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There’s an old adage that in tough economic times, budget for learning & development is one of the first things to go out the window.

However, new research on intentional learning might debunk this train of thought once and for all.

According to the World Economic Forum by 2022, 133 million new jobs could be created by the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution – adding that the most important skill of the digital age is the ability to learn.

With this in mind, a just-published report by research firm McKinsey, Intentional learning and the career advantage, finds that intentional learning will be the most fundamental skill for professionals to cultivate for decades to come, pointing out that “few adults have been trained in the core skills and mindsets of effective learners.”

So what is intentional learning? In essence, it’s about treating every experience as an opportunity to learn – to nurture a desire to learn by applying a switched-on instinctive approach to everyday situations.

“Although intentional learners are experiencing all the same daily moments anyone else might, they get more out of those opportunities because everything – every experience, conversation, meeting, and deliverable – carries with it an opportunity to develop and grow,” the McKinsey report states.

Also read: Ahead of the game: L&D experts on the impact of digitisation

“Even before COVID-19 emerged, the world of stable lifetime employment had faded in the rearview mirror. Instead, it has been replaced by the expectation that both executives and employees must continually refresh their skills,” the McKinsey report explains.

HR has a part to play
A curious and fluid mindset will be an essential part of the make-up for any professional to live up to their potential in the times ahead. HR has a part to play in developing this seize-the-moment attitude among employees.

And it’s not just a matter of loading up employees with digital skills – it’s more nuanced than that. The McKinsey report explains that any new skill attempted can help an employees performance and career prosepcts, such as learning a language or musical instrument.

But it's not just employees, HR pros can also benefit from a more mindset that is open to learning. 

This is backed up by the World Economic Forum, which states “There’s a common misconception that we’ll all need to develop highly technological or scientific skills to succeed.”

Adding, “While it will be necessary for people to work with technology, we’re also seeing a growing need for people to develop specialised skills for how they interact with each other. These include creativity, collaboration and interpersonal dynamics, as well as skills related to specialised sales, human resources, care and education roles.”