How can you truly adapt for major shifts in the world of organizations, business and learning and development?
Imagine a Training Manager who has been doing a very professional and effective job in their organization around 15 years ago. It doesn’t matter what industry or type of organization – manufacturing, sales, customer service, finance, military or public sector.
Now, imagine a situation in which that Training Manager has frozen in time, in a kind of “Ice Age” for 15 years, and has only recently awoken. I assure you their shock would be unrivaled – what’s happening today in many organizations would have rattled many of the firm foundations training managers believed in 15 years ago. If they were to learn of the more imminent upheavals in the L&D world – well, let’s just say we’re not sure they would pin on the revolution colors so willingly.
The role of the HR departments in general, and of the Learning & Development in particular, has been undergoing massive, and equally quick changes in the past few years. These changes are bound to increase significantly in the near future, and they represent a conceptual and practical revolution in the way we approach learning in the workplace. If we fail to understand these, and act upon them, we may indeed find ourselves frozen in time – and may lose our value and relevancy.
Consider this your call to arms – it’s time to recognize and join the ranks of the revolution in the Learning & Development world. And it’s not just for training professionals – It’s true for all those who need knowledge to travel quickly to employees, managers, clients, or business partners and distributors (that’s all of us, isn’t it?).
This LearningZone Insights paper will try to show some directions that may help you start your own learning revolution, should you choose to do so…
On Business, Organizational and Technological trends
Before we dive into the changes in the world of knowledge and training, we need to look at the wider context of factors and trends that are driving these changes and influencing them. With the wider perspective, we can strengthen our understanding that these processes are here to stay (and even expand far beyond our imagining) and that their impact will be far-reaching.
There are currently four main undercurrents that are influencing Learning & Development in organizations in this revolution:
1. An Environment of Constant Uncertainty and Change-
today’s business environment is volatile and transformational. So much is influencing the market: the dynamics of global markets, political, economic and social crises around the world, plus the growing regulatory restrictions in a variety of industries – these are all forcing organizations into responding faster and more dynamically than ever before. The consequences this has on the speed that new knowledge and learning has to be delivered is remarkable(!).
2. Greater Performance with Less Resources –
the insane pressures and the growing competition in all markets push the demand for lean operations and excellent resource utilization to new records. At the same time, we are all expected to supply more output in shorter sprints. Teams are asked to deliver faster, cheaper solutions – including knowledge transfer and training. More than ever, the Learning and Development team are measured by their contribution to individual and collective performance.
3. Employees’ Expectations are Not What They Used to Be –
the fierce competition for a knowledgeable and capable workforce is a growing pain. Employees spend less time in one workplace, and they themselves seem to have new expectations – more professional and personal development, technological leadership, and a sense of autonomy.
4. Technological Advancement and Convergence –
a number of technology trends are also transforming the learning and knowledge transfer fields; be it the rise in the power of mobile devices, or the availability of cheaper and widespread cloud services, as well as the ever-growing popularity of social networks and real-time communication. More recent trends such as Wearable devices, IoT, Big Data and Machine Learning offer new opportunities and threats (which we can conquer!) to the world of learning and knowledge transfer.
These 4 currents have a massive impact on all aspects of organizations today. Marketing, sales, advertising, customer service/relations, and operations – each is going through their own set of revolutions. In the HR field, the shockwaves are making us question traditional organizational structures, recruitment processes (which have already changed tremendously), employee goals and benefits, and management and leadership. Our focus in this insights paper is on the Learning & Development departments but again – this is highly relevant for both internal and external knowledge delivery.
Let’s dive into the details, shall we?
A Focus on Performance Improvement and Support
Performance support isn’t new to the L&D world. While it has been around for some time, in recent years it’s become clearer that it should occupy more of the focus of our knowledge transfer and learning efforts. This crucial realization can truly help individuals and organizations with the4 major performance challenges mentioned above.
Knowledge delivery and transfer solutions and strategies need to provide ways to deliver the right content, to the right audiences, at the right time – Why? In order to prepare our employees, or to assist them at the exact (or almost exact) moment they need to perform. In fact, we have to realize we’re constantly competing (or maybe using to our advantage) with endless information sources out there – Google search, YouTube videos, Quara Q&A and many other content-rich, constantly updated sites and applications. Our knowledge solutions and content must provide unique value and quality which is not to be found in these other sources, just as easy to use, and just as relevant and up-to-date. That is indeed a tall order, isn’t it?.
The time-to-market for delivering knowledge and training to internal and external users is getting shorter. In the past, clients were accustomed to waiting weeks or months until they received a solution for their knowledge, skill, or performance gaps. Now, most customers and employees expect the solution to be there even before they thought they needed it, or immediately when they do. Nearly every client we meet when we implement LearningZone tell us that they needed the solution “yesterday”. This means that as knowledge and training providers, you must be able to be Predictive and Proactive – anticipate what needs will rise and make solutions available for when they do.
The solutions and applications that aim to distribute knowledge and content, as well as support performance, have undergone many changes in recent years. In an attempt to answer the 4 trends, we mentioned above, leading systems in the learning field now offer many of the following:
Smart Automation of learning paths and programs, that are built to fit the needs of specific roles and units – in order to streamline the building of professional skills
Allowing employees to interact with the managers and build personalized learning and development plans that answers their individual skill gaps
Tools to effectively deliver and track mandatory and regulatory content – including certifications, notifications, reports and dashboards
Delivering knowledge and content in a variety of formats and sources – video, interactive content, knowledge quizzes, and instructor-led training events
Blended Journeys: Knowledge and Skill-building
Although some of the skill and knowledge gaps need quick and focused solutions, many learners – employees, managers, clients and more – are in true need of direction. In all this confusing chatter and buckets of information we have, we are all looking for help in structuring and making sense of the knowledge, or at least the learning process.
This is where the role of experts and that of L&D professionals comes in. A sales guru needs to be the one who lays down the path for new sales reps. An experienced engineer can build the skills of a whole new generation of product ninjas.
These leaders need to take people through a series of steps that embody all the best practice and practical knowledge they accumulated – passing the knowledge from one successful generation to the next.
These journeys need to be designed and delivered with the challenges posed by the 4 trends mentioned at the start of these guide in mind. They need to be:
We need to allow learners to apply the knowledge they gain directly to enhance their performance. This is done by showing them the most relevant content to their role and knowledge needs.
To successfully grab the attention of users and keep them going through the skill-building programs in spite of all the surrounding distractions, the journeys we design need to be captivating, clear and inviting. This starts with the email notifications you send to learners, continues with how the platform they log into looks (on whatever device they log in on), and goes on to how the content is presented and structured.
Changing habits and acquiring new skills is no easy task, especially in our busy daily routine. Modern Science has shown that this has to be done through spaced repetition, frequent reminders and motivating factors. We need to get the message through again and again, building the awareness and understanding of our target audience gradually and continually. In this respect, we have a lot to learn from our friends in Marketing and Advertising, and try and approach our behavioral change campaigns as if they were marketing campaigns.
Is this a Risk or Opportunity?
The volatile situation described in this insight paper can be seen as encompassing both risks and opportunities. It may give rise to lots of questions and concerns – how you can help the individuals and the organization cope with the performance challenges? What does the future hold?
We choose to be realists: here is a list of the major opportunities and risks that we see in working with organizations at a time like ours:
A chance to offer real impact on personal and business performance in a time of need, and through it win a more significant seat around the leadership table
An opportunity to justify an initial investment in relevant solutions – if we can convince and prove their direct contribution to better sales, more agile operations, shorter time to employee competency, etc.
This is a great time to question our own paradigms and gain new insights and perspectives on what knowledge and skill-building should really achieve
Difficulty to deliver value with a growing pace of change and higher pressures on resources to deliver
Fear of losing control on the quality of knowledge and regulation of work quality as people turn to unverified sources of information
Having staff who may be less skilled lose track, not know where to begin and how to progress as they are exposed to less formal learning processes
Questions relating to information security, technological infrastructure and the preparedness of less technology-savvy audiences for fast-paced, multi-device learning
So What’s the Solution?
It’s not like we’re ever going to simply give up. We’ve gathered 7 steps Every Employee, Manager and L&D professional should take:
In order to address these risks, as well as leverage the opportunities involved, here are some expert tips that apply to all employees, managers and L&D professionals:
Seek out and take responsibility for learning and performance improvement needs that arise daily at the workplace
Identify and emphasize to internal and external solution providers your achilles heels, and insist that they offer tools and methodologies that build your team’s performance through these
Acquire and explore new skills and approaches constantly – there are countless resources that you can find if you focus on what you need to learn
Define and update a strategy on how you can approach learning personally, in your teams and in the entire organization
Train other people to have the skills that allow them to learn faster and more effectively (it’s really a win-win situation)
Establish a portfolio of flexible and user-friendly solutions and platforms, which you can quickly choose and deploy as soon as a new need arises
Use business needs and other data to identify trends and predict skill gaps. Then, build solutions to bridge those gaps before they become a burning issue
One last word of advice – lead the change by trying it out in your immediate surroundings and teams. Create strong links between learning and performance – try and use new tools and applications for recording and sharing knowledge throughout your organization. See what works and what fits your audience and culture, and then try and create knowledge bytes yourselves.
How the Story ends…and how you may write its future
Let’s return to our opening story.
The Training Manager that came out of a 15-year freeze has read this insight paper (obviously), and now has the ideas and tools to start on a path of innovation for themselves and for the organization.
There are so many options and action items running around in their mind. And as true professionals do – they are already translating these ideas into actionable projects and tasks.
We are certain they are heading towards success (though we are a bit impartial).
Need some tools to implament these ideas? Why not check out LearningZone, a user friendly and beautifully designed LMS that can help lead your orginazation into the future.