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  • Writer's pictureMarkus Fendrich

Where learning needs to go

A bold approach to finally center learning around the learner

The traditional approach to workplace learning no longer works - if it ever did

702010 - Towards 100% Performance, Jos Arets, Charles Jennings and Vivian Heijnen

Reading time: 11 minutes

Innovation, culture, performance are largely depending on continuous learning and collaboration. Learning at the same time is ready for a step forward. New approaches and digital come into the space and classroom lost its leading place a long time ago.

23% faster time to market through increased collaboration and peer-to-peer interaction using a messaging platform compared to use of email.

Mary Meeker’s 2018 Trends Report

So, what is the future of learning and how reachable is this future today? We need a revolution: stop thinking tools, process and systems! Think learner first and then figure out the rest. What is needed to put this in place and what does it do then? These questions were guiding this research and discussions with friends, researchers, colleagues, Learning and IT specialists.

For this article, I have researched dozens of latest white-papers. I help organisation with their learning needs and as I recently supported a global multinational to develop their new learning strategy I went through latest research and data on learning trends. An earlier industry trends was offering advanced learning solutions: smart learning combined with virtual training and with social and on the job training: the future application of 70:20:10. But this is not enough. With the approach described in this article we take learning to a next, bold level, building on the smart learning approach.

This article is for everybody who is interested in learning, integrated approaches, digital and large-scale solutions in organisations.

What brought us here

Since a while there is a lot of thinking about the next level of learning. Often this is very tool, systems and content focussed. It is often geared towards finding a slightly different way to get a bit more of employee attention for learning content in a busy workplace. It is about new ways of organising or presenting content somehow different, so it gets more attractive or easier to access.

There is broad agreement that a solution needs to be simple and future proof. But where is the learner in all of this and what does the learner want? Each one of them. True personalised learning is one of the key words. The next problem is then to give the right content, at the right time and checks it did what it was supposed to do.

In the past content and delivery were often set and the learner had to bend around it and accommodate own preferences to it. Today this can be easily reversed using technology.

Over time technology like e-learning added a touch of modern to the learning world, but only until e-learning was often done during TCs as side activity. Then massive content followed and still today we struggle to find the right one easily. MOOC’s are great, but there is also research showing a low 5% completion rate: the initial enthusiasm is somehow greater than the motivation to complete. Today the “Netflix” of learning is about channels with learning content based on learner’s preferences. This is better, but how much is the learner asked about what they really need and want?

1 Billion people use YouTube to access Learning content every day. 70% to solve work problems. Learners want stimulating, engaging learning content just in time and at the point of need

Mary Meeker’s 2018 Trend Report

Whilst the different learning areas between SOP and Leadership, between micro-learning and re-certification all differ in content and approach, they cannot be seen in isolation. All learning contributes to a company culture and performance. If you ask for “read and understand” then don’t expect “read and apply and coach others”. So, it becomes clear learners need to be engaged and involved to move learning to the next level.

68% of employees prefer to learn at work, 58% of employees prefer to learn at their own pace, 49% of employees prefer to learn at the point of need. Learning is the Nr. 1 Talent Management Challenge for 2018, yet 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development.

2018 Workplace Learning Report, LinkedIn Learning

A “pull” approach is somehow different. Not content or system or tools are the center, but the learner and the individual learning preferences, individual development and career needs. First this is defined and then systems and tools have to adapt to this need, not the other way around. This allows the learner to be at the personal best which leads straight to higher engagement, satisfaction, a healthier culture and increased business performance.

With this, the organisational learning function just became more than a function that sets up curricula, courses, and delivers some of them. They do more than administration and compliance. They become the link between the company strategy and how to execute it. They are innovators, collaborators, deeply embedded in business and still centrally connected. They are also responsible for the learning experience. Like HR they need to transform, but not to business partners: to business. Today nobody would think about Strategy being a business partner. They are driving and developing business. That is where the learning function needs to aim for.

Learning is experience. Everything else is just information.

Albert Einstein

Imagine the following scenarios

Matrix every day - immediate knowledge when you need it

You are at work and you are asked to deliver something quickly that you have not done before. Yes, you can google, but that means a lot of data and you need to filter which takes time. Instead you go to your smart learning portal. Its AI lets you access external content on this topic that is already ranked and rated by your colleagues. You have at the same time access to your best practice and content from all learning programs from your company on this topic. Plus, if you do not find what you need, there are some internal experts on this topic available and you can easily see when they are available for a quick chat. There might even be some external experts

Build your career

You are about to make an investment and change your career path by adding a new skill. You need a virtual course that takes you from where you are to the required level. The smart learning portal helps you to make the right choice, first based on your current and your desired proficiency level. Then, based on feedback of colleagues who were there before, the portal proposes courses that fit best your needs and preferences. The smart learning portal helps you to complete the course: it encourages you like your apple watch does today for your fitness. It brings your manager and peers in and asks them to support you. For example, it reminds them, that as a learner you need encouragement and positive reconfirmation. It sets them up to provide regular positive support, so they help to bring your learning progress to the job and to the team in a rewarding way. It can also set you up with peers that have gone already through the same experience, so you can get some peer coaching easily. The portal can also set you up for a gamified experience around your learning so it raises your intrinsic motivation and creates some fun. The smart learning portal translates your individual learning experience into a rewarding, social experience – should you agree to this. The portal can also cluster core internal content and once you completed it, certify you on it. For sure external certification is also possible.

Nudge your development areas

During your work day, you sometimes think about your development needs. There are the ones that you agreed with your manager and are visible in the system and there might be a few more that you just keep working on for yourself. Your smart learning portal keeps your privacy exactly to the level you agreed to, so you can trust to track your development progress for you and sends you regular nudges and input based on your preferences. This helps to embed learning on-the-job in an easy way. If you want, you can also access the library with much more content. You can let it send you over the coming weeks digestible pieces of what you have selected. All of this is always supported by follow up action to embed learning, like nudging or a bringing learning in a social context.

True diversity and inclusion during the workday

You are going with your team into a meeting on a certain topic. Just before the meeting, the virtual learning portal automatically sets each of you up with slightly different 1 minute input. This content is specifically selected for you. It could be for example a question, a quote or a short video. This input gives each meeting participant a different angle on the topic and enables everybody to contribute during the meeting and allow a rich and diverse discussion. It could be that you have been assigned for example with different views to take in the meeting. It could also be that your own development needs trigger a nudge to explore a certain behavior that you are to develop and could experiment with during the meeting. As always there is a very quick poll showing up on your mobile phone afterwards that asked you how it went and this will influence what happens next time.

Finally impactful engagement

You are leading a project for a new cultural approach in your company. Typically, you drive this through communication, awareness programs, posters, flyers, emails, workshops etc. It also typically a lot of work with a significant budget behind. Whilst today this is often the way to do this, nobody really knows how successful it is. Instead, you can now access the smart learning portal and see what the summarised learning preferences of the employees are. You can then produce tailored content, messages and formats that exactly fit what the associates like. At the same time, you can easily get their instant feedback on the content and messages. You will tick an additional box in the menu that adds the option of nudges over 12 months that will help associates to embed the new culture in their daily business. A wizard guides you through the process. Further you have the ability to automatically include these nudges not only in individual messages but into meetings on the topic and in regular team workshops at all levels of the company: participants are set up with specific input and questions to stimulate behaviors and discussion at such events and bring the new culture to reality in short time and as a pull approach.

Change is the result of all true learning

Leo Buscaglia

Very few and very advanced LMS do some of these things already today. But this approach is bold when it comes to

- Highly personalised: based on who you are and what you do, the tool feeds you what you need for development, satisfaction and engagement, in the way you want

- Integrated: combining Knowledge Management, Talent Management, Organisations Development, Culture, Retention, Communication and Learning in one place

- Engagement: taking emotional care of the learner: individual encouragements but also engaging the learner’s environment for success, amplifying motivation through application of gamification and games

- Impact: bring the learning on the job, in the social environment, in the real world, in bit-sized pieces, for example via nudges, works with all kind of learning content and approaches

- Collaborative: bringing experts and colleagues together to collaborate, experiment and learn

How will it work

This is not just an intelligent system that knows what you want, but also it knows what you need. This is AI that analyses what you need whilst respecting your privacy as much as you want. As it detects what you need and when, it then sends this to you in the way you like. This does not just work for new joiners or when you change role, but also during your regular working day or when you are on a project task-force.

It connects to your already licensed or to new external content. It learns and adapts as you go. But all in your control and as you like it. Sounds a bit like in the film Matrix, but it is more real than you think.

Neo: “Do you know how to fly that helicopter?” Trinity: “No - Tank: I need a pilot program for a V 212 helicopter… hurry”)

These options also bring us quickly outside the scope of classical learning approach as you see in the scenarios. Underlying is for example research that shows that you connect much more to something if you can influence it, by factor 5 actually. By having a choice and a voice to impact your future you value it much more. This approach does exactly that and therefore increase engagement.

What you need to make this happen

This is not a new tool. This will transform your company. As it is bending around the learner, the actual transformation is a positive one. The positive impact and experience for the learner will help with the adaptation.

Learning “culture” is something many companies are looking to develop. Learning as natural part of the role, curious employees that are ready to invest the time needed to develop, learning that happens every day. This is what this approach does. Learning becomes a natural part of daily activities, like during meetings, when working in teams and individually. Fully integrated, easy to access, easy to use. It can easily influence behaviors of an organisation as the system become the daily companion of each employee.

Any downsides? It is not a quick installation of a new tool: content is needed as a start but then content needs to be validated and sorted and rated by users. This takes some time.

The core though is, that this approach is targeting many crucial challenges of today’s organisations at the same time: driving a culture of collaboration, curiosity, exploration and collaboration and delivering on-the-job, social learning. Build on a tailored learning experience around the learner, providing access to selected content as needed in the situation.

Call for action

• Please share with me your experiences, hopes and success stories of enabling next level learning

• Any reactions, comments, ideas and also challenges are most welcome!

• If you would like to learn more about this article and the options behind, please contact me.

This article is also published in LinkedIn

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