Six Part Series: Workplace Learning 2025.
Part 1: Staff training and development needs a radical overhaul to bring it into the digital era and meet the expectations of a new workforce
Corporate learning as we know it is too often “rooted in 20th-century management practice”, reflecting an outdated era of fixed responsibilities and single career paths, according to Deloitte’s Will Gosling.
Today, that model is broken. With disruptive technology now fuelling a rapid change in the nature of all our jobs, skills need to be “far broader, as well as deeper”, as working lives extend, Mr Gosling, partner and human capital lead, argues.
If traditional learning and development (L&D) is already wrestling with a number of practical challenges for the longer term, most notably the short shelf life of skills and the skills gap itself, the biggest obstacle may be cultural.
For while collaborative learning and information-sharing is transforming society as a whole, the top-down, directive learning, which remains the norm in many organisations, strikes a discordant note. To Mr Gosling, the need to engage staff in their own career development has never been more pressing.
“There is great demand for lifelong learning that isn’t being met, particularly for the new generations who may change direction a number of times in the course of a career,” he says.
“That sort of fluidity cannot be met by the old model of 70 per cent on the job, 20 per cent self-taught and 10 per cent hero-based, classroom learning, particularly if it doesn’t tap into the myriad number of disruptive online and mobile content now available.”
If the notion of flipped classrooms and democratised learning may keep more entrenched L&D professionals awake at night, lack of budgets certainly shouldn’t.
But while Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report notes that companies now spend more than $130 billon on training and development worldwide, many “still struggle to provide a modern online learning experience”, it says.
Although only 5 per cent of respondents believe they have “mastered the content and technology capabilities needed to make online learning an accessible tool and a compelling experience”, more than two-thirds see this as urgent or important.
For Mr Gosling, budget size masks systemic problems in approach. “A tremendous amount of workplace learning money is wasted by ignoring the sheer power of user-generated content,” he says.
Embrace online tools
By embracing the online tools, which have reinvigorated the consumer landscape, L&D can earn its keep and remain relevant for coming generations, however.
Although inconsistent tracking of data, plus an inability to demonstrate return on investment, remain of concern, Mr Gosling raises another issue.
“Budgets may be healthy, but there can be a problem with choosing the right learning provider and service for the result an employer wishes to achieve,” he says.
While ownership of L&D can also be tricky – should sole responsibility rest with human resources or should the business as a whole embrace the need for learning? – the overarching need to ensure learners are fully on board with a skills programme is surely not.
Yet to Lorri Freifeld, editor-in-chief of the Minnesota-based Training magazine, many employers are still not getting the message that away from the arena of mandatory compliance training, employee engagement is critical.
“Just because companies are spending big money on L&D doesn’t mean they are measuring results, reinforcing messages after the event or indeed using those dollars wisely,” she says.
“They may not be providing the training in the way employees want to learn, particularly millennials, who may prefer on-demand learning via their phones or tablets, or they may not be giving sales employees, say, enough time or flexibility in their schedules to actually access the course.”
While it is vital for trainers to emphasise what she calls the “what’s in it for me?” aspect of L&D and actively market the career-long benefits to staff, it’s important to be realistic about learners, Ms Freifeld believes.
“Even if employees do attend, it doesn’t mean some aren’t checking their email on their phones during the classroom sessions or working on a project while participating in webinar training,” she says.
But if they really want to attend, are happy to work at their skills and genuinely want to learn, L&D has the power to move mountains.
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.