Learning & Development: Fueling the Next Frontier of Growth (#PMLnD TweetChat)


The workplace is experiencing a revolution like never before! Amidst seminal disruptions thanks to advanced technology, the focal point to engage and retain employees is strong learning opportunities. In a survey conducted by PwC where millennials were asked ‘which characteristics make an organization compelling to work for’, as many as 35% pointed out excellent training/development programs as a critical factor. No surprises there! Proper training offers several advantages - from higher engagement levels to better productivity.So, organizations need to pull up their socks and develop innovative and disruptive L&D strategies. It’s time for companies to create learning opportunities that will fuel the next frontier of growth. The question is how will they adapt such an approach? It this exact question that I (check out my tweets here), along with learning leaders around the world, attempted to address as a part of People Matters L&D Conference 2018 (#PMLnD) special TweetChat that saw CEOs, CHROs, CIOs, CTOs, HR Directors, HR Senior Managers, HR Managers and HR Executives joining in yesterday. We deliberated on the topic ‘Learning & Development: Fueling the next frontier of growth’. It was an insightful tweetchat, to say the least. In this post, I bring to you a slice of our discussion, basis a couple of questions facing L&D worldwide.

1. What are the key changes that will impact learning at the workplace in the future?

It’s an understatement to say that technology has revolutionized the way we work. There are so many elements that are influencing L&D strategies and the biggest of them all is the advent of ‘mobile’. There is every reason why this ‘mobile’ factor has become ubiquitous. For starters, the number of mobile phone users in the world is expected to pass the five billion mark by 2019 (source: statista). According to Strategy Analytics, in 2022, the global mobile workforce is set to increase to 1.87 billion people or 42.5 percent of the global workforce.Closer home, the 2013-14 economic survey had pointed out that India has young workforce with more than 64 per cent falling between the ages of 20 and 35. Besides, India is experiencing a rapid growth in its Gig/ flexible economy culture. According to the global job site Indeed, the demand for flexible work arrangements in India is growing, especially in larger cities.Given all this, Mobile Learning is the best solution to develop learning strategies for such a dynamic and young workforce. Mobile Learning allows learning to work across multiple devices and responsive systems to offer learners a seamless experience on any device and at any time. The trend is only set to surge considering the BYOD movement that is big globally is catching up in India too.(42% of Indian companies have or are in the process of implementing a BYOD Policy).In addition to this, AI-driven micro-personal Learning, Chatbot /Conversational UI, Mobile-only Learning, AR/ VR Learning will take over. Chatbots, already prevalent in companies, are touted to grow even bigger with more and more companies choosing them over traditional apps.

2. What are the biggest dilemmas of learning leaders in a disrupted world?

Technology, undoubtedly, is dramatically changing the way the workplace is operating. While it is an exciting time, it is also putting L&D leaders in a quandary over how to handle the disruptions. They are feeling challenged by the new technologies that are disrupting the way learning strategies have traditionally been delivered. But L&D leaders are also realizing the need to embrace these new technologies to remain competitive and keep up pace with the evolution of business. Such fast-paced technological progress definitely requires a culture of continuous learning which L&D has to provide.Some of the biggest dilemmas learning leaders continue to battle in the face of technological disruption are:

  • Maintaining work-life boundaries (for learners) disrupted by Mobile Learning
  • Balancing trade-off between time to learn & impact on decision making & on business
  • Scaling micro-personal learning, especially for large organisations

It is time for L&D leaders to utilize options like remote working and the BYOD movement which are helping employees to be more flexible while adapting to training needs while bringing in learner engagement. Also, there is a need to implement individualized learning strategies that are delivered digitally at the right time of need and in the right way to help realign with future organizational goals.

3. Amidst a workplace marked by constant disruptions, how can L&D leaders shift the conversation to lifelong learning?

Attention spans are shrinking largely because of the several technological distractions around. There is so much free-flowing social media eating into our personal spaces (and time!). It’s a major challenge then for L&D to actually ensure how they can counter all these distractions and disruptions and attract attention towards learning. It is essential to design learning strategies and provide tools that manage to standout and keep the learners hooked so that they assimilate the learning.Of course, there are several ways to achieve this. Gamification and game-based learning are the most popular ones and perhaps the easier ones. The idea is to provide learners with an innate motivation that stems from within and in turn leads to engagement. At the same time, it is important to put learners into the driver’s seat and ask for their feedback from time to time to gauge what they want to learn.Content should be designed keeping in mind different profiles of learners and customize it according to their backgrounds and interest areas. There should also be eclectic mediums through which content is submitted (videos, audios, puzzles, quizzes etc) because different learners have different likes and needs. Besides, content delivered in short, bite-sized formats which spurs interactivity, is another way of dealing with distractions in learning.Encouraging social and informal learning, adaptive and AI-based learning are other ways along with an overarching goal to make work challenging and stimulating and make learning count by micro-personalizing learning with respect to motivation and goals. The key should be to have learning as a part of work; not just means to work and take learning to the learners – on Mobile/ VR/ On-demand. After all, in the long run, learning needs to convert into desired outcomes and behaviour change.

4. How can organizations employ technology and a digital culture to support the learning and development of employees to fuel growth for businesses of the future?

One way of ensuring that employees develop the skills and competitive advantage needed for their role is to deploy a digital culture in the organization. The workforce of today is busy and may lack the time to take elaborate trainings. They may also fail to retain what they learned during the training sessions leaving them in limbo at the actual point of need.It is best to leverage the modern digital learning culture that focuses on providing learners with all the right technology and resources that could address varied learning needs. In comparison to traditional learning, digital learning is more accessible, saves time and effort, has a wider reach and creates a stronger sense of learning. But organizations must remember that a digital culture is not just about digitizing the workplace but much beyond that.It’s a good idea to amalgamate digital learning and classroom learning to create Blended Learning that could aid the digital transition at a pace that is comfortable for everyone. Organizations can introduce new digital products and services and even explore lesser-known ones to add to learning experiences.A good rule of thumb would be to have Collaboration, Open Communication, Multi-device Flexibility, Recognition (tied with Gamification), right blend of learning methods & tools for the perfect L&D environment. Not to forget top-down inclusion to get the most out of it.A digitally-enabled, learner-centric culture is bound to help develop employee skills and go a long way in retaining the workforce.

5. With machines replacing repetitive tasks, how can L& D leaders design learning interventions to help the workforce adapt to this new world of work?

According to research, 80 percent of repetitive jobs will soon be accomplished by machines. In this scenario, it is upto organizations to ensure that the workforce does not become redundant by designing relevant learning interventions for them. Leveraging the power of digital is one way of doing so.The first step is to get an idea of what learning objectives have to be met and then think of how technology fits into the picture. Going digital is about refurbishing all the existing strategies and re-training staff for the new processes. Organizations also need to put together a strong research team that ensures the groundwork is right on track.An in-house R&D team or an external partner that can support and help ideas is a good solution. Also, organizations can bring in the cloud model -a vital element in the wheel of digital transformation (here’s how you can move from an on-premiseLMS to a SaaS LMS). The cloud model is known to provide immediate, on-demand access to latest solutions to create and deliver innovative business strategies. Cloud-models help ensure that employees can work from anywhere, anytime without having to stick to work hours and location.Last but not the least, L&D leaders need to focus on problem solving and thinking skills to solve novel problems with emphasis on cognitive and emotional skills. Cultivating a culture of learning along with making digital learning tools easily available and accessible to encourage collaboration is key to the success of L&D.Even as workplaces experience major shifts due to technological disruptions, it is upto the L&D to see to it that employees get the best of learning and training. L&D can make optimum use of modern learn tech to engage and retain employees and enhance their productivity.