Over the years I have seen a number of changes when it comes to learning & development (L&D). Companies have employed a range of different techniques to meet the learning and training needs of their workforce.
In 2019, technology is playing a bigger role than ever. Here are five trends that we are observing in the marketplace and that companies should pay close attention to.
ONE: User-centered Learning
In the past, the focus has generally been to provide the same information and training to everyone. This trend is changing. Companies with the will to invest in training are now tailoring the training to each individual. This is more easily achieved with online LMS platforms that incorporate analytics and AI tools to track learning.
While this kind of technology can be expensive, the price is falling and a number of different solutions are becoming available to smaller companies. Many good LMS systems are free now, e.g. Coursesites, and Moodle has always been open source. These are great platforms to host content, but if you want to truly make learning responsive to each user, it is advisable to engage a specialist.
Many companies are working on the premise that tailored learning will be more productive because it targets only specific needs. This has an element of truth. But, more importantly, companies need to ensure training caters not just to the needs of individuals, but also the organization.
TWO: AI (Artificial Intelligence)
Artificial Intelligence is continually progressing. In L&D it is starting to play a major role. Organizations can now use software to track the decisions and movements learners are making. This then uses algorithms to adjust the content learners see. Backed up by Big Data, L&D professionals are able to make more accurate decisions about learning content, progress and development.
AI companies that are developing software are focusing on the tailoring of education and learning. The idea is to make each learning experience responsive to each learner. Some software can already monitor answers and clicks and then suggest new content. Attempts are also being made to use facial recognition software to help identify when learners are understanding or not. While this technology is not widely used today, expect it to be prevalent within 3-8 years.
One of the big advantages of AI is that is driven by data. Companies who collect huge amounts of data will also be able to use these to connect learning analytics with business and workforce analytics. This can potentially make it easier for companies to measure the impact that learning and development initiatives have on business outcomes.
There are some common pitfalls companies fall into when analyzing this data, but I will blog about that later.
I wrote another blog about gamification last month. Gamification has a lot of links to our motivation to learn and improve. Used correctly, it can be an excellent way for companies to promote key behaviors and performance, both in employees and customers.
Some common techniques being employed in LMS systems are badging (awarding badges when progress is made); visualization (monitoring learning progress visually); and up-levelling (users progress to higher levels when they demonstrate competence and understanding).
Importantly, gamification can make learning more fun. When learners can more clearly see their progress and see why they are learning, they are likely to be more motivated towards the goal. Gamification should be carefully administered. It must ensure the correct behaviors and skills organization needs are promoted.
FOUR: On the go – On demand
The demand on workers is often high in terms of workload. Finding time to study is not easy. That is why it is important for companies to think about how to provide content to learners. Rather than just having one portal accessible through a computer, companies can look to provide content in multiple forms. Providing content on-demand, a bit like Netflix, is the future.
Learning content should be viewable on computer, tablet, phone or any other device. It should also be available at any time. Multiple forms of content allows users to access content and learn whenever they can.
Classroom learning (a form of formal learning) is very important. But, effective companies are now finding a variety of ways to help employees learn skills and knowledge. This means as well as e-content, informal learning opportunities are provided, e.g. using blogs, toastmasters, clubs, and societies, and mentoring.
The benefit for organizations of multiple modes is the ability to balance just-in-time learning with just-in-case. Learning can be delivered at different times and at varying pace. This allows that fast-moving businesses have the content ready as and when it is needed.
FIVE: Micro-learning or Bite-sized Learning
Due to time demands, many companies are now providing learning in small chunks. I have worked with companies who employ this for both face to face and online learning / e-learning. Classes are designed to be completed within an hour or less. This allows learners to fill in small gaps in their schedule with available learning opportunities.
This should not be the only method of delivery, however. Longer training sessions should still be part of an L&D plan. Not every learning need can be crammed into a 60 minute bite-sized class. The key is that company L&D departments include micro-learning as part of a larger strategy.
How does this affect my organization’s future?
10 years ago I would have struggle to imagine these trends happening. But, they are a reality today. In a market that is fighting for talent, knowing how to attract and retain the best talent is vital. There is evidence to suggest top-talent is driven by development. Thus, companies who want to keep top performers should look at ways to engage this talent and foster L&D.
One of the biggest challenges for companies is knowing how to create a learning and development strategy that responds to company needs. A multifaceted approach is required to make the tools above work. In other words, L&D professionals must be partners to directors, managers and other employees. Working together to identify needs and then delivering in sync is far more effective than a scattergun approach to learning.
Overall, an effective L&D strategy can help companies get the most from all of their workforce. The ability to identify needs will become easier with more data. But, at the same time, companies need to know what to do with that data. But, that discussion is for another blog.
An effective L&D strategy must be aligned to your organization’s missions and needs. Badly designed can cost time, money and talent… Feel free to reach out to me @tomscottmex on Twitter and http://www.linkedin.com/in/tgscott00