Future Learning Begins Today

By Phil Antonelli, Senior Professional, Organization Learning & Development, Conduent

Phil Antonelli

Are you preparing to support learning and development of the workforce of the future? It’s not easy.  Events move so quickly today that preparing for the future has become a thing of the past. The best approach is to roll up your sleeves and get to work today. This can be challenging given the massive disruption taking place in learning technology. It is impossible to keep up with new offerings when no one knows if what works today will be sufficient for tomorrow?

Rather than hitting the panic button, take a deep breath and reflect for a moment. A good place to start is by thinking about the people who showed up for work this morning.

If you work in a global enterprise there is a good chance that no matter how early you arrived today ― someone beat you in the door. In today’s workplace, “morning” is a relative thing. That’s especially true given that for many employees, through the wonders of telecommuting, , the office door might be adjacent to the bedroom and the break room might double as a kitchen.

We have all heard about the large number of millennials entering the workplace. From a population standpoint they surpassed their Gen X counterparts in the U.S. workforce two years ago. It’s a given that this digital generation has high expectations about the use of technology and media at work. They take it for granted that what they do on personal devices at home is also enabled at work, including the ability to tailor the content to their needs and interests.

But don’t forget about the folks who preceded them. Stereotypes are misleading. Boomers and Generations X and Y also desire an equally great experience at work — maybe the only difference between them and their juniors is that they have been conditioned not to expect one.

Taking these factors into account will help provide you to begin your work on building a modern learning experience for your “future today” workforce. Let’s spend a moment to match up the problems outlined above with some solutions:

  • Rapid change/disruptive technology requires a flexible approach to platforms.
  • A global/virtual work environment requires anytime, anywhere delivery of learning content.
  • ALL employees want a great experience.

Technology

One challenge employers face is staying current. Technology is changing all the time, and the expense and effort of installing, updating and managing complex IT systems is substantial. If you are not there already, get thee to the cloud. The cloud provides flexibility to adapt as needs evolve, along with regular and seamless updates and management to standards set by service level agreement.

It is unlikely that a single technology is going to deliver everything you need to support today’s workforce. Start thinking about an architecture of systems, linked together with APIs and built around a plug and play approach. Build yourself an ecosystem.

Work Environment

By now we should be all support on-demand access to learning. But we also need to develop a means and a strategy to deliver to multiple devices. A key objective of the technology is the ability to serve up the right content for the right platform. Mobile is not the place for complexity and depth. A right-sized approach to learning content that includes micro learning is essential.

Keeping content up-to-date presents a major challenge to learning and development organizations. The amount of information available in the digital age grows almost uncontrollably. Traditional approaches can’t keep up.  At the same time, others outside the organization are creating their own great content. Do you have a strategy for content curation? If not you should consider developing one.

The Experience

Employees expect the same quality of experience from their everyday lives to be provided for them at work. For learning professionals that involves a host of items that must be considered and perhaps a new role to create – the “Learner Experience Designer.” To support the experience we need to consider not just the learning but also ease of access, navigation, the use of media and a means to personalize.

It can all be a bit daunting and you may decide to panic nonetheless.. However, I ask you to refrain! In the series of blog posts to follow I will explore how the learning ecosystem strategy can solve these issues and support your modern workforce needs.

Next topic:  I’ll share what I consider the key components of a learning ecosystem. In the meantime if you have a question, challenge, or alternate ideas, please post a comment below or reach out to me on LinkedIn (linkedin.com/in/philantonelli) or Twitter (@pantonelli).

Phil Antonelli works with  large enterprise clients to provide learning strategy, design consultation, and recommendations on the use and adoption of next-generation learning environments. Phil has over 20 years’ experience in leading teams in the design and execution of all forms of training for corporate, university, and government clients.

 

 

4 thoughts on “Future Learning Begins Today

  1. Bob Daugherty April 11, 2017 - Reply

    You should check out Thomas Friedman’s latest booked titled “Thank You for Being Late.” It covers a broad spectrum of factors that are impacting the world today. In several placed throughout the book he discusses the importance of lifelong learning. On page 240 he says “…the new workplace reshaped by the age of accelerations will demand multiple new social contracts. One is between bosses and employees: bosses will have to learn to hire more people on the basis of what they can probably do, not just the pedigree they can ostentatiously produce, and to provide multiple avenues of lifelong learning with the company’s framework. One is between you and yourself: if the bosses create the learning opportunities and help with the tuition, you will have to provide the grit and self-motivation to take advantage of both – to own your learning and your constant relearning.”

    This is not just what millennials today expect from the companies they work for, but all workers expect this because all successful companies are demanding this aptitude and skill of all their employees, whether you’re 22 or 55.

  2. Phil Antonelli April 11, 2017 - Reply

    Thanks for the insight Bob. I’ve not read Friedman’s book, but I love his columns so I will have to check it out. The social contract has changed and so have the rules employees and organization really need to shift focus and adapt to the new environment. I also agree with the need for life long learning and for individuals to drive their own growth and development.

  3. Phil, thank you for this insightful look at the “future of today”.

    As a learning leader in my company, I’m concerned with tow parts of this picture:

    1) creating & delivering learning content that is relevant, small enough to consume quickly and that will impact on-the-job-performance for my learners

    2) helping shift company culture, to one that openly values learning & development -AND- give team members the space to do that safely (at work) without being ding for taking the time to do so.

    Shifting company culture, to help my learners understand and embrace the idea that things are different, is, I believe, the harder part.

  4. Phil Antonelli April 27, 2017 - Reply

    Thomas
    You raise two great points and I have to agree that the second on culture is the hardest to solve. In my work I have tried to shift culture from the bottom up and the middle out, but to be effective it has to be driven from the top down.

    To create a culture of learning you need to have executive engagement to help drive the messaging and the performance structure to enable organizational learning. L&D leaders need to make a case for learning with business leaders actively seek supporters to our cause. In our messaging we have to present learning and performance as a way to achieve key business goals in terms that resonate with leaders — impact to top line and bottom line performance.

    You are also correct about the need for content that is brief and relevant. Microlearning has become a buzz word for good reasons — people have neither time nor the attention to spend an hour in online training. The harder part here, I think, is exposing learning content where people travel during their work day is important. We have to consider ways to deliver learning at the point of need, in process steps, pathways and by simple search.

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