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Move aside CPD – UPS is on its way!


Lars Hyland investigates how CPD is being transformed by digital connectivity and challenges how we assess competence and performance in the workplace.

How do you stay relevant in a highly interconnected, global marketplace? Where does the responsibility lie for learning and development? Is it with the organisation you work for, or with you, the individual? In today's digitally connected society, the value of a qualification is in danger of being superseded by a highly public individual record of activity and achievements - the personal brand. Marshall McLuhan famously wrote in 1964 that: “The medium is the message”, recognising how new technologies impact our social and professional lives. The technology available today, from internet-enabled personal blogging to social networks such as LinkedIn, enables the individual to provide the message personally and truly gives rise to the individual as the medium. This is a seismic shift in the flow of communication and information.

Education and training will follow this trend, as individuals realise they can consciously control their own learning and development. Crucially it doesn't have to look and feel like the classroom and lecture halls of old – although this remains a revelation to most adult learners.

Your personal brand - or in other words your social capital - could be described as a product of your academic, professional and life achievements and your network of contacts. Online media tools such as social networks and content sharing (blogs, wikis) make it easy for individuals to control their own personal learning and sphere of influence. This social capital cuts right across normal organisational boundaries and structures. The speed with which contacts can be made and expertise shared renders many traditional learning experiences achingly slow by comparison and frustratingly one-dimensional.

"The speed with which contacts can be made and expertise shared renders many traditional learning experiences achingly slow by comparison and frustratingly one-dimensional."

Much workplace learning is primarily formal in its delivery, using methods that at best make cursory use of the technology available to support and nurture a more effective and lasting learning experience. Slowly, this is changing. Various market research surveys and studies in the past six to 12 months reveal a transformation towards a more blended learning experience (see Brightwave's 'E-learning Trends Survey 2009' and new survey summer 2009). There is also an increasing use of elearning and online collaborative exercises amongst geographically distributed groups of peers and mentors.

This shift is being driven by the learners themselves, rather than HR it seems. An independent study commissioned earlier this year by the training provider, Cegos found that: "Half of employees across Europe want more elearning and blended learning during the next three years, while only about 40% of HR professionals plan to develop more programmes using these techniques."

This learner-driven approach is also supported by new research from Brightwave (announced 29 July 2009) which found that individuals appear to be taking more responsibility for their own training and development in response to the recession and potential job insecurity. Almost three quarters of HR professionals (72.5%) reported that employees are taking more responsibility for their own CPD. With time and cost pressures growing, there is a real appetite for more flexible forms of learning. Employees are calling for more work-based scenarios, self-assessment and tutor/peer support, rather than a return to traditionally exclusive classroom formats. HR professionals need to understand how to leverage technology to avoid being completely bypassed in the future.

CPD in real time: Ubiquitous performance support

With the advent of real time, anywhere access to learning opportunities, it is now possible to offer what might be termed ubiquitous performance support (UPS). Using a flexible, integrated set of tools that centre on your internet connected mobile phone, you can instantly query your professional and personal network of contacts to provide advice and guidance at the point and time of need.

At the same time, you can access your own personalised repository of knowledge, learning tutorials and other relevant content. The outcomes of how you perform in each situation can thus be recorded and self (and peer) assessed to help you improve your performance the next time you find yourself in a similar situation.

"UPS offers a 'just in time' model that delivers actionable learning and accelerates the acquisition of practical experience."

Just think of the power this environment has to support individual learning and performance. Instead of the inherently 'just in case' model of CPD, which is subject to problems of updates and relevancy, UPS offers a 'just in time' model that delivers actionable learning and accelerates the acquisition of practical experience. Elearning is crucial in underpinning this whole process from pre-induction (getting new starters up to speed) to ongoing performance support.

As the learning experience becomes more bespoke and personal, it will increasingly challenge the concept of standards and levels of competency that are often used for comparison and assessment purposes. Crucially, the interwoven nature of the interaction is more effective in transferring new learning into real performance improvement on the job. Measures that matter - reducing errors, increasing productivity, reducing costs, raising revenues are actually easier to track when learning is woven into the workplace environment.

Looking forward, the increased control we demand over our use of media - whether it be on-demand television or interactive shopping - will drive a wider thirst to be in control of our own learning and development. Elearning will continue to offer the most flexible learning opportunities and with mobile broadband internet access becoming more practical, my vision of ubiquitous performance support should become a reality for us all, not just the early adopters.

For more information visit You can contact Lars Hyland via email at: [email protected]

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