It seems like every month there is some new app that emerges, some new system to adopt, or a new technology to learn. How does the saying go? The more things change, the more they stay the same. That is true for learning and development in organizations.
Employees want to continue to learn new skills and develop their competencies. That doesn’t change. But technology does. As research from Deloitte states:
“Employees at all levels expect dynamic, self-directed, continuous learning opportunities from their employers.”
It is the job of employers to keep up with technology in order to provide continuous learning best practices.
Technology trends in learning and development
In this report by Deloitte, fourteen Dutch-based multinationals participated in survey and interview research. The results from this research show that organizations vary a lot in which trends they practice, but that there are some main trends that most multinationals have in common.
The following trends are helping companies create a sustainable employable workforce and motivating them to become more innovative, adaptable, and client-oriented.
A big part of learning happens in the mobile space. Online learning using tablets, phones, and laptops allows learning to happen anywhere, at any time. This type of learning can be very important for companies and employees who use freelance employees. In a more gig-based economy, employees could live anywhere in the world, making mobile learning an important aspect of an organization’s L&D strategy.
Microlearning is similar to mobile learning, but microlearning is primarily done on phones and tablets. It also strays from the course model and delivers very small amounts of information like very short how-to videos or text-based instructions. Primer by Google is a good example of using small amounts of information to teach employees about marketing through a phone app.
In learning systems, gamification is the process of adding game elements to learning software. It uses research from neuroscience, motivation, and learning to create a learning environment with game elements such as story and immediate feedback. These elements can improve retention of information and improve engagement. Many employees from more recent generations have grown up with video games and mobile technologies. They will gravitate to this form or learning environment as opposed to more traditional ones.
Digital knowledge sharing
Part of the new learning landscape is that employees can help teach other employees through social media and other technologies. Encouraging employees to use forums and social media will help reinforce learning and help others find valuable learning opportunities.
In the past, many companies had trouble getting employees to use their social networks. As the nature of business changes, technology fills in the gaps. When employees live in various locations, social networks enable them to stay connected and share ideas. Many employees who are Millennials or members of Generation Z use social media more than they use email to communicate. Businesses can help this process by keeping their social networks and social media pages up-to-date and promote their use.
Informal learning technologies
Employers can support continuous learning through the incorporation of informal learning technologies like blogs, YouTube videos, wikis, and podcasts. These technologies can make learning an everyday aspect of the workplace. Video-based learning can also be useful for companies with limited L&D budgets. Videos are fairly inexpensive to make as HD cameras are on a variety of computers and mobile devices.
Content management systems
Companies can help make learning more accessible by creating management systems where learning content can be curated. These systems allow employees to find relevant information quicker and easier. Many companies are turning to cloud technologies in order to curate content and make it accessible everywhere.
Having a well-structured system also allows employers to create learning paths and connect learning to job skills. HR and management can see where employees need to gain skills and help direct them to certain content areas to help them progress in their careers and improve performance. An added bonus is that giving employees access to various types of learning makes them responsible for their own learning. This feeling can help improve engagement.
In the old L&D system, HR and management gave limited learning options at specific times. With changes in technology, learning has become more employee-centric. This means that employees want to learn what they want to learn when they want to learn it.
Similar to self-directed learning, individualized learning means that employers need to offer a wide range of learning options as not all employees will need or have an interest in a few select topics.
Individualized learning also takes into account an individual user’s skill level. Online learning systems are now designed to assess a learner’s strengths and weaknesses in order to provide the most accurate and pertinent information to them.
Many of the technologies found in the Deloitte survey have been around for many years and are still being developed and incorporated into companies to create best practices. There are also other technologies which are more recent but are making a big impact in learning and development, across the Globe.
One of the most recent trends in learning is immersive technologies. Some of these technologies are virtual reality (VR), like Google Cardboard and Oculus Rift. These allow learners to immerse themselves in any environment in real time. They could help teach employees how to react in dangerous or high-risk situations.
A similar approach is augmented reality. This technology uses the camera on a device to display digital images over the image of the real setting. Microsoft’s HoloLens has applied this technology to learning by displaying instructions on top of the image of the real world situation. Another, more common, use of immersive learning is the creation of 3D or virtual world learning games.
Creating continuous learning through technology
When searching for ways to incorporate technology into a continuous learning culture, the task can be daunting as there are so many options. Before looking at the next trend or the latest software, there are some basics that leaders can start thinking about to help them decide what types of technology would be best for their organizations.
Self – assessment
When preparing employees for continuous learning, employers can ask them to assess their skills. Self-assessments are a vital part in creating a culture or learning as they help employees see where they are in their skill development and motivates them to develop their skills:
- Social networks – Continuous learning requires that information is available almost everywhere and that employees can share knowledge and discuss what they are learning. This constant connection is maintained when companies are active on social media and have working social networks.
- Learning analytics – While it is useful to have employees assess themselves, it is also important to have a system of learning analytics in place. Tracking progress is an important step in helping employees and employers see what their strengths and weaknesses are.
- Cohesive structures – As part of creating a continuous learning culture companies need to assess the barriers and inefficiencies in their current learning system. It is important that when a new technology is adapted all the pieces are in place to make it as successful as possible.
- Blended learning – When planning the creation of a continuous learning system in order to increases the chances of success companies can blend technology with in-person learning. This in-person learning, in the form of advisors, coaches, or mentors, can help support the learning done with technology.
In order to encourage use of new technologies in learning, HR can offer rewards and incentives to employees who use the new systems.
When companies are aware of how to create a continuous learning environment with technology in mind, they can then start to explore technologies and the trends in learning and development.
There are many choices in technologies when creating a culture of continuous learning in an organization. Leaders need to learn about all the various ways they can be used and what the needs and skills of their employees are. When they research, plan, and choose the right kind of technology, continuous learning becomes an important part of the culture of the organization, leading to more engaged and higher performing employees.
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