The Expertise Economy by Kelly Palmer

Two of every three learning and development (L&D) leaders are looking for new solutions to transform their people and their organizations. Employees need to be empowered to take charge of their own learning, not only for their own careers, but also to help companies succeed. That requires thinking and doing things differently.

The Expertise Economy talks about how the most forward-thinking companies are finding success by shifting their strategies and technology ecosystems. Through extensive research and interviews, it is evident how the most successful companies are supporting their employees’ learning, how leaders are making skills the cornerstone of their business strategies, and how focusing on building skills and expertise can be a company’s biggest competitive advantage.

Talent Challenges in India

The Indian economy is projected to become the third-largest in the world by 2030, but businesses are lagging behind on learning. Currently, less than 2% of spending on employees goes toward talent development.

One reason that many companies in India have overlooked L&D is high employee turnover, which is currently at a rate of 15-20% across industries. Businesses have also come to rely on India’s massive influx of new workers. Every year, 12 million Indian people enter the job market.

Though the workforce in India is young right now, things are changing quickly. Currently, the median age in India is 27.6 years old. (By comparison, the median age is 37.1 in China and 37.9 in the United States.) But in 2050, India’s median age is expected to be 37.5 years old. This means that if companies are going to stay competitive, they cannot depend so heavily on young talent. Businesses in India will have to find ways to deliver new skills to an older workforce.

Leading Indian companies are starting to make significant investments in L&D. At the Mysore campus of Infosys, for example, over 25,000 new hires are trained for three to six months at a time. But onboarding alone is not enough, especially for IT workers like those at Infosys. “Reskilling and upskilling has become topmost priority for employee retention,” says the president of NASSCOM, India’s advocacy group for IT companies. “So every employee knows today if they don’t upskill sooner or later they are going to be redundant.”

Changing the Learning Status Quo

Heavy reliance on instructor-led courses is no longer viable due to digital transformation. Currently, only 18% of workers would recommend their company’s training and development opportunities. However, employees expect to learn from the most sophisticated, convenient, and relevant sources. To keep up, L&D teams should empower learners through curated, on-demand, personalized development.

Focusing on curation means that L&D leaders help employees connect with the best content and experts. Talent developers should leverage the social networks where people share articles and videos with each other, the machine learning algorithms that provide personalized recommendations, and the subject-matter experts who can teach their colleagues new skills. In the world’s fastest-growing economy, Indian companies need to guide their workers through the explosion of knowledge.

Similarly, breakthrough talent development cannot be limited to sitting in a classroom. Already, 77% of workers say that they are learning on mobile devices like a tablet or cell phone. Mobile learning will be especially important in India, the world’s second-largest mobile market, where 78% of people online are using mobile devices.

Companies will gain a crucial advantage if they can curate the best learning for their workers and make it available anywhere. Currently, 47% of workers use internet searches for their learning, compared to just 28% who use their company’s learning management system. Unfortunately for businesses, they have no way to track those web searches. A more robust, searchable learning platform will generate better data on what employees are trying to learn. With this data, companies can generate personalized recommendations for whatever skills their people are seeking.

Of course, these new forms of learning must be compatible with more traditional compliance-driven trainings. For CFOs in India, their number one concern is regulatory and policy changes. Often, these regulations demand specific training sessions for employees. So, L&D teams need solutions that can integrate these mandatory trainings with on-demand personalized learning.

Stories, Tools, and Mindsets for Expertise

Actually implementing these transformative changes will be difficult for L&D teams. Innovative organizations like Google, LinkedIn, Airbnb, Unilever, NASA, and MasterCard have already overhauled their learning strategies.

Besides the stories and the tools, though, perhaps the most valuable thing the organization’s learning mindset. Quoting fromThe Expertise Economy, “Above all success requires that you adopt a new mindset when it comes to skilling your talent, your most important asset. It demands that you start thinking of your employees as complex, unique individuals who should be in control of their own learning and careers. Finally, it dares you to let go of outdated and traditional ways of closing the skills gap in your workplace and to embrace the new challenges ahead in the expertise economy.”

Analysts expect the number of Indian companies in the Global Fortune 500 to skyrocket, from just seven this year, to over 100 in the next decade and a half. The companies that make this leap will undoubtedly understand what expertise they have, what skills they need, and how to best support their employees’ learning.

The Structure You Need to Re-imagine Learning

What would you do if you could build a vision and strategy for learning at your company completely from scratch? What would your structure and plan be? What specific things would you continue doing and what would you do differently?

The world of learning and work is changing dramatically so you may want to consider a few different areas as you think about your learning vision of the future



How would you imagine the perfect learning culture? Company cultures that support learning as a core, fundamental part of everything employees do every day are realizing their competitive advantage. Also, cultures that identify learning as a key guiding principle enable employees to continue to build the skills that they need for the future. Does your culture put learning front and center?


I know when I ran learning organizations at Sun, Yahoo, and LinkedIn, we thought that we had to create most of the learning content ourselves. But now, there is so much content out there, you may not need to create all your own anymore. The perfect balance is probably a little of both. What would a new content strategy look like in your company?


Technology is another component of your vision and strategy that can easily be re-imagined. Your employees want to learn on-demand and they need personalized content that fits their particular needs. How can you think about learning technology in a new way – in a way that supports what the learner really wants and needs to build relevant skills for the future? Imagine a technology that incorporates curated content, personalization, social features, analytics, and skill plans as the platform that could support your learning strategy.


Learning analytics and insights are key to understanding what your employees are learning and what skills they are building. Does your learning strategy incorporate analysing learner data and agile improvements so that you can validate and refine your strategy on an ongoing basis?

Internal Skills / Team

What about the people in your learning organization? Do they have the skills and expertise to take you to the future? They are expanded and different than what might have been enough in the past.
For example, do they know how to curate content and analyse learning data? Can they facilitate online peer-to-peer learning or incorporate video content into in-person training? These are just some of the skills that the learning organization of the future will need.

Vision, Strategy, Culture, Content, Technology, Analytics and People.

Share this:
Kelly Palmer
Chief Learning & Talent Officer at Degreed
Kelly Palmer is a thought leader on the future of learning and career transformation. Kelly recently joined the executive team at Degreed as Chief Learning & Talent Officer where the mission is to help people embrace lifelong learning and discover and track personalized career development and all learning wherever it happens. Kelly was formerly the Chief Learning Officer of LinkedIn where she was helping employees transform the trajectory of their careers through learning and development, driving the employee experience strategy, as well as leading Inclusion & Diversity for the company. Prior to LinkedIn, Kelly was VP of Learning at Yahoo! and also held executive positions in learning, M&A, and product development at Sun Microsystems. She has been featured in Big Think, Forbes and Chief Learning Officer magazines, and has spoken at industry conferences around the globe. She also sits on the board of the Taproot Foundation whose mission is to lead, mobilize, and engage professionals in pro bono service that drives social change. Kelly holds an MS in Instructional & Performance Technology AND is always learning.
You must be logged in to post a comment.