Does anyone remember how hard it was to answer a question before the internet? It was a bit like an old episode of ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’ – you could ask the audience (i.e. the people who happen to be in the room with you) or phone a friend. Now, of course, we Google any question and we get the answer within seconds.
The same is true within organisations. If we have a training need, there’s a YouTube video to click on to answer any question we might have. We don’t wait for an invitation to a training course any more.
All of this has had a fantastically positive effect on learning, training, and – yes – answering TV quiz questions. But it doesn’t always mean we can step back and let employees get on with it: in fact, at the recent Raytheon Symposium, someone described it as being “flooded with information”. Simply leaving it to employees to find what they need to learn is not the answer. Some kind of quality control mechanism is needed.
Learning on demand. Good or bad?
To engage learners, corporate learning needs to move closer to an ‘on demand’ model. But how and what we provide becomes crucial. At the Symposium, entitled ‘Enabling Learning for Maximum Impact’, we heard the latest research by Towards Maturity, based on feedback from 7,000 learning professionals and 50,000 learners over the last 15 years. It shows that technology has not replaced formal classroom learning, which still accounts for 53% of workplace learning. However, while 63% of learners still find classroom courses very useful, the vast majority (94%) want to be able to learn at their own pace.
Learning ‘on demand’, or at your own pace, is something that technology facilitates. We can now give learners a range of options about what, when and where to learn.
Technology does not replace face-to-face learning but supplements it. For example, you can use YouTube, video games and other technologies to increase engagement. In a similar way, ensuring that learning continues once a course is over is about building habits of learning back in the workplace: you can use technology, even AI, to nudge learners to keep on learning.
Align learning to business strategy
L&D professionals are often wary of working with external suppliers, but they need to recognise that some suppliers are specialists – they are constantly designing their training and learning solutions and programmes around the learner’s needs – which is a goal of all L&D teams.
With the help of carefully curated content and micro-learning, we can align learning strategy to business strategy. One specific learning medium or method cannot provide all the answers: the focus instead should be on choosing the right mix of resources, both internally and externally, for the right outcomes for each individual learner. Technology can only give us the answers if we ask the right questions: we need to ask ourselves what we want as businesses, and how we can deliver them as L&D professionals.