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Elliot Gowans


Senior VP International

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Power to the people: creating a learning culture to reach every learner


The rise of the machines is upon us – technology is already changing the way we do business. Companies where employees aren’t adequately trained for this new working environment will soon find themselves left behind.

We’re in a time of widespread disruption across the workforce. The development and rapid adoption of technologies such as automation, the cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) are redefining the workplace, as well as the relationship between employee and employer.

For business, there is certainly a lot to be gained from these disruptive technologies. Growing use of automation, for instance, can increase efficiencies and cut down costs.

There is, of course, a trade off when it comes to the roles performed by humans.

A PWC report stated that 37% of the global working population are concerned their responsibilities might be reduced by automation and, ultimately, their roles may become obsolete.

With technology set to shift the human skills most relevant for businesses, employers need to think about their learning culture and how they plan to upskill their workers when their current roles become increasingly sidelined by technology.

The current pace of change is arguably much faster than we’ve seen in the past, and broader in scope, encompassing a great number of job functions across industries.

Within this context, the traditional corporate training model will not suffice.

Encouraging employees to engage with training is often a key challenge for business and HR leaders, but the stakes now are far higher.

Failure to develop staff skillsets as market needs dictate will potentially leave businesses with a skills deficit and employees out of a job.

Different people, different learners

One of the key difficulties in creating engaging learning and development (L&D) programmes is that every person learns differently. Each person has different interests and differing attention spans.

For instance, research we conducted in 2018 revealed that 60% of millennials want learning to be social, mobile and cross-platform. That said, 45% of the entire workforce stated a preference for instructor-led classroom experiences.

Generational differences can also impact how employees will react to different teaching methods.

A mobile-first, on-demand strategy can provide learners with course materials and resources from any location, at any time and across a range of devices.

Looking at generation Z employees (those born between 1995 and 2010), who will soon form the core of the future workforce, we can see that their lives are far more closely entwined with technology than someone 10, 15 or 20 years their senior.

An L&D model that doesn’t have flexibility and technology at its core will likely fail to engage them.

In an enterprise context, an initial analysis of each employee’s preferred learning model is admittedly unrealistic.

If, however, a modern L&D programme can provide learners with enough options to learn in ways that suit them best and work around their lives, the onus is upon the learner to shape their own learning pathway.

Flexible training tools

Modern learning platforms are well equipped with the tools and functionality needed to create truly personalised learning approaches.

A big benefit here is the flexibility of the learning platform.

A mobile-first, on-demand strategy can provide learners with course materials and resources from any location, at any time and across a range of devices.

Having course content stored on a tablet or a smartphone is a clear incentive for modern learners, and makes it far easier to align their studies with their daily routines and work and family responsibilities.

Creating a course schedule that fits around the lives of its learners is a powerful way to reframe training as an opportunity rather than a burden.

Rich content

Technology-driven L&D programmes also provide improved options for both learners and course leaders in terms of content delivery.

As well as offering more traditional course materials for those who choose to engage with them, online learning can enrich the programme with various multimedia content types.

For example, live and pre-recorded video content speaks to the generation whose first port of call for problem solving is YouTube instructional videos.

As traditional jobs increasingly begin to transform and are quickly redefined against a background of new disruptive technologies, so too must the system of training employees be restructured.

Online quizzes can help apply gained knowledge, as well as add a competitive twist to the programme.

Gamification is already present in corporate wellness programmes, and many larger companies have global rankings and prizes for wellness metrics such as weekly step count.

The same logic can be applied to L&D initiatives, with key success metrics added into a league table where learners are incentivised with rewards. We worked with accountancy training provider Kaplan on just such an initiative.

All about the data

What is often overlooked when it comes to technology-driven L&D programmes is the data these systems generate.

These aren’t just limited to test results, but valuable metrics such as completion rates, average time to completion and number of times tasks have been attempted.

For course leaders, these can provide great insight into overall course health, but also specific learner strengths and weaknesses.

With these data points, course leaders can create personalised skills-development programmes and more engaging training pathways.

Laying the groundwork

Changing the traditional model of corporate L&D is not going to happen overnight, and it may be tempting for businesses to stay the course on their current programme as, truth be told, there’s still some value to it.

That value, I believe, will not last much longer. As traditional jobs increasingly begin to transform and are quickly redefined against a background of new disruptive technologies, so too must the system of training employees be restructured to keep up with these transformations.

If businesses want to create a suitable learning culture, and attract and retain a skilled workforce, they need to provide high-quality engaging training and development opportunities, with enough flexibility to work around the lives of their learners and meet their various learning preferences.

This may seem like an issue for tomorrow, but employers must lay the groundwork now.

Interested in this topic? Read Re-evaluating our learning culture in a time of major uncertainty.

Author Profile Picture
Elliot Gowans

Senior VP International

Read more from Elliot Gowans

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