The role of lifelong learning for inclusion ­in the digital transformation

Work life of tomorrow


In the period 2021–2022, the NVL Digital – Working Life network has had a focus on digitalisation in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and an interest in how new digital competences come to emerge in the manufacturing industries, with a focus on the skilled and unskilled employee. With this report's findings and recommendations for policy and practice, the network contributes to improving Nordic companies' participation in digital transformation. The project explores the ways in which digitalisation is unfolding and organising working life, and how new learning practices can meet new opportunities and challenges.The project is conducted as design-based research. This means that the project has generated a knowledge contribution in the form of recommendations and that the project has designed a solution in the form of a mock-up for a dialogue tool described in the report. Furthermore, design-based research implies that the project is collaborative and that stakeholders related to SMEs in the manufacturing industry – i.e. employees, managers, and representatives of organisations through networks and reference groups – have been involved in and contributed to the different phases of the project. Finally, design-based research involves developing and testing a design proposal to contribute to solutions for – in this case – the development of digital competences related to digital transformation.The main finding of the research project is that any digital transformation process shapes and is shaped by the concrete organisational practices of which it is a part.This means that the transformation is influenced by many factors that unfold empirically. In the present project, this unfolds in the form of identified paradoxes, particular narratives and changing understandings of hierarchy, among other things. Furthermore, another of the research project's findings is that digital technologies are just one of several actors helping to reorganise work and change the role and thus the professional identity of individual employees. Therefore, learning initiatives cannot only prioritise digital upskilling in digital competence development but must also involve professional experiences and insights possessed by the individual employee as a resource in the transformation. In this way, the project also contributes to pushing the boundaries of what it means to develop competences in digital transformation. Thus, competence development is also about how to get employees more involved in development and about the implications on, for example, professional identity, forms of collaboration, etc.The dialogue tool developed by the project team will therefore contribute enabling enterprises to better understand some of these local implications of digital transformation and, on this basis, develop strategies for ongoing development of digital competences. This potentially creates a breeding ground for more innovation and growth, as well as creating more opportunities for participation that can have a beneficial impact on employee well-being.Below are five recommendations that are the result of the research and developed through collaboration and dialogue with the NVL Digital – Working Life network during 2022. The five recommendations are presented in an order that addresses a policy and/or practice level, respectively. The first two recommendations address a policy and practice level pointing to the framework for companies' digital transformation. The remaining three recommendations point to concrete actions that can be taken in practice