Learning in the Age of Disruption: The Human Touch

Learning in the Age of Disruption: The Human Touch

Steven Sinofsky, former President of the Windows division at Microsoft, once said that, “Innovation and disruption are the hallmarks of the technology world, and hardly a moment passes when we are not thinking, doing, or talking about these topics.”‘Disruption’ has been the talk of the town (or rather the L&D space) for some time now. Cegos, a worldwide leader in training and development and our partner for Off-The-Shelf eLearning, recently published a research report-cum-whitepaper, titled Leading and Managing in the Age of Disruption, about which Jeremy Blain, Regional Managing Director at Cegos Asia Pacific, wrote about earlier. The whitepaper, surveying L&D and HR professionals across the APAC region, discusses the benefits of training in the face of huge technological changes that organizations witness day in and day out, and categorized it into four areas. In our last post, we focused on Technology & Innovation. This time our focus lies on how "Human Touch" influences learning in the age of disruption.

The Human Touch

PwC's report, 'The STEM Imperative: Future Proofing Australia's Workforce' stated that, “44 per cent — or 5.1 million current Australian jobs — are at high risk of being affected by computerization and technology over the next 20 years.” Automation is often said to pose a great danger to the human capital in organizations. But can an organization function without the human touch entirely?A restaurant in San Francisco managed to entirely remove the human quotient by replacing it with iPads! Orders are taken electronically and delivered automatically, perhaps leaving only the cooking part to humans.But, people always wish for a face-to-face interaction and opinions, at least when it comes to learning and training. According to the Cegos whitepaper, “Technology has a big impact on the way we work, but it is important not to lose the human touch. Organizations that reflect this ethos in their work practices and retention/recruitment drives will be the ultimate winners.”Human interaction, feedback etc. play significant role in the growth of an organization. Managers usually do this by establishing a clear communication channel with the employees. During the study, Cegos found that, “managers across most of the region are responding to calls for greater diversity in their workforce – over two-thirds of people say their organization welcomes people from different genders, races and generations. Communications between managers and the workforce is also positive, but needs improvement in some cases.”“61% of respondents say that, although communication is adequate in their organization, it should often be clearer and more engaging and 74.3% feel more could be done to help staff share and collaborate using technology.”As stated in the whitepaper, people, especially from the younger generation, expect to work collaboratively in a sharing environment, both physically and digitally. Management should facilitate this by providing the opportunity, infrastructure and technology where appropriate. It needs to be viewed more urgently at the top as a key foundation stone to support ongoing business success. This is where training and Learning Management System (LMSs) come into play.Here are a few ideas, shared by thought leaders, on how training with a "human touch" can make a difference.

1. Encourage more staff/management interaction with regular ‘town hall’-style meetings, staff lunches or other gatherings.

If not actual 'town-hall' style meetings, a virtual collaborative learning space can create an opportunity for the staff and the management to interact and discuss. LMSs with Knowledge Collaboration features, like Discussion Forum, facilitate open online communication among the learners. The learners can start the discussions on various topics. Queries are posted on discussion forums, learners can try to answer the queries based on their understanding of the concept and trainers/managers can monitor these discussions and guide and channel the discussion, if need be.

2. Use technology to enable communication and information sharing.

Technology, for sure, opens up great possibilities. Off late we have been taking about the integration of third party apps with the LMSs. This kind of flexibility allows the tech-savvy workforce to feel more connected with learning and gives it a more personalized touch. Drupal, Google Analytics, CRMs, Shopify, WordPress, Twitter etc. are the most common apps integrated with LMSs. Chat apps, and Social Media apps too can be integrated with LMSs to promote communication.

3. Keep your talent engaged by putting them on a staff development plan with long-term goals they can own and drive.

While providing a centralized space for learning is the key benefit of LMSs, it also allows creation of individualized goals for learners along with a personal roadmap, which in turn tends to impact the long-term goals of the organization. Continuing Professional Development (CPD), Competency Management, and Compliance Training - all three key LMS features help in ensuring that the learners are skilled, up-skilled and re-skilled respectively. Further, Learning can be scheduled, tracked and reported based on the learning goals using the Scheduling and Reporting features of LMSs.

4. Replace rigid grading and reviews with something more interactive, focusing on human outcomes, such as training and coaching, rather than on ‘box-ticking’ exercises.

While delivering training is the key role of a learning platform, an LMS can also be used to store employee data, for bulk communications, marketing and occasionally for sharing positive feedbacks and employee reviews. Depending on the template created, managers can directly review and rate the employees on different criteria, based on which appropriate courses can be assigned automatically to the learners.

5. Avoid treating your staff like robots – ensure they don’t burn out and have regular opportunities to re-energize.

Fixed and compulsory training has often been shunned because it makes learning automated and monotonous. Gamification, micro-learning etc. are features of LMSs that tend to increase engagement. With the introduction of Mobile compatibility and 24/7 accessibility anywhere, anytime, LMSs now offer learners the freedom they need.

6. Develop an exciting on-boarding process that starts off new employees with a good impression and the desire to succeed in your organization.

Efficient on-boarding is often said to improve employee retention. Most organizations in their quest to establish a holistic on-boarding process, have started using LMSs to train the new recruits. Induction and Onboarding using an LMS speeds up the whole process, and provides accurate data about the training delivered along with well-organized feedbacks about the areas that need improvement. This kind of data can be used to identify the issues and deliver the right kind of performance support.

7. Encourage mentoring at all levels, including getting people lower down the organization to mentor management (‘reverse mentoring’).

Rapid technological advances introduced a new form of learning termed as "reverse mentoring"- where older veteran employees are teamed with younger ones to educate one another on how business works and how new ways of thinking can improve them. This includes even the leadership team, the HR etc. as a lot can be learnt in this manner, provided there is willingness and openness to experiment. LMSs with Social Learning and Knowledge Collaboration Tools create a level playing field where all employees can interact and learn from their peers.There is a lot that can be learnt if you look around closely. As Jenna Reck, Public Relations Manager at Target, a Fortune 500 company, says, "We're looking for our leaders to learn from the way the startups work, working quickly, scrappily to get things done. We want our leaders to learn that and take (it) back to their working teams."No matter what technology or what change, in the end "People" matter. What is crucial is that we stay ready and prepped up to face any change, and that happens through proper training. In an organization run by the people, “Communication” is a fundamental requirement and though the modes may constantly evolve, it will always be crucial for the success of any business.