Will LinkedIn Transform the Global Workforce?

Answers to this question will range from “Never!” to “LinkedIn has already changed the game!” Regardless, allow me to use that question to reflection on the emerging future of people, companies and learning organizations.

I just got my copy of the summer 2015 Aspen Edition. This is an inspirational publication because it highlights to great work that The Aspen Institute supports and amplifies. While there were many announcements¬†and articles that captures my interest, one entitled “The 3-Billion-Strong Workforce” was a highlight for me, providing a powerful example of how a socially minded entrepreneur can leverage life in an increasingly connected world. It is an example that shows how LinkedIn helps people connect with organizations and others who can benefit from their gifts, talents, skills and passions.

In the article, Jeff Weiner (CEO of LinkedIn) explains his vision for the company this way: “our dream is to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce. That begins with representing your professional identity to the world – your experiences, your skills, your ambitions, the knowledge that you possess.” (Aspen Idea, Summer 2015, p. 34). In Show Your Work, Austin Kleon supports the impact of such a vision when he writes that having an online presence is part of existence in the connected world. As Kleon explains, “if your work isn’t online, it doesn’t exist.” This may not be a fact, but is an important proverbial truth for life in a connected world, and LinkedIn is a company built around this truth, leveraging it for business success while also connecting people with other people and organizations.

This is about economic opportunity for people. How often someone miss having an impact because she doesn’t find the organization where her gifts, talents, abilities and passions are valued, needed, strengthened and used? In the short article, Weiner shares a crisp, six-step plan for LinkedIn.

  1. Create a “digital profile” for every person in the global workforce.
  2. Have a profile for every company.
  3. Have a record of every job needed in each of those companies.
  4. Break down the skills needed for each of those jobs.
  5. Include a profile/presence for every higher education institution that provides education and training related to each of those discrete skills.
  6. Let these people, companies and IHE’s connect; sharing what they have to offer with one another.

Clearly LinkedIn has a ton to gain with such a plan, but it is one that has several potential outcomes.

1. It helps people display what they have to offer.

Since I first created my profile on LinkedIn several years ago, I’ve received dozens on contacts from companies and search agencies about possible job opportunities. Well over a hundred others have reached out to me for potential collaborations on projects, consulting work, to share our insights with one another, or just to encourage me in my work. Other forms of social media, namely Twitter, have provided similar benefits. My work hasn’t really changed. It is just that more of it is visible to the rest of the world, and that provides an opportunity for meaningful connections.

Most people find jobs by finding out about the job and applying. That is still a significant part of the workforce, but platforms like LinkedIn make it that much easier for potential employers and interested others to reach out to you with possibilities and opportunities. You don’t even need to know that a job exists to be contacted about it, and that means that you have yet another opportunity to discover how your gifts, talents, abilities and passions meet the critical needs of others. In addition, as analytics continue to mature in communities liked LinkedIn, they will get even better at surfacing potential matches between people and companies, providing that information to both parties.

2. It helps higher education institutions articulate part of the value they bring to society, companies and individuals.

Point #5 in Weiner’s list needs to be expanded, but I still commend the general concept. If a company needs people with certain knowledge, skills and abilities; then it is great to match people with those companies. However, there are times when the current workforce lacks enough people who have those skills. Maybe it is a shortage of people with certain programming skills, leadership skills, the requisite knowledge and experience to handle important international business interactions, or abilities in a new or emerging area. In this case, matching people and companies is not enough. We need to match people with routes to acquire the in-demand skills and abilities.

Focusing on IHEs as the provider of these skills is too narrow of a vision. As a higher education administrator, I love the idea, and it can help us find prospective students who need and want what we can provide. At the same time, there are too many education companies, online communities, and other routes to new knowledge, skills and competencies to limit this “linking” to only higher education institutions. If LinkedIn is willing to broaden the vision to include the larger world of learning opportunities, that will increase access and opportunity for people. It will help people consider their options. Taking a class or getting a certificate or degree might be the best route, but why not help them learn about the many other options? This would magnify the impact of Weiner’s vision in important ways.

Of course, as an advocate of open badges, one way of expanding these connections between people who need/want to learn a new skill and resources/providers to help would be to take advantage of the growing open badge ecosystem. We already have the technological beginnings of a way for us expand the credentialing of learning beyond just formal learning organizations. Connect that to Weiner’s vision for LinkedIn, and we have a powerful and potentially impactful alliance.

3. It helps companies find the people who will best help them achieve their business goals.

As I mentioned in #1, people don’t always know about all the jobs available. This means that companies don’t get a chance to interact with some of the best potential prospects for their job openings. They only get what comes to them or what a search agencies brings to them. LinkedIn changes that, allowing for a larger and stronger of qualified candidates.

4. In doing so, it has the potential to transform the way people/organizations/IHEs relate to one another.

In some ways, Weiner’s 6-part plan gives greater voice and vision to individuals, organizations and education providers. By creating a system where the conversation can be initiated by any one of them, we give each of them a greater chance to achieve their goals. We create more opportunity for companies and IHEs (or other education providers) to discover synergies that might lead to new partnerships. We create more opportunities for people to find jobs or training that they need or want. We create more opportunities for companies to find the talent they desperately need. In doing so, we strengthen the economy and find that we are far more effective at leveraging the gifts, talents, abilities, passions, and callings of people around the globe.

Posted in blog, connected learning, workforce development, workforce training

About Bernard Bull

Dr. Bernard Bull is an author, professor of education, Vice Provost of Curriculum and Academic Innovation, podcast host, and blogger. Some of his books include Missional Moonshots: Insights and Inspiration for Educational Innovation, What Really Matters: Ten Critical Issues in Contemporary Education, The Pedagogy of Faith (editor), Adventures in Self-Directed Learning, and Digitized: Spiritual Implications of Technology. He is passionate about futures in education; educational innovation; and social entrepreneurship.