Not Your Grandma’s Corporate Training

The tide has turned. Learning and development (L&D) used to be driven by compliance and managed through learning systems that assume instructor-led training is how people learn. Now, that’s been flipped. Learning is a two-way street, driving a new need for big shifts in mindsets, approaches, and technology that account for today’s diverse working styles and offer a win-win for learners and leaders alike.

The current state of learning technology.

Let’s stop talking about the future of learning and start getting ready. The way we work has already changed. Today, careers span 60 years (or more), yet the half-life of many skills is only five years.* L&D isn’t just in the business of training people to do a job anymore. Now, we need to continuously build and rebuild expertise, so our businesses and our people stay competitive.

“L&D can’t own detailed knowledge about the skills a diverse workforce needs, but employees can be empowered to share knowledge and take ownership for personal growth and development.”

McKinsey & Company, Learning at the Speed of Business, May 2016

Empowering workers to share their knowledge and take ownership of their own personal development requires some new and different tools, though. Although learning management systems (LMSs) are an essential tool for most L&D teams, they’re not actually designed for learning. They’re built to manage it. It’s right there in the name.

It’s no surprise, then, that study after study shows dissatisfaction with outdated systems that don’t meet workers’ or buyers’ expectations. The Starr Conspiracy’s report “The Enterprise Learning Buyer, 2014,” for example, found that, on average, L&D leaders give their existing learning technology an average Net Promoter Score (NPS) of -34 for learning technology (that’s a negative 34, in other words, very bad).

“… the area in which LMS solutions receive the poorest satisfaction rating is the ability to meet future needs.”

— Brandon Hall Group, LMS Trends 2015

And that’s because when it comes to learning systems, a consumer-grade user experience is just table stakes. What today’s workers really want — and what businesses really need now — is a way to seamlessly integrate all of their learning experiences and their data, no matter how or where they learn.

How the workforce learns:*

ask a boss or mentor
ask colleagues
search the internet
browse specific resources
search their employers’ learning systems
rely on L&D or HR departments

Smart buyers are looking to augment their LMS with other solutions.

Break through resistance.

Almost two-thirds of learning leaders admit their organizations are not ready for the near future of learning technology, according to ATD and the i4cp research.

So, what is holding organizations back? The top reasons for organizational resistance to change are:

Resistance to relinquishing — or sharing — control

Legacy L&D responsibilities need to adapt to learner-owned and -controlled, open, and collaborative learning environments. That means embracing self-directed and peer-to-peer learning and redefining the L&D function as systems integrators, content curators, and business partners.

Culture and change

Companies — in particular, executives, operational leaders, and managers — must balance the expectations of the changing workforce with organizational requirements, and offer dynamic career models and continuous learning opportunities. This will become critical to business success.

Learning strategy and priorities

Aligning solutions to needs, and keeping them aligned as things shift, is fundamental to any learning strategy. Organizations that don't prioritize accessible, up-to-date, and easy-to-consume training are well behind the curve.

Whether organizations are on board or not, change is here and now. We simply cannot know what we need to know to stay current, relevant, and to lead, using traditional ways of training and learning. Advances in technology, shifts in demographics and our knowledge economy, and the constant competitive necessity to upgrade workforce skills have already disrupted corporate learning.

Employees are taking charge — and that’s a good thing.

Your employees are already making their own decisions about their learning. They’re learning in all kinds of formats, from each other, and from resources found at the point of need. They don’t just need to learn continuously for the jobs they have today; they also want to be ready for the careers they aspire to tomorrow.

Advances in technology, shifts in demographics, and the constant competitive necessity to upgrade workforce skills are disrupting corporate learning. These forces are pushing companies to develop new ways to put employees in charge of the learning experience and foster a culture of learning throughout the organization. This year, the big change is a shift beyond internal programs aimed at developing people [toward] innovative platforms that enable people to develop themselves.

— Deloitte, 2016 Global Human Capital Trends

Today’s leading organizations address how they can help learners inside and outside the company. To achieve this, the smartest chief learning officers (CLOs) aren’t looking for an integrated, all-in-one system that “does it all.” They’re building and integrating ecosystems of complementary solutions that put learners at the center. These ecosystems still include traditional learning management systems, but now they’re complemented with a wide range of new technologies for content curation, delivery, video distribution, social learning, micro-learning, and mobile use. This creates a more agile ecosystem where technologies are connected via APIs that can be switched on and off, without disrupting the ecosystem and learner experience.

To future-proof learning and careers, organizations are beginning to rebuild their learning technology stacks — with interoperable tools, systems, and data all networked together to do core L&D jobs smarter, faster, and more cost-effectively. Welcome to the near future of learning technology.