Digital First Learning Strategies: Top Reasons To Spark A Digital L&D Revolution

Digital First Learning Strategies: Top Reasons To Spark A Digital L&D Revolution
Summary: Digital-first generations expect easily accessible, multiplatform-friendly training experiences. Let's look at how you can launch a digital first learning strategy and tap into the top workforce trends.

Digital-First Generations Work And Learn Online, On The Go

The earliest evidence of an online learning transformation tends to be the conversion of onsite training to virtual classrooms and video conferences. But these methods have their limits.
While moving from in-person meetings and learning to videoconferencing is quick and relatively easy, employees and trainers soon find that hours-per day video sessions are exhausting, draining, and impractical for many types of training or collaborative working. Moreover, the generations who are not-so-gradually taking over the workforce – GenX, Millennials, and GenY – have, to varying degrees, digital-first expectations in their professional as well as personal lives. These consumers of learning are eager for development opportunities, but they bring consumer-based learning preferences to the workplace. SNHU, in a 2019 “Guide to Employers of Young Professionals,” quoted a recent Harris Poll that found “60% of people between the ages of 14 and 23 look to YouTube when they want to gather information, and a similar percentage credited the video-sharing platform, with its integral peer recommendations, “contributed to their education.”

eBook Release: The Concept of Organizational Maturity: How To Achieve An Agile Innovation Culture Through A Learning Maturity Model
eBook Release
The Concept of Organizational Maturity: How To Achieve An Agile Innovation Culture Through A Learning Maturity Model
Discover how to grow your L&D strategy by leaps and bounds and move to the next stage of corporate learning maturity.

What Are Digital-First Learning Strategies?

The generational change is not just about moving to video as a training modality. While we may hold the mental image of younger employees replacing computers with smartphones, it’s not just about the device either.

Josh Bersin states clearly, “Digital Learning does not mean learning on your phone, it means “bringing learning to where employees are. It is a “way of learning” not a “type of learning.”

“To be successful,” Declan Fox wrote in Training magazine, “organizations will need to shift to a new model of digital-first experiences,” that enable learners to have “hands-on” experiences and to interact with one another. These include virtual instruction, group discussions, collaborative projects, and more.

Fox suggested four strategies for transforming learning:

  1. Spreading digital learning over a longer time period than an equivalent in-person course would take.
  2. Design learning experiences around authentic work situations so learners will be able to apply them to their jobs.
  3. Create and choose (curate) content carefully to enrich learning and provide context.
  4. Preserve social connections through collaboration, discussions, assignments, and formal and informal feedback opportunities.

Tap Into The Workforce Trends: How To Drive Maturity For Strategic Workforce Planning

Trends in culture, technology, and social norms ultimately find their way into the workplace, which is, after all, where most people spend the majority of their waking hours. Business trends directly affect learning strategy, process, culture, and the progress of learning maturity. Among the trends influencing business and learning today are:

Workforce Redefined

Remote, Freelance, and Agile Teams Multiple forces have been pushing business leaders to rethink the definition of “employee.” The globalization of business, for example, means that functional teams now comprise people from across the continent and often across the oceans. The discovery that remote workers actually can be highly productive, benefitting from the flexibility, lack of commute, and other perks of working from home, is leading companies to entertain hybrid work-from-home-and-office models. Adapting principles from agile development, ever-changing functional teams pull employees, temps, contractors, and freelancers together based on just-in-time skills rather than departmental hierarchies. Fast Company reports that this gig economy is likely to grow to the point that “by 2020, over 40% of U.S. workers will be independent contractors.”

The decades-old, familiar model of learning in a classroom with an in-person instructor has been upended by these trends, gradually moving aside to share space with virtual learning, asynchronous eLearning, and other forms of online training. Organizations already transitioning to a blended learning strategy, combining in-person with online training, or a digital-first strategy are better positioned than those at the “Chalk & Talk” stage, where nearly all learning is conducted in face-to-face classes and workshops.

New And Improved Blended Learning

Even some of the newer models of blended learning are being pushed to evolve, since micro-learning and spaced learning provides the agility that workers need when their roles are constantly shifting, either by choice or circumstance. Learning resources that are personalized and in the flow of work are necessary to keep pace with worker mobility.
Online training professionals recognize the upside of this trend: With more remote and temporary workers, the need for eLearning in its myriad formats will continue to grow. Organizations are seeing the benefits of moving training programs online: training is more easily delivered to remote or global employee populations; they can gather data on learning progress and results more easily than with in-person training; and the training is easier to scale and deliver consistently.

A trend toward online learning that was already well underway, driven by cost savings, effectiveness, and environmental concerns associated with business travel now has additional impetus, as the traditional career-long tenure at one or two companies is disrupted by the workforce mobility that has been embraced by companies and workers alike.
The Automation of Labor Balanced by Reskilling

The Automation Trend

In 2017, Josh Bersin warned that,“AI, Robotics, and Cognitive Computing Are Changing Business Faster Than You Thought.” The automation trend — replacing some worker roles with automated processes or robots — is well underway. The good news, Bersin argues, is the evidence that technology will not create massive unemployment and lead to the jobless society that many workers fear. The reality is that companies are automating tasks, not jobs, giving workers more time to be creative and productive with their human skills.

Among the 10,000+ companies surveyed in the 2017 Deloitte Human Capital Trends research, 77% believed that automation will produce more jobs; only 20% saw job reduction as a consequence. How is that possible? By following the example of 50% of these responders who are already investing in reskilling employees to “work side-by-side with machines.”

Given the costs of recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and training a new employee, reskilling and internal hiring make financial sense for the organization. In fact, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) notes a trend among organizations to reduce recruiting budgets while maintaining or increasing L&D budgets.


In addition to keeping you off the battlefield of the war for talent, reskilling pays off in the equally-important metric of employee retention. Data from the LinkedIn Global Talent Trends 2020 supports that “employees stay an average of 41% longer at companies with high internal hiring.” Moreover, in-house new hires reach productivity faster than external hires, given the institutional knowledge they bring to their new role.

To be successful at internal hiring, HR, L&D, and the systems they deploy must work together to identify future-need skills and competencies, chart career paths for ambitious employees, and offer development resources to pave the way.

Download the eBook The Concept of Organizational Maturity: How To Achieve An Agile Innovation Culture Through A Learning Maturity Model to accelerate your online training program and take it to the next maturity level. Also, join the webinar to learn what drives L&D impact and find your breakthrough moment.

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