An increased rate of change means increased challenges for employees. Old models that involve a top-down course design approach can no longer keep pace with employees’ daily challenges.
The changes we’ve been seeing in learning and development (L&D) didn’t begin with the pandemic, but they certainly accelerated because of it. For years, there has been a growing interest in technologies that can enable a hybrid or remote workforce, but the pandemic turned the interest into a demand for many employers.
L&D must work with organizations to produce training that is accessible at the point of need, enabling learners to quickly upskill and reskill themselves to keep up with the increasing rate of change. A failure to do so could ultimately result in a mass exodus of talent. With some speculating that the “great resignation” is more than just a passing fad, it’s becoming clear that businesses and L&D must work together to create training that addresses the unique needs of learners, helping them to grow on their career path, rather than leaving for a new company.
Learning on the learner’s terms
The companies that are successfully adapting to the new normal are taking an honest and deep look at how their employees fit into the overall business structure. Training Industry research has found that “Strategic alignment enables faster decision-making when business priorities shift.” To reach this alignment in a way that resonates with their employees in a meaningful and lasting way—and to close any skill gaps required for sustained business growth—L&D leaders and the organizations they work with must take a holistic approach to training, considering the needs of the learner alongside the needs of the organization.
At the heart of this is a need for intentional collaboration. L&D leaders must partner with business leaders to better understand the goals and objectives of the organization, for example. This insight enables L&D to design programs that target the right needs and deliver the intended business outcomes.
L&D must also take steps to understand how their organization’s employees consume knowledge and provide a training experience that resonates. The average employee is already well-acquainted with the process of learning, solving challenges encountered in their daily lives in novel ways, such as reaching for their phone, tablet, or laptop to find a quickly digestible video or how-to article. We’ve come to accept that if we encounter a problem, chances are other people have encountered the problem before us—and have likely documented a solution that is easy to understand.
For a truly holistic and digitally enabled learning program, L&D must take these habits and preferences into account and strive to design and deliver programs with accessible, centralized, searchable, and readily available material.
Learning content is becoming increasingly social in a digital world. For example, videos and articles found online include a comments section and options to like and share the content. People have grown accustomed to having the ability to see others’ reactions to a piece of content and to share their own experience—and to build individual and collective knowledge along the way. In the workplace, employees expect the same capabilities in their corporate learning environment.
To implement social learning in the workplace, L&D can leverage technology to enable employees to create user-generated content to share with their peers across the organization. After all, individual employees are the ones who best understand the challenges they and their peers are facing. By allowing them to come up with videos and documents that address these issues, L&D is capturing institutional knowledge while encouraging learners to take an active part in the training process, prompting them to think more deeply about their own challenges and anticipating needs before they arise, rather than perpetually reacting to problems after they have arisen.
In addition to helping L&D reach learners at the time of need and facilitating peer-to-peer learning, technology provides a means for more effective measurement.
The more engaged learners are with the platforms they’re using, the more data they will generate for L&D to parse through. For example, likes and shares are valuable not only to learners looking to quickly sift through and find the most pertinent piece of content, but also for the architects of training programs. By allowing learners a space to share their thoughts, L&D fosters an ever-growing pool of data, which can directly shape the creation of further learning content.
Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can help analyze the mountains of data that L&D is collecting from learners. Anything from the time it takes learners to complete specific tasks in a system, to their habits and preferences when they access content, to simply the number of clicks specific pieces of content receive, are all data points for AI to help us sift through. Equipped with these insights, L&D is primed to drive decisions and actions that directly contribute to ROI targets and the organization’s broader objectives.
The future of learning
As the needs of learners and organizations continue to shift, it is L&D’s responsibility to make sure that companies are designing their training programs in a holistic manner. Training must be designed with both the learner and business in mind to create a more robust learning experience that meets the specific needs of the learner and the broader goals of the business. The businesses that excel in our evolving world will be the ones that embrace technology, while keeping human needs at the forefront of their process.