Trends Influencing Tomorrow’s Work and Workplaces
A recent customer survey by the corporate executive education specialist, Headspring, has revealed six major learning technology-fueled trends that are changing the workplace and the entire world of work and business communications. Writing about the survey, Headspring’s Digital Content and PR Manager, Bevan Rees, identifies these as:
While making digital learning content accessible on mobile devices continues to lead L&D trends, accessibility alone is insufficient. A positive user experience (UX) is key to ensuring that the content does its job. This UX must reflect and build upon mobile-compatibility’s ability to make microlearning possible and content consumption feel familiar for learners.
Hemsley Fraser’s Director of Innovation, Lynsey Whitmarsh, believes, “The key to the future of learning and development (L&D) is ensuring that learning content is delivered on any platform with mobile in mind. But this learning content must also give the user the best experience possible. It’s got to be better than anything else you have.”
Caroline Ford, Group Head of Learning at Thomas Cook, believes this is critical to talent development and retention of the ‘best people’.
Designing learning interventions should always be human-focused and user-centric. This humanised content meets people where they are, speaks to them in familiar ways, and solves problems that are important to both them and the organisation.
Humanising learning requires a broader, more intentional understanding of learners’ needs. Within this concept is the understanding that work and learning are fundamentally intertwined in the workplace.
In everyday organisational life, nothing happens in isolation. People may be coming to work worried about how to pay their mortgage, or how to choose the best school for their child. They might be struggling with their mental health. Work performance will be compromised by some of these things. So, L&D activities should support learners to improve their life performance, not just help them during their working life.
Rebecca Robins, Global Chief Learning and Culture Officer at Interbrand, argues that, “Technology needs to constantly look at the day-to-day human problems it’s solving.”
At Interbrand, this philosophy has driven the creation of a unifying platform that operates across performance, career development and learning. It makes links between an individual’s career ambitions and aspirations, and the learning and inspiration that can support and accelerate those ambitions.
Similarly, at Hemsley Fraser, the digital amalgamation of learning and communication services within the organisation has increased engagement by almost 200%.
Increasingly, L&D is moving towards personalised, recommended and shared content.
Jeremy Auger, D2L’s Chief Strategy Officer, believes that learning technologies’ next big trend will be continuing professional development (CPD) through learning experiences custom-fitted to each individual. He says, “These pathways take into consideration each learner’s strengths and weaknesses, to truly tailor the experience. In addition, today’s learners crave continuous feedback, not only from their managers, but from peers and subject matter experts. Using learning technologies can improve the delivery of timely and meaningful feedback.”
Auger comments that the development of automation, artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning (ML), 5G wireless and cloud technologies are driving more personalizd learning experiences. In turn, this is changing future skill requirements. He says, “Disruptive technologies mean the half-life of certain skills will shorten. They may no longer be in demand, nor applicable.”
Believing that blockchain plays an important role in a shifting skills landscape, O’Reilly’s Chief Learning Experience Officer, Karen Hebert-Maccaro, says, “Blockchain’s potential for secure, transferable, non-alterable record keeping will help create an interoperable ‘transcript’ that can follow a learner across organisations and stages of life. This will create a space where credentials, upskilling and reskilling efforts can be accessed and verified – benefitting the organisation and, simultaneously, the individual.”
Additional technologies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are important in personalized learning, delivering an immersive experience that’s both common and unique to every user.
4. Data Capitalisation
Digital tools are helping L&D professionals see data as a major asset in delivering higher quality services. Lynsey Whitmarsh says, “With better data science, we’ll see key data that explains what learners and individuals in organisations are looking for.”
Data sustains technologies such as AI and ML. It’s the key to responsive, customised programmes that elevate the individual human experience.
“Modern learning platforms offer the ability to quantify human behaviour and learn through analytics,” says Jeremy Auger. “This can help businesses track and understand engagement and performance in the workplace which, in turn, helps them make better onward decisions about L&D.”
A mature digital learning ecosystem can become a self-authored tuition field in which individuals and groups co-create learning opportunities. Decentralised content creation and knowledge sharing will redefine the role of L&D, freeing L&D professionals to focus on facilitating a learning culture that’s human-centric, integrated, personal, data-rich and collaborative.
Auger comments, “With modern learning platforms supporting user-generated content and peer-to-peer learning, there could be a shake-up in L&D’s internal process. Faster knowledge sharing and expert participation in the development process, spurred by more accessible content creation, sharing and discovery tools, wrests some control away from L&D groups and distributes it to a wider variety of contributors across the company.”
Hebert-Maccaro predicts there may also be opportunities to restructure learning areas to include more technically-savvy individuals, or to build internal partnerships across the organisation between L&D departments.
Dina Álvarez, Head of Culture & Talent at everis UK, believes that technology has a powerful role to play in cultivating a learning culture but also argues that, “Before introducing technology, we must prepare our organisations, and develop the appropriate learning mindset. Without this growth mindset and an underlying belief in their own potential and intelligence, workers won’t have what they need to develop themselves and their careers.”
“We know that strong brands grow from within,” agrees Robins. “They invest in their people as their greatest asset and see learning as culture. One of the greatest obstacles to adoption is company culture. You can use the most sophisticated technology but it’s irrelevant if the only mandate in your business is to tick some anodyne hygiene factor.”
“Business leaders must instil a lifelong, engaging learning culture to future-proof their employees if they’re to thrive in the digital workplace,” says Jeremy Auger. “There’s a need for a new learning culture – one that both compliments and befits this ongoing technological revolution.”
It’s in culture that collective human values are played out. Technology is merely a tool for stifling or liberating these values. When organisations value L&D as pathways to sustainable growth and success, amazing transformations – digital and physical – become possible.