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Engaging the 21st century workforce with an accessible approach to learning

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28th Oct 2015
Freelance writer Freelance
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Julian Wragg gives us some advice for engaging the modern workforce in L&D.

From standing desks, to the rise of collaboration platforms like Box and Slack, we’re edging closer to working the way we want to perform to the best of our ability. And it’s not just about simplicity; the ‘I want it now’ generation has transformed the way we like to do things both inside and outside of the workplace. We want answers now, whether this is via voice search, instant translation, or productivity apps on the go. This thirst for immediate knowledge has altered the way we like to work. 

Technology is the key force for changing this behaviour in the workplace; take the way we research information as an example. YouTube is reported to be the second largest search engine and learning apps on-the-go like Duolingo are going from strength to strength. Despite this, too often training takes the form of a classroom setting and learning by rote. 

For many the classroom environment wasn’t entirely right for them in school, let alone in the workplace. The lag is certainly being felt by employees with numerous reports of employee engagement being at an all-time low, with HR engaging only 3% of staff according to Oracle. Coupled with an ever increasing skills gap, the time to act is now. 

The HR department can take the opportunity to analyse consumer trends and behaviours and take advantage of this to transform their learning and development strategy. Equally, employees need to be given permission to learn in a more flexible way. Continuous learning is key to personal growth and can become the driving force behind positive change for employees in their personal and professional lives.

Embracing snackable learning

Netflix, Spotify and sharing economy brands like Etsy and Airbnb, demonstrate that people thrive on variety, immediacy and making choices in line with their personal values. This trend isn’t unique to the B2C world and should be considered when investigating the motivations of your workforce and their preferred approach to learning. 

Today’s worker doesn’t need or expect a typical six-hour, classroom-based training course. They prefer learning anytime, anywhere, in the same way they’ve grown up consuming media and applications. 

Where employers can really engage with millennials and increasingly Gen Z is finding a way to also provide the mentoring, support and assessments they need to achieve the most from this bite-sized approach to learning. Forward-thinking organisations are embracing this by empowering staff to select the training that’s right for them, and this leads to greater relevancy and higher engagement for staff.

Anywhere learning  

Snackable learning should be taken in the most literal sense; ensuring that you can provide content that’s consumable on the go, anywhere and everywhere. From research, we know that more than 70% of people* consume learning outside of working hours, so there is high demand to develop skills on the sofa and in the local coffee shop. Mobile access is vital, enabling people to learn wherever they are, at the time that best suits them, and it turns out that isn’t always in the office.

Second screening to success

Learning on the go should be a sprint and not a marathon. Memories of all-night learning stints at school will give many the shivers and the same applies at work. While a day out of the office might seem like a welcome break, no one wants to spend a whole day receiving death by PowerPoint. It’s also questionable how much can be taken in and put into practice following a training session that might occur a few times a year. 

Instead, consider a ‘just in time’ approach to learning, where employees have access to on-demand, online courses when they need them. As a result, many workers such as developers and IT professionals prefer a second-screen approach to learning where they can select a section of training that’s relevant to a problem that can then be learnt and applied in real time.

Lifelong learning

Today’s workforce thinks of the here and now. Generation Y is often described as the ‘I want it now’ generation, but is that so bad? They want the skills and on-the-job training to develop fast and make an impact on the business. Learning and development professionals have the opportunity to facilitate continuous, lifelong learning, motivating and retaining staff. It will also ensure that staff are acquiring new digital skills to adapt to the changing market landscape. This new approach to learning will ensure your company feels like a 21st century workplace whether your staff are in or out of the office. 

*Pluralsight customers

Julian Wragg is Director of Pluralsight

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