How To Keep Up With The New Learning Culture Of The Business
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How To Build A New eLearning Culture

Fail-safe is a term that, in the past, referred to a protocol used with machinery in which if a primary mechanism failed, it would revert to a safe condition. When dealing with technology in the 21st century, it is important to build-in effective redundancies.

The new technologies that we use from augmented technology to VR to AI are susceptible to such incidents that put our fail-safe protocol to the test. The causation for such incidents could be:

  • failure due to weak systemic design
  • failure due to external attacks
  • failure due to lack of proper prototyping, feedback, and analysis
  • failure due to dated or insufficient training for operators

If we combine all these vulnerabilities into one, we can sum this problem up as a lack of vision and an inherent resistance to change. In a globally connected economy in which information moves at the speed of light, these problems can become compounded whether we are working with business partners in Shanghai or in Dubai.

Fail Safe: L&D And New Streams Of Learning

In the 21st century, the business culture has had to come to terms with the stark reality that we can't keep operating the way we have in the past if we hope to survive in the new highly networked, global business economy. One recent 2019 article by the Financial Tribune, points out that the rising tide of global business failure will be the "sword over our heads" in 2019.

So the obvious questions are: "What is our failsafe for our business organization as we are impacted by the forces of exponential growth in new knowledge, technology, and change? What is it that we need to key on to develop an effective fail-safe position? "

The key in our organizations lies in the intellectual capital found in the person of our employees. We do have a choice.

If we take a reactive position to these forces of change, then we deal with our employees by:

  • replacing them with machines because they don't have the necessary skillsets to meet the new demands to compete.
  • reducing what we offer in terms of our goods and services which leads to us adopting a niche position.
  • increasing their hours of labor in which we start to stress quantity by sacrificing quality.

These choices are the choices of an organization which says that we don't need to change our vision or mission. We will continue to operate the way we have always operated in the past because it has always paid us dividends. In other words, we deny the following realities:

  • Knowledge, information, and innovation are part of the new lifeblood of the globally networked economies in the 21st century.
  • Change needs to be effectively managed and not resisted.
  • L&D can no longer be some department isolated from the rest of the organization. Organizational learning can no longer be reduced to just compliance training.
  • The learning culture of the business needs to be brought to center stage in the organization with a commitment that the organization is going to be proactive in nurturing real and effective learning throughout the organization from C-Suite down to the entry-level employee. 

So, How Do We Make This Happen?

In a Deloitte 2019 Tech Trends Report [1], the growth and the systemic pervasiveness of the use of AI in all aspects of our lives, including our professional business lives in 2019, were highlighted. It is interesting that in a 2018 survey, 58% of respondents claimed that they had undertaken 6 or more full AI implementations—up from 32% the previous year. The number of machine learning, deep learning, and natural language processing implementation all grew over the past year with deep learning posting the largest jump of 16%.

So, why should you care about such stats? The reason for caring is because it is demonstrating a growing trend of the importance of learning within the business culture. This brings us to a new and necessary mission for L&D. It needs to re-imagine what learning should look like in the business culture of the organization and how to institute the important mindset that learning for its employees' needs to match up with what learning looks like in the life of employees in the world, outside the workplace. Perhaps, a question to ask employees at all levels might be:

" When you leave the workplace, do you feel that your learning within the organization matches with the quality of learning you are involved in outside the workplace?"

The sad truth about many workplaces is that leaving to re-join your connected life outside is like leaving the 20th century and being confronted by how much of a disconnect exists between the workplace and the world of the 21st century.

The performance of employees is not only tied to how well they develop skills within the organization but also depends upon their drive to continue to learn to benefit the organization through the learning outside business hours.

Identifying The Steps To Capitalize On New Streams Of Learning

At the start of this article, the idea of the "fail safe" was introduced. Let's apply this concept to L&D and the learning culture of the business organization. To do this, we need to ask an important question:

"If the learning that your employees are undergoing is not resulting in improved performance leading to an increased ROI, what is your fail-safe position?"

The frightening answer too often heard from organizations is that they don't have a fail-safe position for employee learning or their failsafe does not work because it simply involves continuing to do what they have always been doing.

Changing the mindset with respect to systemic, purposeful learning requires that decision makers be key to important assets of 21st-century learning. The following is a picture of what this entails:

  1. eLearning Has Hit Center Stage In The 21st Century
    The idea of being able to use the web 24/7 anywhere with any connected device to learn what is of interest to the individual is a reality that business organizations need to capitalize on. This means that the design of learning experiences that benefits the organization must first be seen as addressing the learning needs of the employee. The idea that a training session using PowerPoint stacks where the audience is treated as a passive entity flies in the face of the reality of learning outside the business organization. Learning must be personal in order for it to be pursued by the learner.
  2. Effective Deep Learning Is About Collaboration
    Collaboration in the 21st-century context has evolved from being conducted within a selected closed place or room to being anywhere where a group is connected to the web. Real 21st-century collaboration defies the restraints of time and place, thanks to the rapid development of communication technology and the growing tools available on the web.

Changes also need to be reflected in how we address the learning needs of employees, systematically. The following are some considerations that capitalize on what we know about adult learning in an online world:

  1. Designing Effective Learning Experiences
    For many years, the design of learning/training experiences involved the ID (Instructional Designer) and the SME (Subject Matter Expert) sitting down with the ID telling the SME what the learning objectives were and what was expected in terms of the training sequencing. This was based upon the idea that the SME was the fountain of all knowledge in a particular subject area. However, the world changed with the common man have unequaled access to any subject on the World Wide Web. Compounding this change was also the fact that information across the disciplines increased exponentially making it next to impossible for any person to call herself or himself an "expert" in any area. This necessitated two main changes in mindset when it came to instructional design. First, since the increase in knowledge was across many disciplines, what was now needed was that when it is time to design learning experiences, more people need to be at the table. For example, one of the most engaging features of the new e-Learning is the great potential to use interactive storytelling where learners become involved in a story as the main character in an interactive video. This means that at the time of design, you will have a storyteller, game designer, and interactive video producer.
  2. Tracking Of Learning Profiles Of Employees
    There needs to a shift in thinking from addressing the organization's needs to addressing the learning needs of employees. This means identifying their skillsets and then developing a path for their learning.

Part II will continue to unfold a plan for re-focusing the learning culture of the business organization. The future is now. Are you there yet?

References:

[1] Tech Trends 2019 (https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/focus/tech-trends.html)

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