The Future of Corporate Learning and Development

Question 3: How Can Technology Improve Learning?

It’s easy to look at learning technology as a panacea, a solution to all of our problems. The reality is that technology is just a tool. In the chasm between expectation and reality, you can build a small mountain on all of the dashed expectations. You expected more, and so did your employees. No one was satisfied with the experience.

In defense of the technology, it mostly did what it was supposed to do: automate the process. Today, your expectations are being raised again, but this time, we believe, more fairly. Innovation in learning technology is pervasive today, and lots of companies are building better ways to gain and share knowledge. Where did respondents to our survey see the best opportunities for technology to make an impact?

46% Informal and continuous learning

This ranked number one by a margin of almost 20 percentage points. Nearly half of our panel pointed to technologies that enable a more informal approach while increasing the number of learning touch points. Given learning professionals’ attitudes about classroom training and their own adaptability, it isn’t necessarily surprising that they believe that this is the top way technology can help. The margin, though, was a little more unexpected.

27% Social collaboration technologies

These solutions typically go hand in hand with informal and continuous learning but are not typically the same thing. They could be built into a tool or a stand-alone solution.

25% Integrating learning technology with other talent management systems

Learning professionals are very aware that their world is colliding with the technology needs of the broader enterprise. Sometimes this means centralizing on a common suite from a single vendor, building on a common technology platform, or bringing together best-of-breed solutions.

25% Mobile applications

With the increase in employee mobility and desire for access to learning in the moment of need, “mobile also” solutions are rapidly giving way to “mobile only” solutions.

22% Getting better content into the hands of learners

Managing content — whether it means deploying and updating third-party content or organizing user-generated content — is a significant concern — especially as content moves from Flash to HTML5 and video and interactive content place an increasing strain on server loads and technology bandwidth. In many ways, “better” content really means delivering a better user experience.

The Starr Conspiracy’s take:

If you doubt that Millennials have dramatically and permanently changed the workplace, look no further than this priority list. Continuous learning, collaboration, mobility, and better content all point to the same thing: a new employment contract. Employers want engaged employees and improved retention of their best people. Employees want professional growth, increased transparency and access to information, and a reason to care about what they do. The organizations that master this to-do list will be the ones with the inside track to top talent in the years to come.

Brandon Hall Group’s take:

Learning has a new duty — it must address the challenges and opportunities employees face every day by arming employees with everything they need to overcome obstacles and capitalize on opportunities. But to do this, learning now has two requirements: immediacy and relevancy. “Just in time, just for me” is the new-world order for learning to be a driver of individual performance. Being able to deliver highly relevant learning content at the moment an individual needs it is paramount. Technology allows this magic to happen by delivering learning at the speed of business and at the velocity an employee requires. The success or failure of your organization now lies in whether you can transform a mobile phone or tablet into a performance-support tool that delivers learning right to the employee when they need it so they can immediately act on it.