The crises of 2020 interrupted the dreams many employees had for career growth. While the economic downturn may disrupt upward mobility for the near future, learning is now more vital than ever for career development. Given everything that’s happened this year, on top of preexisting trends, talent pipelines and career paths have blown up.

A few data points bring that reality into focus.

The unemployment rate is falling, despite rising virus cases. Many of the employees who are working again, however, were unemployed due to temporary layoffs, leaving little room for additional improvement, according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

A recent Axios newsletter also highlighted significant developments: Working parents lose seven to nine hours of work per week due to added child care responsibilities, according to research from Northeastern University. Employees are growing more burned out by the day. And, companies will continue to invest in automation since, according to J.P. Gownder, an expert on automation at Forrester, “in the longer term and at scale, the economics favor automation” for hard-hit sectors like retail.

The last major point from this past month is that companies benefiting from gig work had a major win in California’s Proposition 22. Californians voted to allow companies like Lyft, Uber and DoorDash to continue classifying gig workers as independent contractors rather than employees. Considering that revenue from UberEats grew 113% between the second quarter of 2019 and the second quarter of 2020 and that more than 25% of workers participate in the gig economy, gig work isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

These developments — segmented labor disruptions, burnout, automation, and gig work rising internally and externally — show the need for learning and development (L&D) to lead to fulfilling careers. It’s why organizations have invested so much into learning and talent mobility lately. In short, career development is anyone’s game, but learning is the strategy for winning that game.

Internal Talent Marketplaces Are the Future

What will a career look like in the next 20 years? We know it won’t look like the last 20 years, or the 20 years before them. It’s going to look like corporate L&D teams using a learning management system (LMS) to help employees learn skills to tackle projects on an as-needed basis. This trend doesn’t mean employees will suddenly become independent contractors running their own businesses, though many laid-off workers are doing so, according to The Wall Street Journal. Evidence suggests organizations will “hire” teams from within to tackle projects, then quickly disband them and move on to the next initiative.

For years, analysts at firms like Deloitte and McKinsey have argued for this model as organizations grow increasingly agile, giving rise to a category of tools to help with so-called organizational network analysis (ONA). Researchers at Deloitte argue for an internal talent marketplace that “enables managers to promote varied roles and helps organizations quickly deploy, motivate, develop, and retain employees.” The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated this model.

Learning Grows Careers and Businesses

At the center of this model sits the learning platform. Many of the human resources (HR) and talent leaders at the world’s largest companies Deloitte mentions in its internal talent marketplace article note that learning and talent development are the hallmarks of this new talent model.

For example, Steve Brown, head of talent and career mobility at Electronic Arts, believes this kind of development helps employees “see their career paths and access opportunities to grow through experiences. And that we as a company have visibility into our internal talent and their skills, capabilities, and experiences, and can build the ability to match them with opportunities.”

In other words, developing employees’ skills supports not only their careers but the business as a whole. So, how can you develop employees’ skills to keep up with these fast-paced changes?

Be fast.

The world changes more quickly than business can adapt — but learning can change just as fast. Think about the third-party content freely available all over the internet. From experts on YouTube to articles like this one, there’s virtually no limit to how much great content you could bring into your learning platform, almost as quickly as it’s created.

Additionally, your employees likely know a lot more than you think they do. They’re keeping up with trends, often more quickly than learning professionals — think of what they’re gleaning from their families, friends and peers. You can use what they learn “on the street” in your courses through social learning, along with comments and highlights from other employees.

The next step is having a learning platform that enables you to create courses quickly. Imagine you’ve gathered a few third-party resources from your newsletters or articles you’re read. Now, imagine opening your learning platform and immediately creating a five-section course on the latest trend with that content. With that kind of speed, you can level up your internal marketplace of talent — quickly building their skills, industry expertise and peer relationships — to grow your business and their careers. That’s the future of learning.