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The last few years have fundamentally changed humanity. The pandemic and the economic turmoil that followed pushed us to pivot and be more agile, making remote the new way for work and learning.

The rapid rise of digitisation has placed new demands on employees who now require different skills to get their work done. It’s no longer a case of applying the same techniques and processes for an entire professional life. Indeed, for many, the skills and knowledge acquired through education or training have already become obsolete, putting them at a disadvantage.

With technological tools and processes ever-evolving, people must continue learning every single day, pretty much until the day they retire!

But businesses looking for global talent want more than just people skilled in the programs and services they need to deliver results. They want people who know how to work independently and are comfortable working alone.

The problem is, not everyone has been ‘wired that way’.

One of the main problems is that our education system – from primary school to universities – is mostly based on structures that are decades old. This system prioritises rote learning, with a focus on memorisation and repetition, and neglects things like creativity, critical thinking and collaboration. It is focused on learning very specific things, instead of helping people learn how to learn so that they can continuously reinvent themselves and integrate new learnings in order to work autonomously.

In come the future learners, a group that could also be described as a ‘manager of one’. They can manage themselves without other people telling them what to do. They don’t ask for permission. They are proactive. They move forward and risk making mistakes because they know that is the only way to make progress. Strategy drives the what and the why at an organisation, but the learner of the future will figure out the how on their own.

These learners know how to complement independent learning with training and coaching to obtain the best final results. They are also excellent at finding their own answers, whether that’s online on the internet, or by reaching out to other people who happen to be available, or by finding internal documentation until they get what they need. They are collaborative in that while working autonomously, they know who needs to be informed and involved in the process and are proactive in their communication.

There are three fundamental characteristics that make up future learners:

  1. Autonomy: Future learners are autonomous and know how to find their own answers, having the skills needed to find their own solutions. The internet has democratised access to learning content; it has become a commodity. People can continually evolve when they know how to make the most of these resources.

  2. Collaborative: Future learners know how to learn collaboratively. By doing this, they reinforce some of the most important soft skills of this century – communication, teamwork and remote work. Collaborative learning is the key to scaling world-class education.

  3. Curious: Future learners are people who, fundamentally, want to learn. They show a drive to always be learning. They are passionate about absorbing new knowledge and have a desire and curiosity to identify new opportunities and learn something new.

Managers can also encourage future learners by creating a less hierarchical organisation where people feel encouraged to reach out to whomever they can in order to get the answers they need. Celebrating mistakes can also create psychological safety in the workplace, making people feel more at ease to learn and make mistakes as they go along. The learners of the future are already among us. It’s up to us to provide them with the support they need to thrive.

Ariel-CamusAbout the author

Ariel Camus is the CEO and co-founder of Microverse, an online school for remote software developers. He believes the place where you’re born shouldn’t determine your opportunities in life.