When it comes to the workplace, change is happening all around us. Organisations and their employees are seeing changes regarding who they work with, where they work and how they work. Whilst many of these changes have happened in the last decade, it’s during the last couple of years that we’ve seen change with such ferocity that it is affecting all organisations around the world.
Advances in technology and adoption rates have certainly helped fuel the changes; however, there are other factors that we need to consider. For example, the workplace is being heavily influenced by demographic changes. We are experiencing longer life expectancy globally, so people don’t want to retire when they reach a certain age. Instead, they want to stay in the workforce, contributing and developing. This means, that for the first time, we have four generations in the workplace that all have different expectations and values and therefore want to learn differently.
Organisations need to reimagine learning – how they deliver it, where they deliver it and when they deliver it. It’s also worth noting that when it comes to the demands of the workforce, these are changing too. When someone leaves a company, it is rarely about money. Instead, often training and development is cited as a leading factor, supporting the need for organisations to ensure the approach to learning, development and progression is the right one.
From the classroom to the Internet
When it comes to learning and development (L&D), historically there has been a mind-set that it’s only really ‘learning’ if it takes places in a classroom, with a trainer and an exam held at the end of the session or course. Whilst classroom learning will always have a place within L&D, organisations need to move away from it being their only or primary approach to development and realise that learning in today’s workplace has progressed.
Take Generation Y, for example. Born in the early 1980s and later, they are now in their 20s and are just entering the workforce. They are tech savvy, having grown up with technology constantly at their fingertips. Armed with smartphones and tablets, they expect this technology – which they use in their personal lives – to be available to them in their professional lives so they can perform better in their roles. They have the same expectations when it comes to learning. Sit them down in a classroom with just a trainer and paper handouts, and it’s likely they’ll “switch off” and not get the most out of the learning experience. Alternatively, provide them with a tablet and e-learning, and it’s likely you’ll see an engaged and productive group or individual.
This shift to digital learning has meant that today, one of the most important people in the training department is now the videographer. Their ability to capture insight and turn it into compelling footage that will inspire and educate people is now key to the delivery of learning. Gamification also has a role to play in the future of learning. Whilst organisations have been incentivising employees for years, the difference is that it has now gone virtual and also supports L&D. Breaking down the learning process so that employees can earn points, rewards or recognition for completing various learnings programmes, reviewing materials or finalizing concepts is a great way to capture people’s attention, motivate them and engage them in the learning process. However, organisations do need to be mindful that they aren’t just doing gamification for gamification’s sake. It’s also important that gamification is used strategically and links with the subject.
How long is too long?
Historically, training typically meant substantial time away from the frontline. A decade ago, before the Internet took off, it wasn’t uncommon for a training course to last a full week; however, in today’s 24/7 world, it really isn’t viable for someone to be away for such a long period of time. Also, it has to be questioned how much insight someone can retain over such an intense and long period of time.
Today, we are all time pressured, so when it comes to learning, we want our access to training and development to be quick and convenient This means that taking multiple days away from the office simply isn’t possible. Learning needs to be condensed. TED Talks lead the way when it comes to e-learning. Each talk is just 18 minutes long, which is long enough to be taken seriously whilst short enough to hold someone’s attention. The 18 minute length works much like the way Twitter forces people to limit the number of characters in a tweet. By applying the same theory to learning, training is focused on the key learning that needs to be communicated.
Also, the great thing about TED Talks is that they are virtual, so the insight can be easily shared, but more important, people can choose when they want to watch it. People lead busy lives, so learning needs to be flexible and not so time sensitive. Being able to watch a video on time management on your tablet whilst on the train is one way employees can ensure that they are continuing to learn, but in a convenient manner that fits in with both their work life and personal life.
The future is already upon us
L&D is pivotal to employees, employers and their futures. Both want to grow, but it can only happen with a clear and current approach to learning. We are experiencing many changes, which are only going to increase or come at us faster in the future. Learning needs to remain at the forefront and therefore, it needs to be delivered through the right approach for the individual, whether it is video, online or in the classroom, but also have the flexibility to be done at a time that works well for them. Employees rarely, if ever, want less training. By providing them with the opportunity to consume as much knowledge and skills as they want will only act as a positive, both in terms of retaining people but also engaging them.
To read more about re-imagining the workplace, see our paper here.