As human beings, we’re constantly learning and adapting to our environment, whether consciously or unconsciously. We learn through experience, by being exposed to different behaviors, and by taking advantage of learning and development opportunities that come our way.
As companies have come to realize, the current economy and workplace trends have made learning and development key to the training and retention of top talent.
Continuous learning is imperative for this new workforce. Employees at all levels expect dynamic, self-directed, continuous learning opportunities from their employers, but not all of them can deliver.
The Bersin by Deloitte Human Capital Trends report shows that, despite the strong shift toward employee-centric learning, many learning and development organizations are still struggling with internally focused and outdated platforms and static learning approaches.
The report also shows that, even though more than eight in ten executives (84 percent) in this year’s survey view learning as an important (40 percent) or very important (44 percent) issue, nearly every CEO and CHRO reports that their companies are not developing skills fast enough or leaders deeply enough.
The new workforce: highly educated but not trained
Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are increasingly becoming one of the largest groups in the workforce. Millennials are educated; by some accounts, they are the most educated generation in history. But all too often, they are not well-trained.
In many situations, it seems that Millennials lack the soft skills that would make them effective workers. This void often gets disguised by complaints about entitlement attitudes, conflicting motivations, or a simple lack of conditioning through experience in a given field.
Part of the problem rests in how degrees are packaged and advertised: typically, going to a university is sold as being key to getting a job. Few schools are nimble enough to keep their curriculum current with the latest developments in the field. The shelf life of a degree is much shorter than schools (or graduates) like to admit, and as employers know, even the freshest graduate has ground to make up in terms of turning that education into performance on the job.
For companies looking for a highly skilled workforce that can act as a competitive advantage, this should be a clear indication of the need for creating a learning architecture that supports continuous learning.
Creating a modern learning architecture
HR professionals often struggle with deciding what type of content to deliver, using which method, to get the best results. Should it be a general course, a training, a specific certification, or a workshop? And how will that contribute to employees’ motivation and engagement levels?
What would be the next step?
To ensure that your learning and development strategy can be successfully delivered, you need to create a learning architecture that aligns learning strategies with corporate objectives and leverages technology advancements.
It’s also important to dedicate resources, set the right expectations, and align your corporate culture with the goal of enabling employees to get the learning they need, when they need it, at every stage in their careers.
"A learning architecture is a framework you develop which gives your organization guidelines for the use of different types of media and delivery options for different problems.
In your organization, for example, all new product launches may require a 5 minute video from the product manager. All annual sales certification programs may mandate a 5-day in-person workshop. And all new customer service updates may mandate an online web-page which is fully searchable within the customer service portal."
Traditional models of learning fail to bridge the gap between employer and employee or to improve engagement and performance. eLearning courses and self-guided learning experiences have come to replace them, and enable the advancement of learning and development programs.
In the UK, for example, eLearning courses are expected to grow by 59%, while in-house development programs are anticipated to grow by 53% over the same period. (CIPD)
The types of media and delivery methods that would make an effective learning and development architecture, suitable to today’s workforce, rely heavily on technology:
“Developments in mobile learning technologies, followed by virtual classrooms and social media, are expected to have the greatest impact on the L&D profession in the next five years”.
Mobile, social, and web-based platforms that can deliver on-demand learning content are the capabilities that companies should look to develop in the next years.
These platforms will aim to offer learning experiences, provided by a cohesive learning architecture that enables tracking, measuring, and optimizing, based on real-time data.
It won’t be easy to shift from an internally focused, corporate-centric learning universe to a learner-centric one, where employees have control over their learning content and their schedule. But these experiences will be customized to each employee’s needs, proving to be much more effective than bulk, one-for-all approach learning programs that have worked in the past.