in less of a position to do this for themselves.

[00:08:04] And so that, that means that they're stuck. They've got even less opportunity than.

[00:08:11] Trond Arne Undheim, host: Okay. So that's a big, that's a big problem. All right. So there's two ways, I guess I want to hear what your lab, the one you have joined is doing about this. And I also want to understand more about kind of the evolution of digital transformation more generally. Cause you mentioned that you have studied this in organizations for a bunch of years and written books about it.

[00:08:36] Are you now bringing with you that legacy or are you actually rethinking it in light of this? Somewhat adjacent challenge, because one thing that I've seen lately is, and I've reflected a lot on after COVID is that think about digitalization was, happening for the white collar worker. That's really what we talk about when we talk about, digital [00:09:00] change, even all these big tech companies, the whole evolution is a white collar office worker revolution. But a lot of what you're talking about is learning and digitization it traditional blue collar work or at least work that's accomplished more on the go, whether it is in factories or somewhere else, it's not, you may not have the convenience of sit sitting down in a nice office with it, with a screen.

[00:09:23] So I'm assuming that for you also changes a lot of what the opportunities and challenges are, but I'll leave it to you. Do you want to give us a sense of how much you were able to pick up and bring with you from that tradition. And how much is actually very different 

[00:09:38] George Westerman: Like any researcher or any manager, everything you do today builds on everything you've done in the past. And you know what I've learned, what I learned in studying innovation, what I learned in digital transformation automatically moves over to this world. And when we think about digital transformation, certainly there is a process of doing your work digitally, but there's so much more than that.

[00:09:58] There's redesigning [00:10:00] your processes to make them better. And that may actually mean eliminating work or eliminating steps in your work. We, in our digital transformation research, We think about four areas where the main, there are great opportunities to look. Number one is the customer experience, and we all know what we've seen over the last 10 or 20 years with online customer experience hybrid customer experiences, even pure digital businesses.

[00:10:26] We're working with. Number two is the employee experience smoothing out the problems. They're cleaning up the information we've got, making it easier for people to do their job and easier for them to make processes more fun. Number three is operations, either digitizing operations, but more often optimizing operations and industry 4.0 is a wonderful example of that.

[00:10:48] But in the white collar world in insurance companies and others, the workforce work the transformation of processes has been huge. And then last but not least is the business model change. And that's [00:11:00] more than just becoming the industry of your engine. There is a tremendous amount you can do by adding a digital enhancement to what you've got.

[00:11:10] So for example, changing a purchasing process into our rental process. Groups are doing this all over the place, having a chainsaw by the hour, or, that's becoming a very possible thing or building digital enhancements, such as the elevator operators who know how to fix the thing before it breaks rather than after it breaks, because they've got all the telemetry information to make those choices.

[00:11:41] So there's customer experiences, employee experience, there's operations and there's business model changes. That's where we say to look for digital transformation. But I do need to add to that. It's not just a digital problem. It's really a leadership problem. When you think about digital transformation, the hard part is transformation, [00:12:00] not digital.

[00:12:01] And in fact, I've got my own version of Moore's law. And my version is, Moore's law says technology changes really quickly, right? And my version says, technology changes quickly and socializations change much more slowly. And we have that problem in the educational system. And if we were to add one more thing, Technology changes quickly, organizations change much more slowly and organizations embedded in systems of complementary collaborators change even more slowly than that.

[00:12:29] And as we think about the labor market, and as we think about the education, it is organizations embedded in complex sets of complimentary organizations. It's really hard to make change.

[00:12:44] Trond Arne Undheim, host: yes. And in order to do that, some people just pick one part, I guess I wanted to ask you about some specific elements that you have focused on. And one of them, I do believe it, it certainly affects all of it because it's a systemic feature when you look at it it, overall, but [00:13:00] it's of course also individually irrelevant to that would be the human skills matrix that you've developed.

[00:13:05] So what is that all? Human skills. Of course, intuitively is very well understood. You think you can classify certain tasks and then you figure out whether, you can either train for them or, it sounds pretty reasonable that scales is that, readily understandable concept, but it's a little bit more complicated than that.

[00:13:26] George Westerman: It is. It's also much more valuable than I think we have given credit over the last decade or so. When we've talked about what we're finding in digital transformation and what MIT found in our broader work of the future initiative is that robots are not stealing jobs as quickly as we thought, but they're certainly changing jobs very quickly.

[00:13:47] And and there will be adjustment required in many parts to get the skills. Now, what skills are going away, routine work. If you do routine work, if it hasn't already been automated away, it will be over time. So that needs to go the [00:14:00] technical skills, some of them are more and more of more automated than others.

[00:14:03] The codifiable technical skills are more automateable the less codifiable skills are not. But what we're finding is still an automateable in many ways is the softer skills the non-technical skills. And I've got a matrix here. I'll just show you just for fun, but, Basically came up here with a set of 24 skills that we call the human skills matrix.

[00:14:26] What happened is when we started this, we were getting calls for how do we, what are the soft skills? And I went out and said, Hey, give me a definition. And Definition we found is that we found 41 different frameworks for these soft non-technical skills. And so given 41, then we said, listen, what's, let's put them together.

[00:14:45] Let's synthesize that. And let's figure out our own definition. And our definition is very simple and Trond, I think you have the URL there to get at it. We put these 41 framers together. We did interviews to figure out elements that might not be on there. And [00:15:00] then we did some actions card sorting and other things to get to the ones that are really critical.

[00:15:05] These are the 24 durable skills that workers are gonna need to thrive in today's environments as they rapidly evolve. So they're there, they're involved. How do you think critical thinking creativity systems thinking ethics they're about how do you interact with others? How do you work with others?

[00:15:22] Communication, collaboration, empathy, these kinds of things. They're about how we manage ourselves and also about how we lead others. And what we've done here is we've created this human skills matrix as a way of clarifying what our definition is of these skills. And now we're starting to build out what do we know about the best assessments for these things?

[00:15:42] What do we know about the best training opportunities? And so through a combination of our own work, building role-plays and workshops and these elements and finding the work of others. We're just trying to catalyze the tension on this idea. Now I've just said a lot, but let me just say one more thing about why did human [00:16:00] skills matter so much?

[00:16:05] We understand that most of these skills are less automateable than the more tech than technical skills. Certainly they're less automateable than routine skills. They are less codifiable in many technical skills and that, that means they're probably going to be more resistant to automation.

[00:16:21] Number two, though, we move our pendulum shifted to training stem. And as we focused on training stem skills, that's actually a valuable thing. Stem skills get a value in the market. Stem skills are very measurable to know whether you've got them, but what we find over and over again is we train for skill.

[00:16:44] We hire for hard skills and we fire for soft skills. And just starting to find the studies there also that say, we may not pay for the soft skills to start. But they help you advance farther in your career over time. [00:17:00] So these things have been gotten less attention. We're trying to give it more attention.

[00:17:04] And we think that they need, we are going to try to build up the opportunity to get the right tools, to train and assess these so you can know them early and you can develop them as you advanced.

[00:17:22] Trond Arne Undheim, host: part of this work you're doing directly through the jameel world education lab. Tell me a little bit about how that lab got started and what sort of projects. So you're doing a lot on workforce learning. You're also interacting with a bunch of entities around this area, because it's not a traditional research area where you can stick to your own guns.

[00:17:45] It's a, it seems to be a very collaborative area where you have to reach out. You're talking to startups, you're talking to. Non-profits obviously, how do you organize your work in that regard and how do you move forward and what are some of the things you've done? 

[00:17:58] George Westerman: So MIT was a [00:18:00] pioneer in moving to digital learning. And so what we've been able to do with putting our coursework online, what we're able to do in helping me get at X started the D and what we've done in our executive Sloan and other things we've done really good work with the digital, but we haven't necessarily attacked the transformation. If you think at other ages too from the pre-K to 12, we've done great work in that area for years from, the technology learning to helping to put more active learning into the classroom and also transforming the the higher ed space, the same way where we go what's happening.

[00:18:37] With Jamel though is such a meal family has been funding labs inside MIT that the Jay Powell, the poverty action lab one and L Nobel prize last year. And we, they recognize the value of transforming education. They recognized that MIT had already had a good start on making that happen and they funded this lab to get.

[00:18:58] I joined [00:19:00] a year or two after it started, because we had a perspective on pre-K to 12. We had a perspective on higher ed. We did not just have a good perspective on the workforce learning after that. So I came over from Sloan to really focus on making that happen. Now, what is Jamel? Jamel is a membership and projects organization where collaborators of all types come together to transform work. I mentioned the three ages, but of course we do this altogether too. These are schools, they're universities, they're employers, they're ed tech, entrepreneurs, they're international organizations. And what we're doing is we're trying to foster this change. Sometimes schools will come to us and we'll work.

[00:19:44] They'll learn from us and change what they're doing other times. We'll do projects together. So for example, one of the things, the way I think about workforce learning is that we have three, three ways that we engage. One is conversation, their conversation, their content, and their collaboration, [00:20:00] and a conversation is pulling people together to have good thinking together about a key topic. We had a hundred people get together for human skills matrix two days before MIT stopped working on campus for COVID. We had a virtual one with a hundred people to talk about transforming learning and development in organizations. We're going to have another one on community colleges and bridging the employment of the school employment gap coming up next month.

[00:20:26] These collaborations, plus our membership events are ways to get real focus on the we then do content research studies, which, we're talking about some of the ones that, that micro has been working on and also just report outs and other things to be and modules that get developed that can be used.

[00:20:45] And the last is collaborations. Collaborations is where we're working with projects with other organizations to make real change happen. And that's happening in south America. It's happening in Asia. It's happening in the U S but these are [00:21:00] projects where we work together to make a real change happen on the ground in some part of the world.

[00:21:05] So conversations, collaborations, conversations, content, collaborations, that's what we're all about. And we're just doing some amazing stuff.

[00:21:15] So human skills, it 

[00:21:17] Trond Arne Undheim, host: How much of that content is actual curriculum, because you did mention early on that we need to change education and, part of the ed X thing, wasn't just putting a course online, it actually entailed changing the course content because the context changes and you're not in the classrooms.

[00:21:37] You can't pretend you're oh, you shouldn't pretend you are in the classroom. It's a different context. What does that mean? Especially in this workforce context where you're talking. I'm assuming we haven't talked so much about it yet, but there's this notion of middle skills that I wanted to talk a little bit about.

[00:21:52] And part of the strategy longstanding strategy in the U S copying Europe, I believe is [00:22:00] to outsource a lot of that to the community college system, at least in the U S that's what it's called. Now these, the modalities they're changed, it becomes more distributed. What is your thinking there on the kinds of curricular and learning materials that are needed for middle skills?

[00:22:18] I don't know if you believe in this term middle skills, but uh, maybe explain a little bit that, that aspect. 

[00:22:23] George Westerman: Yeah. So Trond, you would ask two questions. One is, the kinds of products that J well produces and services J well produces. What are they? And then that middle skills.

[00:22:30] I think that middle skills is a really important question. Let's do the first one first and then come back to it. Some of the things that we are are doing, you'd ask how much has curriculum in the, in, in Jamel, there's a little bit. And, but our emphasis is really on transformation. So for example, we have a new introductory course on model driven, digital Mt.

[00:22:48] Model based digital threat that just launched month. We have an interesting thing for middle skills on called mash bridge, which we'll talk about. But in addition to that, my colleague VJ and I are advising the [00:23:00] world health organization as they launch a 10 million person digital campus for, to transform health education around the world.

[00:23:06] We are working with schools in Latin America to redefine what it means to be an elementary school. Of other really fascinating things going on around the world, in that area. In addition, we're doing round tables with chief learning officers with heads of liberal arts institutions to think about how, what that means there.

[00:23:24] So while we do have some curriculum, we launch our main emphasis on transformation and how we can give the elements and the insights to make that transmit.

[00:23:40] Trond Arne Undheim, host: Yeah, let's talk about the middle of skills. And then I am curious about how this translates into executives in organizations, because that does tie back a little bit to your original background, but let's talk about these skills. 

[00:23:52] George Westerman: we are doing some fascinating work on the transformation of learning and development organizations, and we can jump into that, but middle skills, this is a [00:24:00] really important area.

[00:24:00] There's a lot of literature out there that shows that college educated people have made, managed to keep up and actually advance their standards. Since the seventies and eighties were high school educated, barely caught up. And this middle-skill like you mentioned, it is a tremendous opportunity to go to that next level.

[00:24:19] It gets some specialized skills that can help you get a good career with a college degree. One project I'm really excited about is what we're doing right now. It's called mass bridge and we are working with the state of Massachusetts and with six community colleges in Massachusetts funded by the department of defense to think about the next level of manufacturing training. So if you think about what community colleges typically train you for their training, you to get a job on a production line and to follow instructions now I'm oh, I'm oversimplifying, but that's what we're talking about. And yet these new technologies out there additive manufacturing, integrated Photonix working with these [00:25:00] lightweight materials Doing robotics, working with the industry 4.0, these require a level of skill beyond that's more than just a new way of following instructions.

[00:25:09] It requires a whole new way of thinking. It requires a specialized skills in those advanced technologies, but it also requires more systems level thinking, more ability to troubleshoot rather than just follow instructions, more ability to install rather than just you. And so we've separated this problem there, the advanced technology skills, how to program robots, how to make additive manufacturing work.

[00:25:35] And in there, those core that are common to all those events technologies, that's the higher level thinking. And in mashed birds, we're focusing on that. We're calling it the bridge between traditional and the most advanced manufacturing. And What are we thinking about? Earning power instrumentation and sensors, troubleshooting, more maintenance, working with PLCs and some basic stuff on robotics, things you wouldn't necessarily pick up in a basic [00:26:00] education course.

[00:26:01] And addition things like automated systems and basic computers, data, and probability, and statistics, and understanding how to optimize and simulate beyond what you have here. These are essential for any of those technologies. So that's a long introduction to what we're trying to teach. What we're trying to do is to launch this in the sixth universe, six community colleges in Massachusetts, as a hybrid online physical element, and then make that available across Massachusetts and eventually make that available across the country.

[00:26:32] It's a really exciting world because here's. You can get out on with a manufacturing degree from a community college, you'll be trained well in how to be that, that manufacturing technician and you'll make $16 an hour or so. And you'll advance over time. These jobs in the advanced technology worlds are making you 30 to $40 an hour as you start, but we don't have a way to get you in there except for a very few programs around the world.

[00:26:59] [00:27:00] We're going to help you get to that next. It's a very exciting program. We are launching the curriculum. Yeah. We're watching the curriculum is fall. I'm really excited about, we have a very interesting work we've done on benchmarking this. So how, what should these programs look like and how can, what else is needed in these community colleges to make this work other than just the teaching, embedding more work into the load. Tying it to industry credentials rather than just being the degrees, have an on-ramp make a stackable on-ramps and off-ramps so you don't need to go through the whole two year process. All of these things came out of this really interesting benchmarking report that we're happy to share.

[00:27:42] Trond Arne Undheim, host: Can I ask you George a high level question? Because when it comes to training or even education and ed tech, a lot of people. May have now made the assumption after, or I guess I should say during COVID where it's not over that all of them. It's going to now move digital [00:28:00] because face-to-face is a inefficient and this and that.

[00:28:04] What is your current best practice when it comes to this specific type of training? You've been talking now at length about community colleges and implementing some changes there, but you don't seem to talk about a virtual concept. This is very much still I guess a combination, right?

[00:28:20] This is a heartbreak. 

[00:28:22] George Westerman: I wasn't clear mass bridge is going to be a largely digital based. And of course the physical programs can incorporate it in what they are, but we're looking for this digital to hybrid because it it can be adopted more readily. And it, these modules can be shared more readily across them.

[00:28:37] Digital is another really good reason for it, which is that, especially the people in their continuing education may not have the time or the means to get from their employer to the campus on a regular basis. And so if we can make some of this learning digital, it just becomes more accessible to people who might not be able to take it in other ways.

[00:28:59] So what are we [00:29:00] finding with digital? We transitioned overnight 1200 courses from physical to digital at MIT. We had something like 200 calls to the help desk across all of our students in all of our courses. It worked really pretty. And we're working now hard of course, to make this better and better.

[00:29:18] Our executive programs at Sloan transitioned from live in person to live digital and enrollment is still strong and the prices are still the same as they are. And I will tell you from teaching those, I think the experience is just as good as it was before. So I think that the idea of having the digital option is here.

[00:29:42] I also believe that there's going to be a more hybrid option available in everything we teach for those people that either can't get there or for those people that prefer to learn in a more digital standpoint, that will stay at least above high school, that will stay as an opportunity for people.

[00:29:58] And of course, in the workforce learning [00:30:00] world, it's just a tremendously convenient way. If you don't need to be touching the machine or even if you do, can we simulate it upfront? So you don't have to touch the machine quite as much as you did. Digital is here to stay.

[00:30:13] Trond Arne Undheim, host: You wrote an HBR article recently about the transformer CLO and I'm assuming CLO was chief learning officer. There's so many here, but tell us a little bit about what this looks like from the executive side, because yes, it is massively challenging as an individual. And we have talked about this, how the system hasn't been set up for individuals, this very challenging situation that they need to either get into the workforce with an advanced set of skills and also get a reasonable pay and also have some reasonable chances of advancement.

[00:30:48] But if you are, and maybe let's ask you this, not to summarize the entire article, but if, what is your best advice, basically, just for someone who is in the position. And it senior HR [00:31:00] role, or is in the position of basically advising and implementing changes in terms of how their organization learns or tackles, re-skilling of their own workforce.

[00:31:11] What is the main challenge there that these guys are faced with?

[00:31:18] George Westerman: Learning development organizations has not changed since I entered the workforce in the eighties.It's been a process of having a lot, here's your list of courses, sign up for them. You may need to take months to get into them and you'll sit in the classroom and you'll take them and get out with a little certificate that says, supposedly that you learn something.

[00:31:36] Of course we haven't graded any papers. We haven't done a lot of projects to know whether you learned it. We just know that you sat still for the day or the week of that course. This model is under challenge. And we're seeing a new model emerge that we call the transformer CLL and what this is where the learning and development chiefs are standing up to take a really proactive stance to help the organization have the skills it needs.[00:32:00] 

[00:32:00] So rather than just putting courses up there and saying, okay, take the courses. If you're interested, they're working harder to help guide people through their progressions. And they're also working harder to make the learning available in the moment as it's needed in the format. So we're seeing three transformations happen.

[00:32:19] One is this goal of really changing your role from being provider of courses, to being responsible for helping the skill development and organizations. And that's a huge mindset change. Number two, transforming the learning process to me to be more atomized and more digitized, more app optimized for every individual.

[00:32:39] And number three, along with this comes changing the learning organization to be more agile, more strategic. Than it's ever been before. So yeah, it's a really interesting article. But the key point is learning and development chiefs need to take a more active and responsible role to driving change.

[00:32:57] And it also means being more agile and more [00:33:00] strategic in how you make that happen.

[00:33:05] Trond Arne Undheim, host: You've got through a fascinating set of areas. What what is the most exciting for you in engaging in much more practical way with these challenges as opposed to just writing about them because you, of course, you still do write about them. We just discussed the HBR article, but it seems like you found an outlet here and, characterizing your work, but even at Sloan, a lot of what you did was of course, very interactive.

[00:33:28] You were always working with organizations, but it seems like there's something even more impactful about the kind of approach that you're undertaking with the world education lab. How how do you see that going forward? What are some of the more exciting things. You're looking at some of the effects that you're looking to achieve.

[00:33:48] So 

[00:33:48] George Westerman: sure thing, when we talk about the transformations needed in organizations, MIT has always been about mind and hand the thinking hard about something, but also doing something and making change happen. It's always been a part [00:34:00] of MIT. So it's not always been just research it, but also build things and in the Sloan school, cause it's a very similar, we've got people.

[00:34:06] Who focused just on the sociology of this moment or the economics of this moment. And they write really great papers for academics to advance the science along the way. We've got other ones to take a much more practical element. And they're saying building on what we've learned in those worlds and building on what we're learning in the out, seeing the phenomenon in the marketplace, what can we do to tell managers how to deal with a particular phenomenon in the moment?

[00:34:32] And that I've always been in that middle. What I've just done for the last couple of years is focused on really let's make change happen on the ground. We're previously I've advised companies in doing that now. I'm yes, I'm still advising companies. I'm still redoing research, but I'm actually engaged in these projects to make this.

[00:34:51] And so this mass bridge project, for example, is such a wonderful opportunity to actually help people get started and better careers and move through their careers [00:35:00] better than it ever could be for people that the education market often has ignored after about 18 or 20 years old. That's really exciting.

[00:35:08] Now, when I look to the future, what I see us doing is the conversations that the content, the collaborations.

[00:35:19] We're seeing real impact here. And what we want to do is do more of that. We want to scale this up. We want to have conversations with broader sets of Oak groups, from schools to employers, to international agencies. We want to build still more content where research content to help guide things. And we want to do these collaborations either with MIT or MIT, helping others to do what they're doing on their own to have real impact.

[00:35:46] So where do we want to go? We want to take the model. And scale it up. Some of us doing some of the work we're doing, some of it, people that we know about to really make this change happen in a broader way.[00:36:00] 

[00:36:01] Trond Arne Undheim, host: So what will the next decades manufacturing landscape look like? If some of these things get implemented? Are we looking to. Are we looking at a world where Manufacturing will change more rapidly than it has before? Or are we still looking at a kind of complex industry that has so many different bifurcations that even if you get employees.

[00:36:29] Trained faster and talent quicker into the industry. And this whole system works better. There are still some slowness in the system that perhaps the justice is part of part and parcel of the complexity of what's being accomplished and the variety of activities that didn't take.

[00:36:44] George Westerman: I think you've hit it on the head about these bifurcations, these different elements of manufacturing. So certainly there's the discrete and the continuous manufacturing, and they're just very different from each other and they have different characteristics, but even within the discreet manufacturing world there's a huge difference [00:37:00] between the largest organizations and the many small organizations in the world.

[00:37:05] These small employers think about innovation differently, and they think about training and talent. Than others, large organizations, you got the Raytheons, you got the GEs of the world in our region. They can help you move in and then move around. They can work with community colleges to create programs that are going to be tailored for the kinds of jobs they're hiring for the vast majority of manufacturers though, are these smaller organizations and they don't have the size or the spare capacity to do.

[00:37:36] And so what we end up happening is that the advanced technologies, the larger organizations are able to adopt them. They're able to train them, they're able to make these changes happen. But if you're a smaller employer, you're going to wait to buy that equipment until somebody demands that you use it in a contract that you know is going to be around for awhile.

[00:37:53] And that means also you're not going to hire for those skills until you've bought that equipment. And so where we might have [00:38:00] rapid change among the big companies to smaller employers, we're going to see it because. Be slower and it's gonna, it's gonna take time to make that adoption happen there. The challenge is so much of the manufacturing landscape is the smaller employers that don't have the flexibility or the capacity to make change happen quickly.

[00:38:18] So what I wonder about is once these changes happen quick, once in industry 4.0, becomes a requirement and not just a way of improving, how fast will these smaller employers be able to make the change? I don't know. But we see that tapping down a few downs years down the line. We'll have to figure out how to make it.

[00:38:38] Trond Arne Undheim, host: And I'm hoping that your center will be one of the ones that empowering this change to happen, not just from the larger organization's point of view, but also from the smaller, that would certainly be a great objective to have. Thank you so much. This has been a fascinating discussion, George.

[00:38:52] I hope that we can continue. I know that you have some changes and some new initials. Always in, in the coffers and [00:39:00] thinking about new things. So I look forward to tracking that and thanks so much for sharing 

[00:39:05] George Westerman: thanks. Trond for the opportunity and hopefully everybody can use the materials we're doing and do great things out there in the world.

[00:39:13] Trond Arne Undheim, host: You have just listened to episode 30 of the Augmented podcast with hosts Trond Arne Undheim, the topic was rethinking workforce learning. Our guests was George Westerman, senior lecturer at MIT Sloan and faculty director, the Jameel world education lab. In this conversation, we talked about how the industrial workforce learning is broken. My takeaway is that rethinking workforce learning is necessary important and wide ranging. It will be a massive effort like digital transformation to heart, but with the need for educational institutions and employers and the workforce all on board, do we all agree with skills to teach or to be taught.

[00:39:55] This is unlikely, but developing a skills matrix is a start. Thanks for [00:40:00] listening, if you liked the show, subscribe at Augmented or in your preferred podcast player and rate us with five stars. If you liked this episode, you might also like episode 17 smart manufacturing for all episode two. How to train Augmented workers or episode three reimagine training, Augmented upskilling the workforce for industry 4.0 frontline operations.


Dr. George Westerman

Senior Lecturer, MIT Sloan School of Management and Principal Research Scientist for workforce learning at the MIT Jameel World

Dr. George Westerman works at the dynamic intersection of executive leadership and technology strategy. During more than 17 years with MIT Sloan School of Management, he has written three award-winning books, including Leading Digital: Turning Technology Into Business Transformation. As a pioneering researcher on digital transformation, George has published papers in Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review, and other top journals. He is now focused on helping employers, educators, and other groups to rethink the process of workforce learning around the world.

George is co-chair of the MIT Sloan CIO Leadership Awards, a member of the Digital Strategy Roundtable for the US Library of Congress, and faculty director for two executive courses at MIT Sloan. He works frequently with senior management teams and industry groups around the world. Prior to earning a Doctorate from Harvard Business School, he gained more than 13 years of experience in product development and technology leadership roles.