The challenge of the new economy
ICT has transformed modern business and overturned traditional notions of best business practice. We see online firms driving traditional bricks and mortar companies out of the high street. As consumers, we benefit from the disruptive approach of an Uber or Airbnb. Terms like ‘gig economy’ and ‘zero-hours contract’ have entered the lexicon, reflecting the shifting pattern of employment and the way we work today.
Yet, if the old ways of working are being challenged, some things remain constant. One of them is the need to have well-trained, productive people. In fact, the demand for people with existing skills and for people who can quickly acquire new skills has never been greater. That demand brings increased pressure on L&D.
The future is T-shaped
As long ago as the 1980s McKinsey consultants were talking about the notion of ‘T-shaped people’. What they meant was that to be effective people needed a combination of skills that ran both broad and deep. More recently this idea has gained traction in relation to the kind of people required to work in the new economy where change and disruption are constants.
Yet while the challenge may be obvious – you want experience and the ability to acquire new knowledge quickly – how you meet it isn’t. Firstly, broad and deep skills are complementary not mutually exclusive. You can’t have one without the other. So, how do you give people that combination and how do you develop training that can deliver both?
A new kind of L&D
While working practices are changing, notions of training and learning have lagged behind. L&D is often structured quite rigidly with training seen in terms of something that has to be completed before work can properly start. And that training, whether in the classroom or via an LMS, tends to be based on courses that are designed for maximum coverage rather than designed for individual needs or recognition of existing knowledge and skillsets.
Despite embracing new technology in the form of elearning, L&D can seem remarkably inflexible. Also, L&D faces a revolt by learners who look elsewhere for instant access to the information they need when they need it: search engines, social media, wiki sites and individual apps on their mobile devices.
How then is L&D to respond to this disruption to its traditional approach? Is there still even a place for L&D in a world of constantly on, mobile access to information? One thing’s for certain if L&D doesn’t respond to these new economic challenges, it’ll cease to have relevance.
How LXPs meet the L&D challenge
The development of Learning Experience Platforms provides L&D with the opportunity to re-invent itself and respond to the realities of modern working life. In focusing on the experience of learning, rather than its organization and management, LXPs offer a bottom-up approach. This means putting the learner at the center and giving the learner control and access to the information and training he or she needs.
The volatility of the modern workplace with people changing roles and jobs more rapidly means it’s harder to categorize them. The idea of a one-size-fits-all approach to learning as with the traditional training course no longer applies. Instead, L&D needs to recognize what people already know as well as what they need to know. LXP core features like a Google-grade search engine, recommender systems powered by AI, and embedded chatbots mean that learning resources can be tailored for and targeted at individual learners. This personalization of learning is critical for modern businesses that have a transient, ever-changing workforce that needs to adapt to new challenges and roles.
LXPs allow employees to develop their own learning paths. Boasting a range of resources in a variety of formats and encouraging a microlearning approach to acquiring knowledge, the LXP can be mined for relevant, easily digestible information that time-poor employees can access on the go and just in time bringing learning into the workflow.
The right amount of content
As with other learning systems, content reigns. But the content in an LXP can be more easily disseminated and replenished. LXPs’ ability to store and curate a variety of content sources and types (both formal and informal) means existing content can be repurposed, recycled and reused as microlearning. Gaps, easily identified using the LXP’s impressive array of data-gathering tools, can be quickly filled by creating and uploading new content using widely available tools like video or voice recording apps on digital devices.
And, what’s more, the LXP can handle user-generated content. So, it’s not just about learners pulling the information they need rather than having it pushed at them, but also about enabling experienced employees to share the benefit of their knowledge giving advice and tips that can be easily recorded, uploaded and curated in the LXP. In a world where people move on all the time, this is a way of capturing what they know and ensuring that their knowledge and experience don’t walk out of the door when they do.
LXPs in practice
That’s the theory about LXPs, but what about the practice? Let’s take two areas where LXPs can help L&D deliver a competitive advantage.
A call center is a highly pressurized environment where quick and easy access to product knowledge is critical. Given the pressure of being at the front end facing customer queries, it’s not surprising that the burn out rate is high. But imagine if L&D could mitigate that with effective performance support in the workflow.
With an LXP all the product knowledge and training can be made accessible to Call Centre staff. They can prepare themselves in advance, so they have the base knowledge ready to deal with customers. That information can be easily updated as product information changes.
That core information provides the basic training, but the key challenge for Call Centre employees is when they’re on the job responding to customer inquiries. Here the chatbot feature provides them with quick access to information that they need in real-time. The chatbot becomes their buddy and go-to for specific information needed to complete a task or respond to a query.
All the time the system is recording the queries and requests and storing that information for analysis. L&D can then quickly see what’s working and what’s not, what information is accessed and where the gaps are, so it can respond with new content. A feedback loop is established between employee and L&D enabling the evaluation of learning resources to be based on hard and fast data tested for effectiveness in the actual working environment.
The retail sector
Retail is a classic example, with a workforce that consists of mainly transient, part-time and zero-hours contracts. Designing and running a training program for such a diverse group is a near impossibility. Yet they’ll all need basic training, or they won’t be able to do the job. Rather than send them on a course, with the LXP you can make it available and accessible on their own mobile devices so they can be responsible for their own training before they even set foot on the shop floor.
And the LXP’s social-media, knowledge-sharing features can be used by staff to capture and share their working experiences. For example, responses to a sales drive or reactions to a shop display that might easily have disappeared in casual conversation (the water-cooler moments) can be recorded via comments or likes in the system and used for future reference and training.
This level of knowledge capture again brings L&D into the workflow and provides evidence of what actually works and how training is directly reflected in actual job performance.
Giving L&D a competitive advantage
Those are just two examples that highlight the challenges to L&D posed by the realities of the new economy where churn is high, but where specialist knowledge, the creation of specific talent pools, and quick access to the latest information remain vital to performance. Introducing an LXP allows L&D to swiftly respond to the challenges of the new economy by offering personalized learning, access on mobile devices, support in the workflow, and the ability to quickly update and reconfigure vital information.
If you’re part of the new economy or are responding to the competition it poses, you need to reinvigorate and reinvent L&D. New technology in the shape of an LXP offers the power to regenerate L&D.
So, whether you’re a start-up or an established business, check out how an LXP can give your organization a competitive advantage.
Ben Betts was one of the founders of HT2 Labs and his work with the company helped to define the ‘next generation’ of workplace digital learning platforms. Under Ben’s direction, HT2 Labs were amongst the first to put gamification into a Learning Experience Platform. They were the first to really grasp how social learning could be applied in the workplace. And HT2 Labs were the first to release an enterprise-ready Learning Record Store.
As Chief Product Officer, his focus is now on developing Learning Pool’s product portfolio and strategy. For the wider industry, he’s also focused on helping companies learn from employees’ collective experiences, on the role of self-directed learning in the workplace and on social learning, gamification and xAPI.
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