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The future of learning – a reimagining

Building critical skills and competencies is the number 1 priority for heads of L&D, rising to the top, due to digital disruption and compounded by the challenge of declining discretionary effort. Digitalization is critical for organisations, with up to 87% of senior leaders recognizing this as a matter of urgency and looking to HR to build the capability required to achieve these aims. (Gartner)

As HR searches for ways to bridge the skill gaps hindering the realisation of digitalisation, the question they are attempting to answer then becomes “how do we build critical skills at pace with low energy?”

The answer lies in a reimagining of learning.

As the skill gaps become increasingly apparent, it becomes clearer that traditional approaches will no longer suffice.  Instead they only serve to increase the level of exhaustion and overwhelm what is currently experienced. This is recognised by 79% of HR leaders, who feel that their current ways of developing talent will be ineffective in enabling the organisation to meet strategic objectives. Thus, doubling down on traditional learning strategies aimed at building continuous learners will only result in a lower return on investment and a widening skill gap. Research shows that our effort to drive continuous learning is decreasing our skill preparedness in most cases by up to 22%, whilst hastening the decline of discretionary effort (Gartner). To adequately address these challenges, we need to heed the call to rethink our learning strategies and develop more effective ways to achieve our sought-after results. Today’s learning challenges cannot be addressed using outdated methods, we need to reimagine learning and make bold moves to achieve our desired results.

This re-think of learning should extend beyond needs identification through to design and delivery and must include the re-imagining of how best to leverage intelligent technology. It requires a careful combination four key components; Organisation Centricity, Learner Centricity, Discovery, and Measurement.

Organisation Centricity

 The starting point is understanding which competencies employees will need in order to realise the benefits of digitalisation, a deficit most HR executives admit to. Human performance is underpinned by competence; thus, a competency is an attribute embodied by an individual that contributes to successful job performance and thereby the realisation of the organisation’s strategic aims. To appropriately identify the required competencies organisations need to extend their analysis beyond the customary and instead take a theoretical and empirical approach.

Learner Centricity

The use of intelligent technology allows us to develop increasingly learner centric ways to deliver learning and offer increasingly personal learning to individuals at scale.  The digital age is realizing the ambitions envisioned by e-learning, by allowing users to “pull” relevant content and thus enabling learning to be less than one-click away.

Discovery

To increase engagement, learners need to drive their learning; appropriately! This means that they need to have a good understanding of the competencies they need in order to be successful as well as a view to their competency gaps and development needs. This will allow them to self-direct their learning appropriately. This self- knowledge then guides the learner to discover appropriate content. Currently we are seeing a rise in the development of Learning Experience Platforms (LxP’s), platforms that enable the discovery process i.e. they facilitate the discovery of learning content in an increasingly learner centric fashion. There has also been a shift within these platforms to make recommendations on content based on previous searches or listed areas of interest. In our view, although these platforms have enhanced access and uptake of digital learning, without the learners having a robust understanding of their learning gaps in context of a relevant and future focused competency framework these LxP’s will only serve to make “click based’ recommendations, which may still yield a low return on investment.

Measurement

Measurement is key, and through intelligent technology we can track learning beyond just “bum-on-seat” or attendance-based metrics. The power of the analytics we have today increases our ability to make effective decisions about learning at both the individual and organizational level. For the first time we can track metrics such as: progress toward gap closure; quality of learning content; and intelligent identification of immediate and future developmental needs. Today’s technology provides an opportunity for us to measure our return on learning investment, whilst allowing us to be proactive, flexible and responsive in how we develop and deliver learning.

Over the next four articles I will be exploring each of these four elements in greater detail. Providing you with an example of how we have chosen to combine these, case studies of where they have been effectively applied, and of course reviewing the success we have had in implementing this combination. I hope you will join me on this journey and I would welcome your feedback as we – together – Reimagine learning.

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