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7 New Rules of Workplace Learning

Embracing and adapting to a changing landscape is not easy unless you know the rules to play by.

Times-they-are-a-changing. As it is with everything else in life, change is imminent also in the field of corporate learning. The present L&D scenario is vastly different from what it was just a decade ago. In this rapidly-changing landscape, the old order has given way to the new, and only the agilest and adaptable can survive and thrive.

The following factors are driving the changes in the corporate learning sphere:

  • The rise of the Millennial Learner: The Millennial learner has been instrumental in bringing about a sea change in the workplace learning environment. Millennials demand that they can direct their learning journey, so L&D professionals are compelled to design courses that allow learners the freedom they seek.
  • Improved Technology: The advent of improved technology enables progressive CLOs to re-think and create programs that engage learners, facilitate the learning process, and effect a seamless transition of knowledge from the desk to the job. Technology has enabled adaptive and creative CLOs to impact the bottom-line of the organization.
  • Elevation of L&D’s Status to a Core Business Development Area: Finally, driving these changes is a paradigm shift in the way L&D is perceived in the greater order of organizational goals. Today, the learning function is regarded as a strategic business development area that facilitates leadership development and innovation by creating a culture of lifelong learning and collaboration. It is a practice that drives business growth.

Deloitte University’s publication Rewriting the rules for the digital age: 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends summarizes the new rules shaping the modern corporate learning environment. ***Check page 35 of their publication.

The paradigm shift in corporate learning has necessitated that the C-suite now proactively drives the learning initiatives. It is also critical that L&D teams spruce up their working practices to rise to meet the changing demands of the learning environment.

Embracing and adapting to a changing landscape is not easy unless you know the rules to play by. We have analyzed the scene minutely and come up with the seven rules that you need to know to navigate the landscape.

Rule #1: Fast, quick, convenient content - It is the age of rapid-fire and frequent learning

This is the age of information. Knowledge doubles after every 12 hours. So, it is likely that at any point in time, some knowledge is uncovered that you don’t know yet. Modern adult learners have a tough task ahead of them: they have to be on top of what’s happening in their niche at all times. It is imperative that organizations fuel the learners’ need for learning rapidly and regularly.

Here are some pointers to help you create fast-paced learning:

  • Chunk and curate content to make learning relevant.
  • Make knowledge easily accessible. Learners should have the freedom to define the “place and pace” of the learning.
  • Empower learners to carve their own learning paths. Create a design and put in place a technological framework that lets learners explore, find, and “pull” the solutions towards them instead of you thrusting (pushing) the learning down their throats. For instance, allow learners to skip learning modules that they don’t want to take. Read more: The Rapid Rise of Learning Pathways
  • Deconstruct and modularize. Forget the linear way of imparting content. Remember, your learners are looking for just-in-time solutions. You need to give workers bite-sized modules frequently, to fit into their work day more easily.

Rule #2: Go the Netflix Way

Yes, you read right. Today’s workplace learning must go the Netflix way too. Or take cues from how Amazon engages audiences.

Welcome to an age where learning is consumerized, and your courses are commodities that should vie with others in the marketplace for the learner’s nod of approval. In this marketplace, the learners call the shots, understanding how they want learning to be served to them is critical.

Here’s where Netflix and Amazon step into the picture.

Millennial learners are digitally savvy and have grown up with the Internet. They are accustomed to having choices. They are (virtually) social individuals who rely on “influencer” opinions and recommendation from their connections to make choices. Netflix and Amazon feed these needs of the Millennial by letting them order movies or buy products by providing information personalized recommendations, user ratings, and reviews. These online giants make information easily accessible so that potential buyers can make empowered decisions. As instructional designers, you should also strive to make content so readily accessible.

Here are some ideas on how you can deliver learning following Netflix and Amazon’s strategies:

  • Choices and flexibility; that's the key. Modern learners don't like being told what to learn and how to go about it. They want choices and crave flexibility. Empower learners by letting them choose what they want to learn, when, and how. Give them the autonomy they seek to design their learning journeys.
  • Create an environment where learning can happen organically. For instance, whet audience interest by letting learners rate and review courses on a social platform, or create more opportunities for co-workers to collaborate and learn from one another. At Facebook, much of the learning is driven by employees and imparted by peers.

Read more: What's the Problem with Traditional, Instructor-Led Training?

Rule #3: Step Outside the confines of the 9-to-5 routine

Adult learners are freedom-loving individuals. They want to have the freedom to learn whenever they want to, which may not be during their work hours. They do not want to be yanked from their desk to attend a training program or be made to go through a course when they need to do something else. They want learning content to be delivered to them when needed, and not when the management should use up the training budget. Learner engagement is no longer confined to the 9-to-5 setting.

The new rule of workplace learning is to provide on-demand learning. The key to learner engagement is to make learners feel empowered by letting them access learning whenever, wherever. 

Here are some tips on how you can implement this strategy successfully:

  • Embrace mobile learning. Audience’s want instant information, on the go.
  • Determine when your audience will likely access the content. This is valuable information because it will help you determine the type of content to create and the delivery technology to use. For instance, sales personnel might want to have handy lists of the features of a new product when they are on the shop floor. Machine operators might want to refer to short how-to videos covering safety checks or troubleshooting instructions when they are at the production facility.
  • Create modular training, so learners can choose the specific module (vis-à-vis going through an entire course) they may want to go through depending on what they want to learn or revise and how much time they have in hand.
  • Create relevant and fluff-free content. Your learners might want to access a course on the go, and they don’t have the time to read through mounds of nice-to-know information.
  • Make content searchable.
  • Create content keeping in mind that learners will access the courses on a variety of devices.

Rule #4: Learners are considered consumers now

Here is the reality. Your audience today is no longer going to consume the content you thrust down their throats. They want to first search for what is being offered by way of learning and then choose what programs they want to go through.

Learners are “consumers.” So you must know what they demand.

Modern learners have a set of expectations you must get familiar with if you wish to connect with them. So, you have to create learning products that are:

  • Meaningful
  • Engaging
  • Timely
  • Mobile, or that which can be delivered on-the-go

However, this does not mean that all the L&D team does, is create small courses and shoot these at the learners. They have to start thinking like a marketer and treat your learners are consumers whose attention you are vying for.

Here are some tips to help you woo learners:

  • Determine the exact needs and learning preferences of your audience. Carry out a thorough audience analysis.
  • Stir emotions in your audience to forge a deep connection.
  • Map learning journeys. Read more about Learner Experience Mapping here.
  • Evaluate the results of your efforts regularly from learner feedback. Track employee engagement and job satisfaction to determine if your courses have hit the mark. Tweak your instructional strategies accordingly to improve your scores.
  • Innovate. Innovate. Innovate continuously to keep audiences curious to find out what you have for them next.

Read more: Connecting With Corporate eLearners: 6 Proven Ways That Work

Rule #5: Say hello to "Workwide Learning" 

Learning is no longer a one-off, once-in-a-blue-moon event. Learning now needs to a continuous process because :

  • It is the age of information and Big Data, and knowledge becomes obsolete very soon. Employers want their workers to be always updated.
  • Learners want to be on top of the skills and knowledge needed to remain relevant in the workplace.
  • A continuous learning culture makes it easy for you to measure the ROI on your learning efforts and expenditures.

The needs of these times have necessitated the adoption of theWorkwide Learningapproach. The concept and the moniker, brainchilds of Jane Hart, are takeoffs on the idea of lifewide learning. The Workwide Learning approach is based on the principle that workers should also learn for, at, and from work. Learning should not occur only at a formal training event.

Here are some tips to help you implement workwide learning effectively:

  • Identify the training needs of your audience based on their professional lifecycle.
  • Identify the resources that learners need to acquire knowledge.
  • Determine the instances or the context when learners will need the training.
  • Design the learning to ensure the right content is delivered to the audience just when they need it and are searching for it. Embrace just-in-time learning.

Rule #6: Adopt the learner-centric design-thinking approach

The design-thinking approach puts learners at the center of the learning environment.
The learning experience is designed keeping in mind solely the training needs of the learners. The learning programs are highly intuitive and experiential; as a result, the learners are sucked into the experience. The emphasis is also on creating engaging programs that make for greater information retention.

Additionally, these programs are not confined by the limitations of learning management systems. Instead, they can leverage new and emerging technologies to be more collaborative, social, shareable, engaging, and readily accessible. The learner-centric design-thinking approach facilitates the creation of a sustainable learning culture.

The design-thinking approach is so effective and relevant in the context of modern workplace learning that brands have quickly adopted it. Nestlé, Qualcomm, and Decker’s Brands have successfully implemented the design-thinking approach to create intuitive, engaging, and experiential eLearning courses.

Rule #7: Trainers are now facilitators, curators, and mentors

The traditional role of the trainer has evolved. Earlier, a classroom trainer was expected to steer the course of learning by providing information, facilitate hands-on training, create opportunities for the learners to practice the skills they have learned, and evaluate what the audience has learned. The trainer was in complete control of every aspect of the learning process—the content taught, the instructional methodology, which way the classroom interactions went, and how the learners were evaluated.

But now, much of the control has shifted from the trainer to the learners. Learners now have the power to shape their experiences based on existing skills and knowledge and personal learning styles and preferences. And they expect the trainer to “support” them through the learning journey.

So the modern-day corporate trainer has to wear many hats:

  • Trainers have to be facilitators; they have to move beyond their traditional role of delivering content and instead, be the gatekeeper to knowledge. 
  • Trainers have to be mentors. They can guide learners virtually by answering their questions on forums and in chat rooms. Trainers can also mentor learners, like new hires, on the job as the latter perform their workplace duties. For instance, trainers can be stationed in stores to coach salespersons as they interact with customers.
  • Trainers have to be content curators. With the plethora of information strewn around the web, in the form of blogs, podcasts, videos, slides, and the like, it is not always necessary to create content from scratch. In fact, you may not have to create it all; just direct the learners to the most relevant information. As content curators, trainers need not be subject matter experts. They just have to be aware of the content other people are creating, be able to judge the relevance and comprehensiveness of the information, repurpose it to suit audience needs, and share it with the learners.
  • Trainers have to be content organizers. They have to make sure that the learning matter is easily accessible and searchable. For instance, they can arrange discussions under appropriate heads, create threads for new discussions, and add tags that make it easy for learners to search for and find the content. 

The evolving role of the trainer is in keeping with the 70-20-10 learning approach that L&D is veering towards. Today, more and more L&D leaders are opting for an instructional strategy where 70 percent of the learning is acquired on the job, 20 percent is provided by the mentor, and 10 percent is delivered in a formal training setting. Trainers need to be versatile.

Read more: The Evolving Role of Trainers in Corporate Learning

The above-mentioned rules of modern workplace learning seek to make learning instructionally sound, cost-effective, and relevant to the learners. The emphasis is on making the content flexible, agile, and adaptable, so it can respond quickly to changing learner needs and market requirements.

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