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By Francis Wade

Wednesday, July 18, 2012.

It's a widespread mistake to think that your job is only about exchanging work for money, but the recession has driven many to this very dark place. Our escape can come through new technology, plus the latest thinking about workplace learning.

Over 20 years ago, I helped move a close friend of mine and his wife to Harvard Business School. It was exciting to interact with him and other students who were energetic and eager to start a new phase of their lives.

Two years later, he had become someone quite different, and it wasn't because he had more knowledge and passed a few more exams.

Instead, he had absorbed a unique culture from some of the brightest minds in the world, many of whom had already accomplished amazing things.

By contrast, I doubt that the MBA students I taught at an online university had the same immersive experience, and missed out on the kind of transformation that he had.

However, it's not only graduate programmes that can transform. It used to be that we looked forward to a new job with the expectation that it would change our lives, not just our bank accounts, for the better. We expected to adopt a new culture, learn new skills, mature in our decision-making and grow in stature.

Now, with recessionary budget cuts, employers and employees alike are drifting to the dark place I mentioned above, in which little is given, and little is expected in return. Just quiz the typical employee on the skills they plan to learn in the next year.

Watch the blank looks as they confess that they haven't thought about it.

Nowadays, we rarely talk about making 'career moves' or even about 'career investments'.

Blame the recession

We can blame that on the recession, where a lack of jobs and an abundance of layoffs have made us wary and cynical of making too many grandiose plans. All we want to do is crawl home on Fridays with our paycheque in hand, confident in knowing that it won't bounce. We have become minimalists whose expectations are hardly ever dashed.

It's not fulfilling, however, as there's a big difference between having a job and reducing it to a mere work-for-cash transaction. Everyone loses when that happens, but the good news is that we now have available opportunities for job enrichment that never existed before.

Fortunately, there are some powerful trends under way that we can take advantage of, without spending either a fortune in time or money. The convergence of the Internet and mobile technology is providing the perfect platform for training and development, particularly the kind of learning that involves access to new information.

Youtube University?

Many people are astonished to learn that there is probably more training and learning taking place on YouTube than anywhere else. YouTube receives four billion views per day, and it's fast becoming the best how-to-solve-any-problem centre in the entire world.

Also, universities like Harvard, MIT and Stanford are rushing to place recorded lectures, notes and exams on the Internet, giving people access to world-class instruction.

This learning would not have the force it has if smartphone technology were not becoming ubiquitous. Learning has been detached from the classroom, and also the desk, and it's only the cost of mobile technology that's slowed down its march to ubiquity.

Here in Jamaica, eLearning is fast being supplemented by mLearning, just as it is everywhere else. The 'm' stands for mobile.

Gone are three-day sessions in sleepy classrooms listening to PowerPoint presentations. What's coming are bite-sized learning episodes suitable for mobile devices, delivered at very low cost to learners who are self-directed and want it on-demand.

They consume it just before it's needed, using lots of videos, interactivity, gaming and quizzes. A great deal of this content is free.

In an environment in which training travels with us at all times, even companies without a budget can be very creative about plugging their employees into learning opportunities.

What they desperately need, however, is the right mindset to encourage and challenge their people to transform themselves using these new resources. It requires a new kind of thinking by training professionals, but a climate of 24-7 learning starts at the very top.

In this way, we can all be saved from the ravages of the recession and find greater meaning in our work, escaping a very, very dark place.

Francis Wade is a consultant with Framework Consulting. Send feedback to columns@fwconsulting.com

 

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