The 3rd Linked-In Workplace Learning report was recently released. Amongst the key findings was a widely expected increase in talent development budgets. Another trend: a 59% increase in budget spent on online learning compared to three years ago. The priority for most learning and development professionals is identifying and closing skills gaps and monitoring performance.
Learning Management System (LMS) platforms are a bridge between employers and employees. They are critical in helping organizations facilitate the learning of knowledge and skills their workforce needs. They are a key part in fostering organizational change.
LMS platforms are becoming ever more sophisticated. They are providing organizational leaders and L&D managers unique opportunities to tailor organizational learning experiences to meet current and future demands. Talent development decisions are made more regularly and managers need to react faster. Here are four ways LMS platforms will change SHRM decisions on talent development and management.
ONE: Live Data – Decisions in Real Time
One of the benefits of modern LMS platforms is data. Both large and small organizations have the ability to collect lots of data on performance and learning outcomes. SHRM and Learning managers can now access and mine this data for useful insights. Even more, this data is readily available in LMS systems and almost instantly exportable. Real-time is the new reality.
Rather than waiting for specified points of time in a year, organizations can get a real-time view of progress. Companies can almost instantly see if their talent is acquiring and understanding the knowledge and skills required. Directors and managers can glean insights quickly and efficiently and make adjustments to learning materials. They can also decide where more or less interventions are needed.
Working with data does come with significant risks, however. See my blog on the risks of data use here
TWO: Online Takes You to Your Employees
There is a definite increase in investment in online learning. Some of the benefits are obvious. LMS platforms make learning scalable at a fraction of the cost of in-person training and development. Online learning can be available 24 hours a day and learners can repeat until they acquire the knowledge of skills.
An LMS platform can be used to deliver training on a mass level like never before. Organizations with a global presence can now reach out to employees all around the world. They can also foster interaction between employees that previously was geographically impossible to achieve. Time-zones are no longer an issue to get people collaborating. This diversity can be beneficial in fostering talent pool development.
At Conversari, we helped one Fortune 500 company solve a huge headache: how to reach multiple people in multiple countries. My inspirational colleague Kellie Dundon pioneered the development of a 20 hour online course in soft skills for 100 employees scattered across Europe. The course was self-paced with some strategic deadlines.
It employed video on demand and included necessary assessments to monitor progress. The goal was to highlight the importance of customer experience (CX) and start developing basic practical skills to provide effective CX. The ROI was evident and the company delighted. Online learning can really work!
The evidence keeps piling up. I have personally developed online courses for organizations that reach out to over 10000 people across the globe. Companies are amazed at how they can reach such huge communities. The important thing now is to continuously embrace changes and make incremental improvements to learning materials.
THREE: Replace In-Person with Online or Not?
The benefits of using LMS platforms to deliver online learning experiences are clear. But, there are risks and I warn companies about moving totally away from in-person learning. Why? It can still be hard to replicate some of the experiential experiences and team-development that in-person training can provide.
Directors, Human Resource Managers and Learning Managers must make educated decisions about training delivery. The cost of online can be cheaper than in-person, but what about the return on investment? Some types of knowledge and skills are arguably better taught in-person in order to maximize ROI and business impact.
For instance, the soft skills required for sales, negotiations, presentations, consulting and leadership are complex. They are not easily learned just by reading a book, watching videos or answering a quiz. Roleplays and simulations are still worth their own weight in gold. The ability to practice with other human beings and get instant feedback from professionals and experienced peers is enormous. Thus, removing this type of training could be very costly. Organizations should never forget the value of humans and human interaction.
Therefore, my recommendation to HR managers and L&D professionals is to seek a healthy balance. Rather than it being an A vs. B (online vs. in-person) dilemma, turn it into an A + B vs. the problem (online and in-person vs. the problem). Working with global and local companies, the most effective strategies I have observed are a blend of different training modes.
FOUR: Now, Later or Never
Skills gaps are complex because they are so dynamic and sometimes hard to define. A company can have no skills gaps one day, but many the next. The market shifts so fast that sometimes skills gaps even exist before an organization knows an actual skill exists in the world. For example, how many people knew social-media skills would be needed until they were already miles behind the first movers?
One thing that LMS platforms (combined with other systems) can help with is making decisions on skills gaps. Workforce and People Analytics (data) provide valuable insights on what employees know and need to know. Managers can monitor performance and see what is happening. They can then observe current gaps and fill them. They can also look for potential future gaps and ensure these are filled before they appear.
SHRM decisions will be shaped by this ability to see skills gaps clearly. Companies can make the choice: “now, later or never”. The available data can be provided to managers across the business, not just learning managers. Strategic decisions on learning and development will not be made in isolation. Organizations may, for example, decide that it is better to recruit certain skills than to invest in developing internally. They can also balance short-term vs. long-term needs through strategic hiring of contractors.
What Are the Biggest Decisions SHRMs and L&D Managers are going to have to make?
Each organization is unique. The learning and development strategy an organization uses must be tailored to it strategic and operational goals. L&D managers, along with their peers and seniors in HR and other businesses areas, are in a unique position now. Never before has so much data been so readily available. Never has technology made facilitating learning and skill development so easy and flexible.
The trends in the marketplace indicate a shift one way or the other. But, the biggest decisions to make will be how to best align L&D to the organization’s needs, both today’s needs and tomorrow’s. It is vital that managers across the spectrum of the organization understand the role of learning, both online and in-person, in organizational development.
Don’t Leave L&D Out in the Cold – Promote Cultures of L&D
SHRMs and company Directors need to avoid seeing the learning and development department as independent part of the company. They should see it as a partner to the business. L&D managers should not be simply be taking orders from the business like a waiter in a restaurant. They should be engaging key stakeholders across the organizations, consulting and providing evidence-based recommendations on developing skills and knowledge.
The same applies when engaging a training and development partner. Rather than seeking someone to come in and simply fill a gap, let them help you identify the gap and suggest how to best fill it.
Many parallels can be drawn with innovation. Organizations used to think having an innovation team was the way to innovate. It rarely worked. The most progressive organizations now implement cultures of innovation throughout all their employees. They understand innovation occurs in many ways and from interaction between many different people.
The same applies with learning and development. Organizations should promote cultures of L&D, where a collective effort occurs to ensure skills and knowledge meets the demands of the marketplace. Where an L&D culture exists, learning new skills and knowledge will be an integral part of how the organization grows.
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