What would you do if you could build a vision and strategy for learning at your company completely from scratch?  What would your structure and plan be? What specific things would you continue doing and what would you do differently?

The world of learning and work is changing dramatically so you may want to consider a few different areas as you think about your learning vision of the future.

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Culture

How would you imagine the perfect learning culture? Company cultures that support learning as a core, fundamental part of everything employees do every day are realizing their competitive advantage. Also, cultures that identify learning as a key guiding principle enable employees to continue to build the skills that they need for the future. Does your culture put learning front and center?

Content

I know when I ran learning organizations at Sun, Yahoo, and LinkedIn, we thought that we had to create most of the learning content ourselves.  But now, there is so much content out there, you may not need to create all your own anymore. The perfect balance is probably a little of both. What would a new content strategy look like in your company?

Technology

Technology is another component of your vision and strategy that can easily be re-imagined.  Your employees want to learn on-demand and they need personalized content that fits their particular needs. How can you think about learning technology in a new way – in a way that supports what the learner really wants and needs to build relevant skills for the future? Imagine a technology that incorporates curated content, personalization, social features, analytics, and skill plans as the platform that could support your learning strategy.

Analytics

Learning analytics and insights are key to understanding what your employees are learning and what skills they are building.  Does your learning strategy incorporate analyzing learner data and agile improvements so that you can validate and refine your strategy on an ongoing basis?

Internal Skills / Team

What about the people in your learning organization?  Do they have the skills and expertise to take you to the future? They are expanded and different than what might have been enough in the past.

For example, do they know how to curate content and analyze learning data? Can they facilitate online peer-to-peer learning or incorporate video content into in-person training? These are just some of the skills that the learning organization of the future will need.

Vision, strategy, culture, content, technology, analytics, and people. These are just some of the topics I’ll be discussing with Christopher Lind, Learning Experience and Digital Transformation Leader for GE Healthcare at our upcoming LENS conference in Chicago on September 28. I hope you’ll join us so that together we can develop the structure for making your vision a reality.

As a CLO, I spend a lot of time talking to learning leaders from a variety of industries, going to conferences and trade shows, reading industry research and blogs. Phrases like “content explosion,” “fragmented learning” get used a a lot, supporting the common sub-text that L&D is experiencing a massive shift in how their employees learn at and for work. It’s important to consider and embrace what’s happening in the marketplace, and organizations that do will see there is a big opportunity to elevate both their talent and L&D’s reputation to one that drives key business performance.

Last week, I wrote part 1 of the 2-part series on the top four trends disrupting the workforce in 2017. The first two trends identified are different generations in the workforce and the rise in digital technology.

Here are the remaining two:

3. Rate of change is moving faster than ever before

Since things are changing faster than ever before, businesses must stay agile. Dutton talked about eBay’s evaluation of current programs since splitting from PayPal, and their decision to start over with their learning strategy. They stopped doing a lot of the traditional learning that they had done in the past including multi-day programs geared just for leaders or top talent. Now, they strive to serve all employees, and  have launched a few new tools including Degreed and Career Navigator. They are choosing to engage with employees and teams using Slack because that’s where a lot of the engineers already spend their time.  eBay is also focusing more on coaching for leaders, having employees and leaders engage in more impactful career and performance conversations.  Learning is being recognized as a journey through talent communities, and the learning organization is adjusting to meet people where they are rather than taking them out of their natural work flow.

4. A new relationship between employees and employers

Gone are the days where people spent their whole careers at one company.  According to Gallup, 60% of millennials say they are open to a new job opportunity, and according to the recent numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person works for 4.4 years in one job. This is a major shift in work expectations – a shift we as learning professionals have to be thinking about.

During the discussion with the CLO community, we discussed the gig economy, (think freelance workers or Uber drivers) the contingent workforce, (contractors) and how those new models affect the employee/employer relationship.

A recent Forbes article states that by 2020, about 40% of Americans will be part of the gig economy. According to Dan Schawbel, “The trends that have created the gig economy include: the rise of freelancing, the access of technology (especially on the mobile phone), the impact of the recession and the desire to have “side-gigs” and flexibility. For employers, the gig economy allows them to hire on-demand, lower costs and have more competition for talent.”

So when we think about the skills gap and how we are going to help people build their skills for now and the future, we need to think about how employees actually work. Learning can be a big competitive advantage if you are a company that will invest in your employee’s skills regardless of whether they stay one year or ten years.  Career paths and helping all employees develop their skills, even if they don’t stay at your company long term, is a growing and beneficial trend.

These four workforce trends are changing role of learning leaders and it’s important to keep them in mind when thinking about your future learning strategy. eBay, like a lot of other companies, has realized that to keep talent and to help all employees develop skills quickly, they needed to think about learning differently, move more quickly and iterate, and be more agile overall with learning.

At it’s core, being successful in learning today means embracing your workforce – meeting people where they are and giving them learning when they need it. Want to know what your workforce was interested in in 2016? Check out What the World Learned in 2016.

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The workforce is changing and it’s affecting how we all work every day. It’s also changing the expectations that people have about who they work with, how they work, and where they work. I recently met with a group of Chief Learning Officers (CLOs) and learning leaders to talk about the four trends disrupting the workforce today and how that impacts the way we think about learning in the corporate environment. We uncovered four common trends.

  1. Different generations in the workforce

People have been talking about this for years now, but the reality is that we have many generations working together in the workforce today.  By 2020, 70% of the workforce will be made up of millennials, but in addition, boomers are working into their 70s and 80s.  What does this mean for the workforce and learning?  It means that we are more diverse and have greater opportunity to learn from each other.  As for learning, although it may be true that millennials are digital natives and generally very comfortable with technology, the CLO group I was speaking with agreed that the way people like to learn has less to do with age and more to do with personal comfort level with technology.

Judy Dutton, Senior Director at eBay, shared that there is a large increase of millennials coming into the company. The 32nd most recognized brand in the world according to Interbrand in its annual ranking of Best Global Brands, many don’t know that eBay also does a lot of slick things with technology including big data, machine learning, and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

In 2017, their HR function is focused on new ways to attract top talent, especially millennials, by revamping their intern program and recruiting from more diverse universities. Their learning teams are embracing a new digital and in-person on-boarding experience, and completely rethinking their career development and approach to development.

  1. Rise in digital technology

Technology is changing the way we think about both business and learning.  As I wrote in a previous blog, learning leaders need to be tech savvy and include a digital learning component as part of their overall learning and employee experience strategy.

At eBay, a learning technology manager helps drive the ongoing technology requirements for the global Talent and Organization Development team.  This new role has also become more heavily involved with IT, the office of the CIO, and HR analytics since the learning technology need is increasingly prevalent.  But it’s not just about technology; there has to be learning expertise among each employee too.

These are just two of the four workforce trends that are changing the role of learning leaders. We will visit the remaining two trends, an increasing rate of change and the new relationship between employees and employers, in Part 2 next week.

Many learning leaders are re-thinking their strategy and want to incorporate more digital components to what they are doing with learning.  This means thinking beyond traditional models of classroom training, e-learning, and the limited functionality of an LMS. The reality is that people have information available at their fingertips and there is an abundance of tools to choose from.

The key is relevance, context and helping your learners effectively navigate the explosion of content. As you are thinking about creating your digital learning strategy and incorporating digital learning assets and tools into what you offer your employees, it’s imperative you consider and are able to answer the following three questions:

  1. What is our digital learning strategy?

A digital learning strategy means that you are going to incorporate digital learning assets (videos, online learning, courses, blogs, articles, books) into how you help people learn. But, it’s really more than that – it’s actually thinking about learning differently.  There is so much content for learning available to people now, and the rate of change is so fast, that we can’t be bound by old models of learning to satisfy how quickly people need to keep up on the required skills today.

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In the old model, a central learning group would get requirements for what people needed to learn (say Java programming), design and develop the “training,” and then set up classrooms, register people, and have them leave their job to attend a class.  That process takes time (sometimes a lot of time) and by the time all that happens, your company has moved on and now needs Python programming skills instead.

Instead, embrace a digital learning strategy. Now you can use the over-abundance of available content to your advantage.  You can help direct people to digital assets that you have developed, or that already exist, and give them on-demand access.  Having a variety of digital asset types also takes into account all the different ways people like to learn – I personally love to read books or listen to podcasts, but others may like to take a multi-week online course.  A digital learning strategy is your plan for how you want to conveniently offer all these digital learning assets to your employees.

  1. Why do we need a digital learning strategy?

One of the reasons it’s so valuable to have a digital learning strategy is that you can provide learning to all your employees – not just the chosen few.

When a digital learning strategy is deployed, it is instantly a global, scalable benefit for all of your people.  So if you have employees around the globe, or across the country, a digital strategy can help show all employees you are investing in them and in their skill development – all the time – which is key to employee engagement, especially millennials. Workers will have all types of learning assets at their fingertips whenever they need them.  So instead of asking the learning department to develop a particular type of learning, people can access thousands of learning assets that can help them right away.

Many companies spend the majority of their budgets on leaders and managers or high-performing employees and leave the rest of their employees to fend for themselves.  But how can “the rest” succeed without support and guidance, too? Having a digital strategy can help you reach all of your employees and help you have a competitive advantage in terms of retaining people. Employees want to build their skills and want you to invest in them, so if they feel your company will do that and others won’t, that gives you an edge.

  1. Which digital content should we include?

Here’s where a little analysis as well as iteration comes into play. At my last company when we were trying to decide which content to include in our digital strategy, we had just begun creating the learning organization, so we didn’t have any of our own content yet. In order to get learning to people quickly, we partnered with a few leading content providers that have libraries of digital content (examples include Plural Sight, BigThink, SkillSoft, Lynda.com, Safari Books, and Harvard Publishing, although there are hundreds out there).

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We chose three content partners and tracked the usage of providers content to see what our employees were needing and using.  We also included some of the free content out there (such as Ted Talks and YouTube videos).  That worked well for creating our first digital strategy, but over time, we dropped some providers and partners and added some of our own company-specific digital content into the mix as we learned what was working best for our employees.

Unfortunately, many online learning strategies start with buying technology – generally an LMS – and then people build the digital strategy around the technology.  To be really successful, though, you need to create your strategy first and then see what technology will support what you really want it to do. New technology is making new things possible.  The key is just to make sure you know what problems you are trying to solve and then you can make the magic happen.

 

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