Over the last few weeks, meeting clients and partners across Europe, I have been struck how many times I have been asked, “Do you have anything digital?”

As we are essentially a software company, the automatic response could have been “Yes, everything we do is digital.” However, a more productive reply has often been, “What do you mean by digital?” When people use the word digital, they can mean many different things.

Sometimes the request for something digital reflects a desire to use technology to deliver a less traditional and more interactive and virtual learning experience. This may be driven by a wish to provide a development opportunity that reflects more closely the reality of a workplace that is increasingly virtual, and perhaps by the understandable pressure to reduce costs without sacrificing the quality of the learning. Doing something “digital” in this sense is at the heart of what we offer clients. We provide an experiential and engaging way of learning with others that can be run face-to-face, but is increasingly being delivered virtually, and that is designed in a way to foster collaboration and enable the formation of new and diverse networks. Team members work together on simulations, but may not be physically together, often supported by virtual coaches, facilitators and/or leaders in their own organisation. This learning experience, sometimes part of a blended programme, is being used very successfully by a range of companies, including BNP Paribas, Cap Gemini, Ferrero and Randstad. As the HR Director of one client commented: “This is a great model for how virtual programmes can engage large numbers of talented, busy people over an extended period of time and forge new relationships as strong as any traditional face to face programme.”

Often the request also signifies a search for a learning experience that will bring to life the impact of new waves of technological development on the strategic and operational environment in which companies find themselves. We have created several bespoke and off the shelf simulations which highlight the impact of disruptive technologies such as intelligent robots, blockchain technology or IoT (Internet of Things). These simulations provide a “digital” context but they are also designed to develop the skills and behaviours that will be increasingly important in the digital age, such as scanning, collaboration, relationship building, resilience and change leadership. We are currently building a new simulation on Leading Continuous Change in the Digital World, set in the context of a traditional industry adapting to the new digital technologies.

Finally, of course, we are always conscious of how technology can change the world we work in. We are constantly exploring how combining neuroscience with artificial intelligence can change the way we learn. Over the next few months we hope to launch a number of new initiatives that will bring further advances to learning and overall human performance.

The consortium running executive development for the top 4,000 civil servants in the UK recently celebrated the first anniversary of its contract with Civil Service Learning. As one of the consortium members, Ososim executives joined other consortium members, led by Korn Ferry Hay Group, to mark the anniversary and reflect on what has been achieved so far.

Ososim, working closely with Korn Ferry Hay Group and Practive, has been particularly involved in designing and delivering modules on Leading without Authority and Leading People Through Change. The latter module has involved the development of a bespoke simulation in which participants are required to pioneer the introduction of intelligent robots in the public sector. The simulation experience highlights the challenges of leading change in a digital world.

As part of the contract, Ososim has been working across government, within various departments, to help address a range of current challenges and prepare senior Civil Servants for an uncertain and constantly changing future.

Twice a year, I step away from my day job at Ososim and work with London Business School professor, Lynda Gratton, on her HR Strategy in Transforming Organisations (HRST) programme for senior HR executives. No programme is ever the same. With participants from all over the world, one gets an insight into the key issues that these global executives are concerned about as they contemplate the future.

On this month’s programme, much of the discussion was about artificial intelligence and the replacement by robots of many jobs now performed by humans. It is generally assumed that as a result of AI, very human skills such as creativity, resilience and social skills will be the ones in demand rather than narrow technical ones. Where does HR fit into this? With fewer employees and many HR processes automated, will the role of HR be diminished?

In my opinion, the opposite will happen. Supporting a smaller number of highly valuable creative, innovative and intuitive employees will be a more important responsibility than managing larger numbers of employees doing “machine-like” jobs. This will start with the type of work environment created. Historically humans doing the jobs that will be performed by machines in the future were treated like machines, working in drab offices with uniform compensation packages. When people do the work that only humans can perform, then they will need to be treated as people, in human friendly environments, and be rewarded to suit them as individuals. Attracting, developing and retaining people, who may not even be employees in the way we think today, will require HR to develop all the capabilities of creative talent management agents, looking after a roster of skilled individuals, but with the added task of fostering collaboration within and beyond the organisation.

Of course, this human treatment for human employees will only be for those lucky to have jobs. A different HR role will be required to support those who are left behind by the world of AI!

At a time when cybersecurity has become a major issue for organisations and governments, minimising any threat of attack is a high priority for Ososim. We have once again passed the UK government backed Cyber Essentials security certification scheme, as part of our broader measures to be vigilant in this area. This sets out an excellent baseline of cybersecurity suitable for all organisations. The scheme addresses five key controls that can reduce the likelihood of cyber attacks and ensures systems are well maintained and data is handled securely. Cybersecurity, along with data protection, remains a key focus for Ososim, and we will continue to dedicate significant resource to this area.

Cyber Essentials assesses companies in areas that include: malware protection, secure configuration, policy and procedure, patch management, access controls and firewalls.

At a recent event organised by Ososim, some of our friends and partners discussed how corporate learning will evolve over the next few years, particularly in the context of technological advances such as artificial intelligence as well as the increased application of neuroscience.

As the following video testifies some common themes emerge:

  • Technology, such as increasingly realistic and tailored simulations, can help augment, improve and accelerate learning without entirely replacing human intervention;
  • Artificial intelligence and data analytics will help the development of more personalised, tailored and “just in time” learning; but
  • Learning needs to remain in a social context, as this is how people learn best.

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