The Future of Corporate Learning

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We’re going through exciting times of change in the world of corporate learning. In early 2017, Josh Bersin, founder and principal at Bersin by Deloitte, predicted that “the $130 billion corporate learning market is about to be disrupted”, and we see that happening all around.

Overall learning budgets are not growing fast, but budget allocations and priorities are undergoing a seismic shift. This is driven by the need to comply with regulations, engage staff and demonstrate value for money. The pervasion of mobiles, high bandwidths, video and data analysis are making it possible to engage with and train employees in ways that couldn’t be imagined even five years ago. And employees are demanding more – they aren’t opposed to learning, but they do want it to be relevant, and to choose how and when they will undertake it.

To try to make sense of some of the changes that are taking place, we describe six themes below that will shape the future of corporate learning.

Digital Content Libraries
Learning is increasingly going digital. Even where companies employ in-person training – eg induction or expert skills – there is an increasing component of digital content.

Digital learning can take place in diverse forms – from professionally developed micro-learning videos, interactive scenarios, e-books, podcasts, articles and research reports to informally generated blogs and vlogs. To harness the potential of these learning content objects, companies are turning to content curation and social learning. This is giving rise to digital content libraries that aggregate ready-made and custom content to support continuous and personalised learning.

People Analytics
Research by Deloitte reveals that companies are investing heavily in programs that use data for workforce planning, talent management and operational improvement. Digital learning provides a rich seam of data for this purpose. Gone are the days when data from digital learning was limited to course completion and assessment scores.

The most forward-looking organisations are now recording every click, every second spent and every response to a question, whether using X-API or other big data apps. And they are using this data to build knowledge and competency maps that reveal areas for improvement for an individual and/or the entire organisation, and provide a measure of success for learning interventions and/or the entire learning programme.

These analytics also pave the way for adaptive learning, whereby the learning platform recommends learning objects based on an employee’s job role, experience and prior learning

they aren’t opposed to learning, but they do want it to be relevant, and to choose how and when they will undertake it.

Experiential Learning
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technologies are taking amazing strides and opening up possibilities for immersive learning. VR has been around for decades for training employees in high-risk tasks, such as flying planes and operating nuclear power plants.

However, the more exciting developments are in the field of AR. This can be used to provide a just-in-time learning course that is superimposed using an AR display on real objects and situations. Falling prices and the availability of AR apps on mobile devices will drive the introduction of AR for training in a wide range of roles from sales and customer service to compliance and risk management.

Job-Aligned Learning
A powerful trend that’s taking shape at those organisations that are furthest up the maturity curve is to align learning more closely to job performance. It’s no longer acceptable to conduct training in isolation in the hope that some of it will stick when employees go back to their job roles. Instead, they want training to be integrated with performance support apps and job aids. For instance, they are integrating RegTech tools with digital learning to reduce operational complexity, and improve compliance with laws and regulations.

Research by US Departments of Labor, Commerce and Education found that this alignment is also good for the employee: “the more closely training is related to the real job or occupation, the better the results for the employee”. This can be seen in customer services courses, where employees build their own personal plan during the course and then use that as the blueprint for their service improvement

Spaced Learning
Today employees are so distracted by calls, messages and emails that they don’t have time to complete even a 30-minute course in a typical week. Furthermore, research shows that they will forget 60% of what they learn in a training course within a day (Ebbinghaus forgetting curve)!

The solution to this is spaced learning, which is a form of continuous learning where employees repeatedly learn about a given concept at defined intervals (spacing) and are questioned on the concept to force them to retrieve the information. Research in sales training and language learning suggests that spaced learning helps people to learn faster and retain more information.

Make Learning Fun
Most organisations are being squeezed between the increased training requirement due to growing regulations and increased pushback from employees. Some companies are finding their way out of this predicament by putting fun back into mandatory or compliance training. One way of doing this is by adding elements of gamification, such as interesting storylines, non-linear pathways, timers and risk taking. Another way is by recognising and rewarding employees for their achievements online or offline.

Ultimately, though, employees are happiest about learning when they can control how they access the training and the pathways that they take to complete it. For instance, giving employees the possibility of skipping the post-course assessment if they can prove their competence within the course will improve their attention and motivation to learn.

The above themes demonstrate how corporate training is being disrupted and transformed in ways unimaginable even a few years ago. Companies that embrace these advancements will enjoy higher employee engagement, retention and productivity. We live in truly exciting times.

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