While some employees embrace new technology in the workplace, others understandably dread tech upgrades. They’ve just hit their stride on the old "new" system and someone decides it’s time for a change. The "new" new system has more bells and whistles, but the downtime involved in getting up to speed may seem unfeasible.
From project management platforms that streamline workflows to communication tools that keep workers in constant contact, employers are increasingly introducing tech that promises to make work easier. But they’re only as good as an employee's ability to use them. This means that when you invest in tech, you also need to invest in more than the initial training.
The first hurdle to learning is time. The normal workday is an obstacle course when it comes to distractions. The average office worker receives 121 emails per day; along with answering phone calls, this eats up a third of their time in the office.
With so many demands on employee time, and so many interruptions, it’s important to refocus efforts on productivity and learning. Only 38% of workers report they have opportunities for learning and growth at their workplace. To ensure employees can make the most of the tools you provide, they need the time and ability to use them.
More than tools
Providing access to technology and learning tools is only one part of the equation. The one-size-fits-all training module doesn’t factor in the way people learn. Some thrive in a classroom setting; others look for hands-on learning; still others prefer just-in-time access. To maximize learning, employers may need to provide all these options to employees so each learner can use the tools that work best for them.
Paul Rigby, chief experience officer at Vitalyst, says employers need to create a work environment that’s not just knowledgeable, but knowledge-able.
“To be knowledge-able, a workforce should have the ability to move seamlessly from identifying what they need to learn, how they can learn it, where to learn it, when and in which modalities,” he told HR Dive. Such employees know how to find the answers they need to optimize their learning experience, and they own their learning and adapt it to their needs, he said.
And this can't be an afterthought, says Jaime Roca, learning and development practice leader at CEB, now Gartner. As businesses consider investing in new technology or training tools, they need to think about the type of “learning experience” they're providing; "this ultimately can increase the application of training by employees," Roca said. It's more than just buying the newest toy and providing initial training. Employers need to consider how to maximize learning in the long run.
Options that optimize learning
At Vitalyst, they recommend that employers create learning opportunities that are habit-forming. This can involve making training easy to find and use; gamification and rewards also can increase engagement.
When only a little more than a third of employees believe they have the opportunity to learn in the workplace, it’s time for employers to prioritize the experience of learning. Set aside learning time for employees, show workers where they can access additional information, and encourage employees to take new tools for a test drive and report back.
The hands-on aspect is critical, but so is followup, according to Cathy Littlefield, associate professor and faculty chair of the business division at Peirce College.
“Effective training should always be engaging and hands-on, but employees also need the ability to reinforce skills by practicing on their own, after the official training session has concluded," she said. "Learning by doing will never go out of style, regardless of the technology-of-the-week.”
To make training relevant and impactful, it’s important to remember that employees will have different learning styles. Providing options to learn through as many channels as possible is as necessary as the tool itself.
“The ease with which employees can apply learning to their careers, access learning, and understand learning improves learning application," Roca said — "more than all other characteristics.”