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What is a Capability Academy? Explore Its Relevance in the Future of Work

What is a Capability Academy? Explore Its Relevance in the Future of Work

We thought building skills for our employees is enough. But likely not. Apparently, high-performing learning organizations have proven that building a capability academy for their employees has driven performance and employee retention.

We all believe that skills are the currency of success in our careers. This phrase might be right, however, due to the evolution of learning and work, looks like skills aren’t just enough.

The skills gap is a huge pain that we are solving for decades. Experts, founders, and thought leaders find solutions to improve skills gaps in the workforce, but unfortunately, we haven’t succeeded yet.

Where are we in Corporate Learning?

Josh Bersin, an industry analyst, showed us how learning evolved over time in the workplace. Right now, we are in learning in the flow of work. Learning is now possible and accessible in the workplace. Self-directed learning has been the key to consciously working and learning at the same time.

Where are we now in corporate learning to build capability academies
Source: Josh Bersin

Apart from this, Josh showed us the next thing—growth and relevance. It’s about capability academies, talent marketplaces, and learning to grow which we will expound on later.

Since capability academy is a new term for most of us, let’s look into what it is about, its relevancy in the future of work, and how company leaders can build their academies to achieve more for their businesses.

What is a Capability Academy?

Josh Bersin coined the term capability academy. According to him, "A capability is a combination of skills, knowledge, and experiences employees need to succeed. These capabilities are often unique, exclusive, and proprietary to a company."

In other words, skills-building is never enough in corporate training to prepare employees for the "future of work". Capability-building is.

For example, a designer may be the best in user experience design, but does she know how to work with a cross-functional team or co-manage a product release, or lead a fellow team member? This goes beyond experience, collaboration, coaching, etc.

C-level executives sponsor a capability academy, not the L&D team. They run the academy, not the third-party providers. In short, these c-level executives are the project owner of the academy while the L&D team is the facilitator and the architect.

Examples

A good example is Salience Learning. They launched their first capability academy in 2021 to train employees on critical thinking, strategic thinking, etc, to drive performance. They built a Critical Thinking Academy inside their company.

The concept is hard to digest if you’ve heard it for the first time. So here are other examples from Josh Bersin:

  • Sales Academy. Run by the head of sales, not the head of L&D. The head of sales is the content manager, curriculum designer, and the academy owner. He or she leads the Sales Academy with the help of the L&D team. He or she decides which skills are needed for the sales team to outperform. Examples of these are product training, sales skills, negotiation skills etc.
  • 5G Academy by Ericsson. Ericsson built this academy for their sales and engineering teams to understand that 5G isn’t just a technology. It's more than that. They focused on tenure-based programs, assignments, and peer-based assessment.
  • Other examples:
Capability academy examples by Josh Bersin
Source: Guide to building capabilities

Building a capability academy is highly dependent on the needs of your company. It’s not one-size-fits-all training. Employees are prepared to achieve high growth in their careers through skills, experiences, and wisdom that they will learn from the academy.

So instead of encouraging your employees to do self-directed learning through learning experience platforms (LXPs), build a capability academy that set them up for long-term success.

The relevance of capability academies in the future of work

Due to the fast changes in technology, people are all eyes on what could have happened in the future. Crazy as it may sound, we can’t help but predict the future from the patterns of the past and the present. If expert, Josh Bersin structures the capability academy as the big thing in corporate learning, what is its implications and relevancy to the future of work?

It builds power skills which are needed in the future workforce.

Josh shared that lack of technical skills is not the root cause of skills gaps. It was not the real problem at all. In fact, it’s more of a broader social and behavioral skill that is difficult to acquire in a simple online course. These are more complex than gaining technical skills.

These kinds of skills which fall under soft skills are called power skills. Studies show how in-demand skills changed over time. Soft or behavioral skills are on top of technical ones.

IBM report on in-demand skills
Source: IBM

The future of work is about capability-building, not skills-building.

Capabilities are beyond skills. In short, the formula is capabilities = power skills + experiences + mentoring + wisdom etc. Skills building alone won’t work in the future of work. It needs an application or what we call "learn by doing". And the application is achievable through experience.

In capability academies, the training design is much more into the acquired experiences while building the skills. For example, c-level executives allow job shadowing for observation with assignments, and assessments during the training. Learning with a capability academy comes with coaching and mentoring too. They are critical parts of the training design because it is where the "wisdom" or growth happens.

62% of high-performing learning organizations prove the effectiveness of the capability academy. Due to this, their high-performing teams can keep up with the fast-changing environment of the workforce.

How to set up your capability academy?

You might wonder, how on earth can you build a capability academy after understanding what it is? Well, building it is not rocket science, and it is not as easy as scrolling on social media.

It is achievable. You need to roll your sleeves and experiment with your L&D team, business owners, and employees on how you can get the most out of it. Here are the 8 steps to start your capability academy:

Source: Josh Bersin

Capability Academy meets Cohort-based Learning

As an instructional designer or an L&D director in your company, it is your responsibility to implement this newly-founded strategy in corporate training. You are the architect of the academy.

Building a capability academy still requires training and curriculum design. Organizations and businesses that have their academies are still using digital learning platforms to automate and optimize their training. One of the highly-designed platforms for capability academy is Teachfloor. It supports the learning experience of your high-performing teams, plus it saves you time and effort in collecting your content in one place and launching your academy in hours or even in minutes!

Moreover, Teachfloor is perfectly designed for the cohort-based learning model. The cohort-based learning model is the future of learning because of its features. It is highly collaborative, engaging, community-centric, gamified learning, and project-based.

To know more about how to apply cohort-based learning in your capability academy, see: Cohort-based Learning in Corporate Training.

Conclusion

Learning evolves not only in schools but also in the workforce. Because of the ever-fast-changing technology, the future of work will push workers to learn and work at the same time where businesses build their academies inside their companies and organizations.

It’s not the same as 5-10 years ago. Employees would not compartmentalize their learning and working environment anymore. The future of work is having their learning and working hubs in one place which can be called the capability academy.

Further reading

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