Today’s workforce operates at unprecedented levels, with technology and an increasingly diverse workforce constantly reshaping the world of work. The changes affect multiple facets of the business, right down to people operations. The shifts experienced by L&D are so great that HR expert Jeanne C. Meister suggests that the conventional wisdom about work and the role of HR departments has become obsolete.

Todd Tauber, VP of Product Marketing at Degreed, recently caught up with Jeanne for a Q&A on the future of work and what our always-on economy means for the way organizations view learning.

Todd: You’ve recently written about the idea of “the serial learner” — what we at Degreed call “the career-long learner”. Can you explain what that means, exactly?

Jeanne: Serial learning is a term I coined in “The Future Workplace Experience: 10 Rules In Mastering Disruption In Recruiting and Engaging Employees” book to imply the need for continuous learning on the part of employees.

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As I noted in The Future Workplace Experience, serial learners possess some of the same qualities as serial entrepreneurs. They are intellectually curious, not satisfied with business as usual, always reaching beyond their current role to learn something new, making connections out of seemingly unrelated topics and seeking out different networks to continuously learn. I think the same concept applies to learners today. This concept is gaining importance as the half life of knowledge is doubling every 2.5 years across all jobs not just technical ones.

Todd: You’ve also said being a serial learner is becoming crucial for career growth. And we’re seeing echoes of that in lots of other places. Why is this idea suddenly taking hold?

Jeanne: I believe the reason serial learning is so key for ongoing career growth is the rate and pace of change in every industry have accelerated. Consider that 52% of the FORTUNE 500 organizations have merged, been acquired or gone bankrupt since 2000. Those companies that are still on the FORTUNE 500 list are responding to change by becoming what I termed in the book, “learning machines.” They are creating a culture of continuous learning and they are also quite transparent about the need for serial learning.

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Consider the CEO of AT&T, Randall Stephenson challenged AT&T employees with this: “If you don’t develop new skills, you won’t be fired but you won’t have much of a career at AT&T. For the company to survive, AT&T employees should be spending between 5-10 hours a week learning online on their own time, to avoid technological unemployment.” Sound harsh? It’s an honest assessment in the case of AT&T and the question for all of us is will we see more CEO’s putting out these types of challenges to their employees.

Todd: How does all this affect corporate training and talent development leaders? How are you seeing chief learning officers and CHROs adapt to this new normal …their people, their processes, their tools, and technology?

Jeanne: I am seeing a sea of change in how companies are dealing with disruption as the new normal in corporate learning. First and importantly, there is the changing composition of team members in corporate learning. When I was conducting interviews for The Future Workplace Experience, I saw a number of new roles in corporate learning, such as Learning Experience Manager, Curator, Employee Community Manager and head of People Analytics. These new roles speak to a new direction for corporate learning – one that is data driven, while taking into consideration the need to craft a new experience for learners, one that is personalized, anticipates their learning needs and is relevant to the strategies priorities of the business.

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The processes and technologies are also changing, Processes no longer start with ensuring efficiency and standardization in Corporate Learning, but now routinely take into account the needs and expectations of learners. A growing number of companies are employing design thinking to create a human-centered approach to learning and one that starts with understanding the needs of the learner rather than the Corporate Learning function. Finally, I am seeing growing interest in technologies which aggregate all of the learning an employee participates in not just the company sponsored learning. In addition to technologies that curate learning, I am also seeing more companies integrate adaptive learning allowing employees to learn at their own pace and participate in learning will best suit their needs.

Todd: So how does all this fit into the overall employee experience …or as you call it, Jeanne, the future workplace experience? What’s career-long (or serial) learning’s role in the bigger picture?

Jeanne: The overall workplace experience is one that mirrors the best experience a company creates for its customers. I like to challenge my Corporate Learning clients to think of their best customer experience, and then ask them to describe their emotions. Many share emotions such as happiness, joy, delight and surprise as they recount a particularly memorable customer experience. Well, that’s what companies are seeking as they create a compelling workplace experience for their employees.

Interested in learning more about serial learning? Join us at a Degreed: Focus event near you:

Jeanne is Partner at Future Workplace and co-author of The Future Workplace Experience: 10 Rules For Mastering Disruption in Recruiting and Engaging Employees

 

 

Let’s get uncomfortably honest for a minute. CEOs are concerned about business results. They are paid to drive shareholder value, which is a function of three things: revenue growth, company profitability, and how efficiently an organization uses their assets.

Historically, that mentality has pervaded the way organizations value learning and how they invest. Most L&D organizations have been built for scalability, efficiency, and standardization.

Technology for most L&D teams is a way to deliver more, at a lower cost, with more consistency. The problem with that mentality is our learners aren’t one size fits all, or even one size fits most. It’s no surprise then that only 18% of employees would recommend their organizations training and development opportunities.

What this tells us is that the focus on efficiency, not engagement, doesn’t bode well in the workforce. The good news is that some organizations, like Caterpillar, are breaking the mold.

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If you go to industry events or keep up on articles and blogs in the learning space, you’re probably seeing increased conversation about engagement, and a whole new crop of tools popping up that are the result of solving the learning problems of today. While great resources, the most valuable information comes from those that have embraced the digital revolution, and are leading the charge to better the employee development experience.

Caterpillar’s Mike Miller, Division Manager of Global Dealer Learning, was interviewed by Todd Tauber of Degreed on his evolving approach to L&D and training. Here are some of our favorite excerpts from the conversations.

Todd: Caterpillar seems to be aiming for more of a balance between efficiency and flexibility in learning. How are your strategies and approaches for developing capabilities in your workforce shifting?

Mike: To be honest with you, Caterpillar has never really lost the focus that people are our competitive advantage. The big change that we have going forward and the shift that you’re seeing in our strategy is less of a one-way conversation where we put out packages to one that’s community-led.

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With a community-led strategy, we have turned on solutions and content that allows everybody to contribute, and so by having the population rather than a handful of people working on learning, we are able to obtain organization capabilities far easier because we have well over 300,000 people contributing.

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Todd: How’s Caterpillar rebalancing the people, the time, the money, so that you can manage less and empower more?

Mike: There are still formal programs at Caterpillar. But people were looking for the next step: what is past the formal program? We’ve moved to a three-tier approach on our content. It includes making all of our content easily accessible on our mobile phones. And then we want to have onsite support, meaning at the time you have a question and/or an issue, we really can help you solve that, right? And last, where we need to, we’ll still do instructor-led training because there are places we still need to do certification or accreditations.

If you look at these components, we’re really trying to do put an ecosystem together that allows people to contribute and consume on demand as they need to.

Looking to empower your workforce to consume content on demand like Caterpillar? Set up your Degreed profile today!

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