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Workplace Learning 2025 – Why workplace learning needs to change

Six-Part Series: Workplace Learning 2025.

Part 2: The ever-increasing demands on businesses mean learning and development has never been more stretched, so it’s time to do things differently, says Learning Pool’s Chief Product Officer Ben Betts.

It is a cliché, but it’s true: the world of work is changing at an unprecedented pace. The World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs Report 2018 predicts more than half (54 per cent) of all employees will require significant upskilling by 2022 and 133 million jobs could be created through the advent of new technology.

Meanwhile, a 2019 study by IBM’s Institute for Business Value forecasts 120 million workers from the world’s top 12 economies will need retraining by 2021 but warns that training programs are failing to meet demand. In 2014, it took three days of training to close a skills gap in enterprise, but by 2018 that had risen to 36 days.

At the same time, employment rates in the UK and America are at record highs, giving little scope to bring new employees into business despite the need for continued growth.


State of learning cultures among organisations

It’s this backdrop of volatility and uncertainty that requires learning and development (L&D) professionals to change approach, argues Dr Ben Betts, Chief Product Officer at Learning Pool, one of the UK’s leading learning technology providers.

“Firstly, North America and much of Europe is facing a productivity problem. Growth has slowed and production rates have remained static or fallen into decline. While it’s proving difficult to assess exactly what has caused the slowdown, there is an undertone of workplaces needing to get more out of our people and that they are somehow underperforming and need to work harder or smarter,” he says.

“Secondly, and perhaps more worryingly, there are huge numbers of people who are going to have to retrain to meet the demands of future work, particularly those in routine equipment operation and basic data entry. We continue to lack social, higher-cognitive and emotional skills such as negotiation, problem-solving and creativity, precisely those skills that machines cannot learn.

“But we can’t teach all these skills as the demand is too big. Employees will have to get used to helping themselves. What we’re doing at the moment isn’t hitting the productivity bottom line. And, even if it was working, the skills we’ll need in the future can’t always be taught through traditional methods and tools. Workplace learning needs to change.”

A cultural and technological shift

Dr Betts believes that the L&D profession needs to undertake a fundamental cultural and technological shift, moving away from being a manager of learning to a curator of ideas for self-learning to meet the demands of reskilling the workforce.

“When you look at the skills we’ll need in the future, such as better leadership, what we really don’t need is another rehash of a popular leadership model. This content has been done by hundreds of people. Moreover, creating new content for every required skill isn’t scalable for L&D departments, which are already time-pressured,” he says.

“Instead, the role becomes about aggregating a range of quality models and opinions appropriate to your people and then handing it over to them to experience. This can give the internal team more time and space to focus on the deep technical skills that only exist within the company’s context and can be taught using more traditional methods.”

Social learning, experiential (learning by doing) and micro-learning (on-demand, single-outcome focused training) have all grown in popularity as L&D departments have embraced technology. These trends chime with how many employees want to learn.

According to LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning and Development Report 2018, 58 per cent of employees prefer to learn at their own pace, 56 per cent would spend more time learning workplace skills if their line manager encouraged them to do so and 94 per cent would stay at a company longer if it invested more in their career development.

Dr Betts believes the problem isn’t about where and how employees choose to learn, but how L&D departments can legitimize new forms of learning to the C-suite.

“Engagement of employees in traditional training has been a real focus of learning technology over the last few years, counting the hours people spend on courses. But the bottom line is that people have been learning, regardless of ‘seat time’, they just haven’t been doing it through the tools we put out,” he says.

“Instead, they’ve been talking to colleagues or listening to podcasts. This is still learning, but we are missing a trick by always inventing our own training, instead of augmenting generic content with local context, or examining how someone can apply a thought or a theory to their business.”

As technology develops, there are many ways learning professionals can add value. Providing a forum or space for user-generated or social-learning content, even in the form of a WhatsApp group, can provoke discussion and highlight meaningful contributions.

Capturing more data to measure the effectiveness of learning both inside and outside normal “training” platforms, and working to relate learning’s impact directly to business outcomes – for example, has social grouping impacted the number of sales – can help gain both employee and C-suite buy-in.

Ultimately, business as usual isn’t an option for the learning profession if it wants to succeed. However, changing your methodology can be a gradual journey rather than an abrupt change, Dr Betts argues.

“You don’t have to jump straight in, turn off the learning management system and go self-directed; the important thing is to start the journey,” he concludes.

“Start with some small experiments around social or self-managed learning experiences and measure the results. If it works, go to the C-suite and explain what you’ve done and how it works. Then, with buy-in, you’ll be able to attack the macro issues such as skills and automation. Start small and then grow, but start now.”

This report was originally published on Raconteur in association with Learning Pool. To view the additional parts in the series, please fill out the form below and you will be directed to the content.

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