The future of workforce learning and development

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HR tends to experience an endless progression of ‘new things’. They’re often technology-driven but whatever the latest drive is; socially-enabled talent pipelines, community-based recruitment practices, collaborative working, you’ll find learning and development in there somewhere. Sometimes leading the way, sometimes playing catch-up, but the bottom line is learning. Your organization’s effectiveness, efficiency, productivity (and profit) still depend on the capability of its people… and that’s all about building new skills, updating knowledge and seeding fresh ideas and perspectives.

So, which waves crashing over the world of workforce learning and development are currently having the biggest impact?

Mobile learning

This particular wave has been building for a few years but it shows no sign of easing. Socially and culturally speaking, mobile computing is taking over. In 2014, the number of people accessing mobile devices overtook desktop as the most popular means of internet access. What’s more, Gartner has predicted that by 2017, over 50% of employers will have a BYOD policy. Partly, the driver is demographic. Millennials are the mobile generation and as more of them join the wider workforce, so they (rightly) expect that the tools they use in daily life will be available in their working life as well. Add to this the fact that workforces are far less static than they used to be with various economic and cultural factors driving a more rapid turnover, and learning and development has to become more flexible and responsive just to keep up.

M-learning is perfect for acquiring and applying new knowledge quickly. It’s informal, accessible 24/7, and ‘just-in-time’; ideal for refreshers and reminders, checking changes on the fly, or accessing solutions to problems in real-time.

Recommended Reading: HRMS Software Guide - Finding HRMS software with workforce learning and development modules

Massive open online courses

However, despite the influence of the personalized and individual mobile option, the classic training course isn’t quite dead yet. In fact, relatively recently, it’s become bigger than ever. The MOOC, or massive open online course, is a methodology to leverage all the benefits of so-called ‘classroom training’ – the instant communication, the discussion, the interaction, etc. – on a grander scale.

As with any new concept that has its own acronym, MOOCs were enthusiastically embraced on first appearance. So much so that some commentators see them as a brief tech-driven fad, already over. However, as with any technique, what’s needed is the right application. For large-scale corporate training initiatives and roll-outs – e.g. leadership and change programs – MOOCs still have plenty of potential.

Relationship-based learning

The question is not only what you learn but who from. Traditional learning and development was based on courses run by ‘experts’, texts and workbooks, rigidly-controlled exposure to new knowledge and skills. As social media tools increasingly become part of our everyday working lives, the landscape is changing. The modern workplace learning environment is social, collaborative, and inter-disciplinary. Silos are breaking down, new information and insight can come from anywhere within the organisation; or without.

Of course, the essential enabler for all this is technology… whether it’s a new LMS, the latest conferencing equipment, anywhere internet access… learning and development is no longer only about what knowledge employees carry in their head, but also increasingly depends on the devices they carry in their pocket too.

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Dave Foxall

About the author…

Dave has worked as HR Manager for the Ministry of Justice for a number of years, he now writes on a broad range of topics including jazz music, and, of course, the HRMS software market.

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Dave Foxall