As the pace of technological change accelerates, employers are struggling to keep up. Research now indicates that the shelf life of worker skills is just five years — and 60% of jobs that will be in demand 10 years from now don’t even exist yet.
And while skills gaps plague high-growth fields like tech and data science, employers are struggling to retain talent in a tightening labor market. Turnover from millennial workers alone costs the American economy $30 billion per year.
Forward-thinking companies are, as a result, beginning to reconsider their approach to identifying and developing in-house talent. In 2015, corporate training costs rose to nearly $70 billion dollars — and investments are only expected to grow. It’s a trend that is drawing in a cadre of new players and modalities, from Coursera — the “recovering MOOC” which pivoted to corporate learning last year — to Udacity, which made a similar move after its founder confessed that many of its 1.6 million registered students didn’t end up finishing a single course.
Will emerging technologies enable the touchscreen generation to make good on Peter Senge’s vision for the “learning organization” 20 years later? Or will today’s tech startups struggle with the complexity and pace of enterprise change at a time when nearly half of the S&P 500 kicked off large-scale reorganization in the past five years alone?
As instructional designers, we at iDesign are inspired by the potential for unprecedented demand and emerging technologies that fuel pedagogical innovation across the enterprise. Here are five technologies we’re watching closely, and why they matter for both today’s challenges, and the future of corporate learning:
If content is a commodity, then data is a goldmine. Companies who can quantify skills gaps (or opportunities) and serve courses that matter to corporate learners will have a big competitive advantage. What if employees knew which skills and competencies might fuel a raise or promotion? What if managers could identify and plug gaps across a supply chain or division? LinkedIn has taken a major step in this direction with the launch of LinkedIn Learning, an e-learning platform that recommends courses based on users’ profession, the skills of their peers and where they hope to take their careers.
If two heads are better than one, what about 2,000? CorpU’s Fortune 500 customers, including Coca Cola and Agilent, are using the company’s “strategy activation” platform to equip personnel with critical skills, from supply-chain management to mindfulness. The heart of CorpU’s technology is a next generation collaboration platform that crowdsources insights through virtual “idea tournaments,” connects employees with experts during accelerated learning “sprints,” and gauges employee sentiment with deep analytics. Companies like Practice now apply an interactive approach to simulations — or “apprenticeships” — to ensure participants learn more than they would with memorization alone.
Education as a benefit
Employers are also catching on to the value of education as a retention tool, and have begun including education programs as a company perk, whether through tuition reimbursement plans or direct access to online courses. Starbucks’ partnership with ASU is perhaps the best-known example; but Guild Education’s unique approach, which connects employees with degree programs through a network of nonprofit universities, is winning over big brands like Chipotle, which recently reported that employees who enroll in education programs are twice as likely to be promoted.
An explosion of new technologies has spurred pedagogical innovations, as L&D pros grapple with the application of emerging technologies to modern corporate challenges. Along the way, the field of “instructional design” has evolved as well, giving birth to an entirely new category, “learner-experience design.” This idea merges data-driven insights into student performance with new teaching modalities that help reach learners where they are. Gone are the days of cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach to online learning. Learner-experience design draws on user data to create interactive and adaptive courses that are more personalized and relevant.
The emergence of learner-experience design is fueling the “unbundling” of corporate learning, which gives companies more flexibility and control over the end result. Instead of signing up for big, long-term contracts, employers have more freedom to pick and choose the programs and platforms that work best for their workers. Individual employees are, in turn, exerting more influence over their educational pathways — pursuing shorter, faster educational programs from providers like General Assembly and sharing what they know through digital credentials through platforms like Credly.
This means both a more focused, skill-oriented experience for the learner — and a better bottom line for the organization. What’s next? Employers are beginning to find that transformative technology can improve both retention and job performance. Those that take advantage of these new tools will be at the forefront of a learning and development revolution.
Editor's note: This post was contributed by Paxton Riter, founder and CEO of iDesign, an instructional design firm that helps universities build, grow and support online and blended course and program offerings.