I have been following workforce learning trends for the last few years. Last year I wrote a blog on this topic. This was based on my observations as the moderator of the Learning Track at HR Tech Europe in Amsterdam. But a lot has changed in the last one year since I wrote about it a year ago. The workforce learning landscape is shifting rapidly. Here is how I would summarize the workforce learning trends for 2016:
- Self-organizing system
Today learning is part of a system which is organized and managed by the L&D function in organizations. This system includes curriculum design, train-the-trainer, calendarization of events, training delivery, assessments and several other components. All these get deployed by an army of L&D professionals including instructional designers, trainers, training co-ordinators, L&D managers and so on. However, such an organized system may become redundant in near future. With the rapid advancement of technology and emergence of new business models, organizations are struggling to keep pace with the changes. Their employees need to become agile and quick in learning new technologies, business models and acquiring new competencies. In future, organizations won’t have the luxury to go through the lead time of designing, developing, delivering and evaluating learning solutions. So learning has to become a self-organizing system where learners drive their own learning. A self-organizing learning system is characterized by self-paced learning, social and informal learning and collaborative learning.
- Figure it out
Action learning or experiential learning has been in practice for quite some time now. Organizations and L&D practitioners have been using this as a powerful learning tool. However, experiential learning in future is going to become even more radical. I recently met the L&D Head of an international Bank operating out of India. She told me that they send their high potential first time managers to a few villages in the suburbs of Mumbai for six months and ask them to solve the problems the villagers are facing there. Each identified manager goes to his or her assigned village, acclimatizes to the village environment quickly and then works on the assigned problem. The Bank doesn’t provide any training, coaching or mentoring support to these young leaders. These managers are asked to figure it out themselves. This is a radical shift in experiential learning itself. More and more organizations would display the courage to deploy ‘figure it out’ approach in near future.
- Analytics will shape learning
Big Data is making waves today. It is going to change the way we do business, take decisions, engage with customers and so on. Big data is going to have far reaching ramifications on learning too. Capturing, analyzing and leveraging big data for learning and development is still at its nascent stage. Today Data is more readily and rapidly available. It is accessible, and searchable and there are tools to help organizations get the most out of the data they gather. Imagine being able to correlate business performance results with your learning interventions. Today we can take advantage of Big Data to drive vibrant, responsive, relevant learning interventions that engage employees and lead better organizational performance.
- Neuroscience will influence Learning Strategies
In the past, scientists believed that the structure of the brain is developed during childhood and once it is developed, there is very little room for change. However, subsequent research has broken this myth. Scientists now know that the brain possesses enormous capacity to change: At the core of learning is change. Learning changes the physical structure of the brain and results in its organization and reorganization. Learning is always happening—consciously and unconsciously. Yet, when developing training for business environments, we spend most of our time focused on the content. We focus on what people should know rather than how they will learn. As a result, we fail to keep them engaged, and fail to help them transfer their knowledge into action. Understanding how the brain learns and how we can optimize its ability to learn is going to bring about path-breaking changes in learning and development. In recent times, this area has generated great interest among researchers, instructional designers and L&D practitioners. They are taking a serious and thorough look at what neurosciences offers us and carefully applying that to learning interventions in organizations.
- Shift in the role of the Learning Professional
Learning is increasingly becoming self-paced, social and informal. The Learner, not the instructor is going to be at the center of all learning activity. Does it ring the alarm bell for the L&D professional? Yes it does. The L&D professionals’ role in its current shape and form is going to disappear soon. The L&D professionals must foresee the future trends and adapt to the changes happening all around. In future, their role would shift from:
- Strategy enablers to Strategy accelerators
- Learning providers to Architect of Continuous Development
- Content Creators to Content Curators
- Teaching ‘skills’ to Building Effective ‘learning habits’
These five trends would influence workforce learning in 2016 and beyond. In the end, I am reminded of the words by Arie De Geus: “The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage.”