#SXSW: Future of Learning and Knowledge Share is Critical For the Dispersed Workforce

Attending SXSW? Join our special event called HRetreat. Network and learn with other HR & workplace pros as part on Saturday, March 10th. RSVP here

One of the biggest challenges for companies is that their workforces are becoming more decentralized. Managers are leading teams that are in different locations or they are remote. This makes communication challenging as we get less face time with team members and organizational leaders, but also it makes learning, and development equally challenging.

In Josh Bersin’s most recent report, “HR Technology Disruptions for 2018,” he says that – as standardized training must include remote employees – a new breed of corporate learning tools has arrived, and companies are snapping them up quickly.

The Evolution of Workplace Learning and Experience Platforms

These include the “experience platforms,” a new breed of “micro-learning platforms,” modernized LMS systems, and that recommend learning, find learning, and deliver learning. Virtual reality-based learning is now alive and well, and we expect to see smarter and smarter technologies to help us find “just what we need” along the lines of performance support. And you can now buy systems that let employees publish and share content without any major effort on your part.

Companies like Paycom have developed learning management systems that allow organizations to offer self-directed and online training, a must when remote teams are part of your workforce. Says Jessica Melo, Paycom’s Executive Sales Director of Training, “classroom-based training can be impractical and expensive for employers to implement. Among other things, there are instructor costs, venue costs and course material costs to consider with traditional training. For these reasons, more and more employers are turning to online learning solutions.”

Melo adds, “when you give people the opportunity to learn and become better, it gives them confidence. Great learning organizations help to maximize their employees’ learning potential. Learning is a perk; people want skills they can use in their everyday life.”

This topic is now the #2 topic on the minds of CEO and HR leaders. The 2017 Deloitte Human Capital Trends research discovered that 83% of companies rate this issue important and 54% rate it urgent up 11% from last year. In this world of automation, business transformation, and continued obsolescence of skills, companies are realizing that delivering on a compelling, digital learning experience is critical to business success.

Learning and development needs to be planned, deliberate, and a combination of driven by the individual and their interests, but with the goal of the organization in mind. Online training allows employees time to be curious for self-directed learning, but also focused on the larger organizational goals and workforce planning directives.

Consider how quickly corporate learning has evolved. In only one generation we have gone from traditional corporate universities to e-learning, blended learning, talent-driven learning, and then continuous learning. Tools like Google, YouTube, Workplace by Facebook, Slack, and others have totally changed the learning landscape, so our job now is simply to “deliver learning to where people are.”

For many years HR and L&D professionals focused on the Learning Management System (LMS) as the center of corporate training. These platforms were designed around the traditional content model, using a 17-year-old standard called SCORM (the technology developed by Boeing in the 1980s to track CD Roms). However, LMS systems tend to be very hard to use, there are often thousands of courses to look for, and most employees simply find them of limited value (except for mandatory or compliance training). Companies spend millions of dollars on these systems and to find that employees don’t use them is a painful process.

In the days of SCORM we could only really track what you did in a traditional or e-learning course. Today all these other activities are trackable using the X-API (also called Tin Can or the Experience API). So just like Google and Facebook can track your activities on websites and your browser can track your clicks on your PC or phone, the X-API lets products like the learning record store keep track of employees’ digital activities at work, whether remote or on-site.

Types of Learning

Microlearning” is comprised of day-to-day education and shorter courses (less than 10 minutes). Watching a 10-minute video, reading an article, following a tutorial…all of these are microlearning activities.

From Bersin by Deloitte: “Early in a role, we need ‘macro learning’ to get started: understanding the job, the domain, the people, the systems. As we progress up the learning curve, we need continuous injections of new skills, information and connections to proceed – until we become an expert. Then we tend to become the “coach” and we teach others, moving in a more horizontal way, until we reach the next level of proficiency, role, or promotion to energize our career. At that point we may need another ‘macro learning’ intervention to go back up the learning curve, or if we fail we may actually get bored and leave.”

If you want to learn all about SEO, or digital marketing, or cyber-security, or the new sales methodology – you are going to have to commit some time. The content may be a MOOC, a series of small videos (ie. Lynda.com, Udemy, etc.), or an instructor-led program that includes simulations, group discussions, and exercises. While we used to call these “courses,” in the context of digital learning they are simply “macro” in size, and they should be designed for use in special ways.

This includes vendors like Coursera, Udacity, EdX, Udemy and libraries of content like BigThink, Lynda.com, SkillSoft, General Assembly, Pluralsight, CrossKnowledge and hundreds of others.

Developing Employee Coursework

If we consider the new world of learning content (micro and macro), how do we build an architecture that teaches people what to use when?

The good news is that developing employee coursework is easier than ever before, and the various platforms make it easy to adapt to each employee’s role, aspirations, and learning style. Bersin suggests the following when developing coursework:

Simple is better. Training in your learning library can be tagged informational (type 1), instructional (type 2), or expert-level (type 3). This simple framework helps employees find what they need wherever they are and gives your company the ability to organize content for easy discovery by employees.

We also recommend a system for learning that includes the team, particularly when it comes to remote employees. Hubspot does a great job of tracking its training certifications so that all team members are aware of who has completed which course – and also allows employees to find a more experienced team member as a course mentor if needed. Rewards for completing coursework are always great incentives for training-reluctant employees.

With the “all-things-online workforce,” this type of coursework can adapt easily for remote employees and teams.

Attending SXSW? Join our special event called HRetreat. Network and learn with other HR & workplace pros as part on Saturday, March 10th. RSVP here

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

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