With the skills gaps an ever-growing concern, businesses are putting corporate learning back on the agenda. But what needs to be prioritised by L&D to ensure success?
There is no question anymore: the lack of relevant skills is consistently cited as a critical issue that can directly impact business growth. Fears of lost revenue, poor customer satisfaction and losing out to the competition stalk the boardroom.
The result is learning and development taking greater prominence in business planning, especially as the automation transformation takes hold. The pace of change is quickening and the role of the L&D director has become increasingly recognised as business critical.
The question is, in 2019, what strategic priorities should we focus on to develop the skilled employees needed given the accelerating pace of change that faces all companies?
Ability to build flexible training programmes
Flexible working is increasingly a demand from employees – three quarters say flexible working would make a job more appealing and nearly a third would prefer flexible working to a pay rise.
Employees increasingly expect workplace flexibility and this is only going to increase, with millennials seeing it as more important than older generations. L&D is no different – flexibility is becoming critical to delivering effective employee training programmes, through any-time, anywhere learning.
This is a real opportunity for L&D directors to take courses away from the classroom, meeting room or the computer and empower employees to take ownership of their personal professional development.
Allowing the learner to proactively manage their personal learning experience in their own time and in different ways – from mobile content to peer-to-peer and experiential learning – has to be the starting point for any L&D strategy in 2019.
The digitised L&D programme must not straight-jacket the training experience through forced engagement with generic content.
Think mobile-first content
Flexible learning requires flexible content and mobile-device enabled, on-the-go learning is now a go-to demand from employees. According to research by UK telecoms regulator Ofcom, the average adult spends nearly three hours a day on their phone, rising to four hours for people under 25.
Given the sheer amount of time spent on mobile devices, it’s a no-brainer for employers to focus on mobile-centric training programmes and course content to capture employees’ attention when and where they want.
A mobile-first approach to content, utilising the latest learning software, is capable of giving employees access to the same resources and navigation as traditional learning platforms, but in a much more user-friendly way.
Mobile-enabled content – from video to podcasts to gamification – is all about increasing engagement and has to be at the center of the learning experience, not the periphery.
Remember the value of experiential learning
As corporate learning becomes increasingly digital-led, it’s easy to lose sight of the value of learning through direct engagement and experience.
This misinterprets the value proposition of the virtual L&D environment – it should enhance the real-world learning experience to drive continuous autonomous professional development.
We know that around 70 per cent of professional learning results from informal, direct experience, with just 10 per cent from formalised organisational training.
The digitised L&D programme must not straight-jacket the training experience through forced engagement with generic content but instead help employees become more self-reliant, providing easy access to a range of systems and personalised resources that provide the right support to augment direct real-world experience.
As the automation transition takes hold in 2019, it will be vital to remember the value of human experience in the training environment.
It’s more important than ever for L&D professionals to act today to embed flexibility, technology and a human-touch.
The year of artificial intelligence
At the risk of appearing contradictory to that point on human experience, embedding AI within the corporate learning experience is the priority for L&D in 2019.
It is the key to unlocking the value of flexibility, mobility and personalised engagement and skilling the workforce for the AI-led workplace – a reality that is coming far quicker than many people expect.
For the L&D professional, the opportunity is enormous – automating laborious tasks like course catalogues and content tagging; opening up radically new capabilities to develop immersive, personalised learning experiences; and analysing learner engagement to micro-target content.
AI-driven learning programmes intrinsically know what kind of training the individual learner needs and which formats they engage with, ensuring a far better learning experience than any other user interface.
The more data the AI processes, the more it learns about individual learner needs, turning the learning platform into a continuous improvement engine that grows alongside the learner. No longer does the L&D director have to determine what works and what doesn’t.
As the automation transformation really takes hold in 2019, it’s more important than ever for L&D professionals to act today to embed flexibility, technology and a human-touch that will ensure a workforce equipped for tomorrow.
About Oliver Barber
Oliver is a 19-year veteran of the L&D software industry. He is a keen proponent of AI and how it will affect not only the learning industry but all industries. He focuses on training and talent management software platforms, with a detailed level of industry knowledge and an understanding of what businesses want from L&D programmes.