TRENDS FOR THE FUTURE OF LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT by Yvette Renda, Director of People Development
As a trainer at BPA Quality, I like to keep on top of current thinking in my area, and so it was with interest that I read a report recently released by the Brandon Hall Group – a think tank specializing in theories of workforce management practice*.
The report highlighted that – in today’s world – organizations that fail to adjust their learning management practices and solutions often struggle with organizational growth as well as productivity.
As a result, forward-thinking companies are abandoning traditional methods of learning in favor of more effective solutions that engage talent and improve performance. And although the report focuses on the use of new technology to improve training outcomes, I found that some of the non-technological aspects were also quite interesting. After all, not every organization can immediately re-purpose all aspects of training strategy, tactics and materials to take advantage of cutting edge technology.
In fact, the aspects of the report that I was most interested in highlighted key trends affecting the future of enterprise learning and recommendations for selecting the right provider.
A number of key findings of the report jumped out at me:
* One-third of companies are increasing their budget for learning and development
* 41 percent of companies describe their culture as “Controlling”
* 59 percent of companies are leveraging social learning activities
Source: Brandon Hall Group 2014 Learning and Development Benchmarking Study (n=569)
Prioritizing the Individual
It is true that finding and keeping talent is no longer an HR challenge but a strategic business priority. Yet, the authors of the report found that most companies were unable to build lasting relationships with their employees in an effort to overcome these challenges. Instead of giving employees the tools needed to succeed, many companies feel threatened by their workforce and fearful of change. In fact, when asked to define their company culture, 41 percent of employees described it as “controlling”.
I agree with the authors that, with the emergence of a younger generation and the rise of the independent worker, companies must rethink their approach to talent and begin to prioritize the “individual”. I’ve found in my own work at BPA Quality that provision of a ‘peer coach’ to help new trainees apply the skills they’ve acquired in the workplace setting allows for an individualized approach rather than a ‘one size fits all’ ‘controlling’ model.
However, in my own view, for many companies this updated learning and development process is long overdue. Indeed, research shows that more than 50 percent of companies have revisited their learning strategy less than two times over the last five years and learning has remained, for the most part, stagnant. But the good news is that one-third of companies are increasing their budget for learning and development over the next 12 months.
With nearly 50 percent of these companies currently spending $100 per learner per year, it makes sense to conclude that companies need to become more strategic about their training programs and the type of learning experience offered by training enablers.
Although training is one of the most mature areas of talent management, it is also one of the most innovative. Yet making a decision to improve a learning management program and invest in a learning management solution is often a daunting challenge.
Happily, the authors offer some considerations that can help with this which I would recommend from my own training experiences at BPA Quality:
* Considering Adaptive Learning. Adaptive learning is a methodology that allows employees to learn at their own pace. Employees can be monitored individually and in real time to determine what learning approach will best suit their needs.
At BPA Quality we utilize this approach as can be seen in the afore-mentioned example of the provision of a ‘peer coach’ for new trainees to try out their new skills in the actual work setting under the guidance of their personal ‘peer coach’.
Personally, I’ve found that the Adaptive Learning approach allows employees to build confidence and overall expertise at their own individualized pace – and that this has positive benefits for both efficiency and long-term employee engagement, increasing productivity (a key metric of the report).
* Aligning with Business Objectives. It goes without saying that any training program should drive retention, engagement, and performance aligned with the organization’s business objectives. The authors were able to demonstrate that for those companies that did align learning and business priorities (48 percent), more than 70 percent were able to improve company revenue.
I happen to strongly agree with this and apply it in my own work. When I’m conducting training at our client sites every BPA Quality workshop that I conduct is based around the input, and expertise of the participants – from agent to management level training – and therefore keeps my training relevant to the participants, client environment and business objectives.
* Measuring Effectiveness. To determine if the learning strategy in place is driving business outcomes, companies must find a way to consistently measure its effectiveness.
This makes good sense to me, and at BPA Quality all team members participate in regular quality calibrations to ensure accuracy and complete understanding of their objectives and how they align with clients’ business objectives.
MY KEY TAKEAWAYS
Put the individual first. I totally agree that companies must shift the way they view employees and consider focusing on the individual and his or her unique learning needs. For some companies, this strategy may include aspects of adaptive learning; for other companies, it could mean a different communication strategy.
At BPA Quality we have always based our training around an Adaptive Learning approach, and in terms of other communication strategies I always keep an open mind. The changing dynamics of our marketplace demand no less.
*[Brandon Hall Group is an independent HCM research and advisory services firm that provides insights on Learning and Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development, Talent Acquisition, and Human Resources.]