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2020: Leadership in Learning in the Digital Age


The Beginning

The journey of corporate training and talent development over the past 20+ years has been a rocky one. For anyone who has worked in the space during this time, you’ll be all too familiar with just how quickly the changes took place as we tried to work out the ‘most effective’ (fastest, cheapest, easiest and successful) ways to train people. For most of us, keeping up with the latest trends has been exhausting, to say the least. It feels like we blink our eyes one minute only to discover that a completely new term (e.g. MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses) has appeared the next.


Sometimes it feels that fast.


It certainly hasn’t been an easy road on the quest for the most effective and engaging way to build capability. When we spoke to some of our own team about their experiences ‘in the early days’, it wasn’t surprising to hear that many of them were sent off site to educational institutions to undergo training – none, at all was carried out by their own organisation.


A far cry from where we are now.


The Internet When the internet arrived, we thought we had it all figured out – online was now the way forward! We stopped sending people off site and we created courses and put them online. Organisations could quickly see the savings and so it worked. For a while.


Until we realised that e-learning was boring and a case of click-next rather than the engaging, impactful options we now have available today. Technology was still developing and we heralded in ‘blended learning’ to combine face-to-face classroom training with other modes, not just online but where the transfer of knowledge took place outside of the classroom environment.


As technology evolved, so too did the appetites of learners.


The Onslaught Digital learning became more prevalent not long after, as videos and self authoring tools exploded on to the scene, making it incredibly hard for many L&D (learning and development) professionals to see the leaves from the trees. The content was housed online with organisations investing billions of dollars into learning management systems (LMS). Next came the rise of the LXP (learning experience platform), offering more personalised learning pathways and making the learning more employee driven.


As we reach the end of 2019, we are now seeing an increase in Capability Academies that address gaps in both technical and soft skill training e.g. McKinsey Academy has individual academies for each of its major consulting functions – Growth Academy, Operations Academy, Digital Academy etc.


Business leaders play a pivotal role in the success of these academies. They must identify crucial capabilities and design a strategy around these. This is THE most important part of the process that many organisations overlook when in fact everything should align with this strategy (but more on that later). Business leaders are responsible for managing the learning activities and resources (internal and external), with L&D acting as the facilitator.


The Answer Part 1 Many organisations have purchased an LMS and a catalogue of courses only to find that the take-up rate indicates a complete fail. The investment in some of these systems for an organisation can be hundreds of thousands of dollars and up – what a waste!


Rather than taking the time to identify the actual capabilities our organisations need to succeed, we’ve gone and slapped a whole lot of irrelevant content into the LMS and turned the learner away in the process. What happened to aligning learning solutions to business strategy? We need to 'get that right' to begin with.


That aside and on the positive, we are seeing many Artificial Intelligence (AI) or User Generated Content (UGC) solutions that give organisations the power to automate various content actions based on customisable triggers via data driven algorithms.


As a basic example, an employee arrives at work in the morning and 2 x 3-minute videos are ‘pushed’ through the learning portal to their mobile device. The learner watches the videos and then answers a series of questions which then determine the content to be delivered next, to that same individual.


But the buck doesn’t stop here.


The Answer Part 2 There’s still a need for the human touch. The role of business leaders in driving capability, is now more important than ever. We cannot rely on technology alone.


We engage regularly with senior leaders who play a critical role in identifying and prioritising, high value topics that are aligned to the organisations strategic goals and we work with them for the most part, not L&D, to create relevant learning tools that are fit-for-purpose for that particular audience. These ‘guiding’ leaders have an innate understanding of the roles and responsibilities required for their given capability area so it makes sense that they have input into the final solution.

The Tools

The digital tools your employees have access to today can be used for learning right now.

Many of us use Slack, Salesforce, G-Suite and Google in our daily work and there’s no reason why these cannot be leveraged for learning. Start by sitting down with your capability leaders and having the conversation. You might be pleasantly surprised by the ideas that surface. In this tech era, we’re having to adapt and flex constantly so it’s important to lean on and learn from each other.


Learning models and tools may come and go but one thing is for sure, digital is here to stay, so embrace it we say but not without the engagement and involvement of your business leaders.

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