This feature is part of a series focused exclusively on learning technology. To view other posts in the series, check out the spotlight page.
Traditional corporate learning struggles against an old truth: When done poorly, it can be as dull as watching grass grow. Adding e-learning to the mix can help sometimes, but even this can be dry and difficult to follow. In these environments, employees simply try to get to the end of the content and hope to pass any assessments they are presented with.
With all of these factors working against corporate learning facilitators, how can organizations get employees fully immersed in learning without boring them to death? How can technology work with learners and not against an employer's best efforts?
The rise of microlearning in corporate career development
Microlearning has seized the attention of learning developers. Scientists figured out that the human brain can only take in a certain amount of information at a time, and that smaller bits of it are easier to recall. In terms of digital learning in the corporate career development market, the use of mobile devices, gamification, and micro-learning all fit together like one big puzzle piece.
“They are really part of a single trend: a shift towards anytime, anywhere, engaging learning solutions that foster long term retention and performance improvement,” Sharon Boller, president at Bottom Line Performance, told The Knowledge Guru. In other words, launching content in small chunks at a time works well in all these mediums, and they can all be harnessed to increase learning engagement.
Technology makes learning more accessible and relevant
A big criticism of learning technology is that it doesn't always connect learners with the real relevancy it will have in their day-to-day work lives. Sure, it’s fun to create interactive games that get employees participating in the learning process, but when it’s all done and over with, what will they find useful?
Every learner is different and the perception of technology’s purpose can vary. Instructional designers are tasked with thinking about the learner’s experience, and what they stand to gain from participating in the way content is delivered.
Not all technology is meant to serve all purposes. One growing trend allows end-users to direct the way training happens and how it's accessed. Deloitte University Press noted that L&D teams are “turning into content curators and experience facilitators.” All of this is driven by the demands of employees who are increasingly turning to self-motivated means of learning new things that they can immediately apply to their work lives.
Fostering more employee engagement with collaboration
Employees want more flexibility and the freedom to work when and where they want. As of 2016, Forrester Research said there were some 63 million Americans working virtually (which is nearly double that amount since 2010). Globally, the numbers are jumping, too. A survey conducted by the Global Leadership Summit in London discovered that one-third of the companies surveyed expected more than half of their company’s full-time employees to be remote by the year 2020.
When employees have a say in where they prefer to work, they also tend to want to control how they absorb learning material. It’s far more difficult to engage employees who are not sitting in a classroom environment together. Instead, learning technology is taking its cues from social media by inviting employees to collaborate and share the learning experience. From file sharing and forums to virtual classrooms, employees are able to communicate and work on projects in real-time. When employees collaborate, there is a sense of accountability as well as community that they may not experience otherwise.
Peer-to-peer recognition tools
Tapping into the human side of learning, peer-to-peer recognition has always been an important aspect of performance management and career development. Now, with software like TribeHR and ThanksBox, which allow peers to share ideas and give each other kudos for a job well done, learning initiatives are making a change, too. Social badge software allows users to earn virtual proof that they can add to their profiles to ‘show off’ their learning progress.
When employees feel valued by their co-workers and have a chance to encourage one another they can reinforce the learning that’s required to advance. This especially appeals to millennials who tend to require more frequent and clear feedback. Some do it because they enjoy a little friendly competition. Others do it to raise morale. Whatever the motivations happen to be, technology is making this possible in some very unique ways.
Social networks become learning tools
Reflecting the growing interconnectedness of learning, LinkedIn — known as a recruiting and networking platform — added a full professional development platform, LinkedIn Learning. Social networks, from their incept, have always been places of learning. With every post, people are sharing a piece of their knowledge with others.
A 2016 report released by the Pew Internet and American Life Project advised that 72% of all American adults use social networks on a daily basis. For those aged 29 or under, this percentage jumps to 90%. Additionally, one-third are turning to social messaging apps like Kik or Whatsapp on their smartphones.
Companies that want to meet people where they are can tap into the major social networks to actively engage more employees in the learning process. Dedicated groups can share their knowledge with each crop of newly trained employees, essentially forming ‘alumni’ who can continue to interact and support each other at work. Learning departments can provide greater interactivity with live events hosted on social networks. There are limitless ways to use social networks to encourage learning.
It’s critical that human resource and learning teams partner up and listen to what employees are asking for and then deliver learning content using the right technology.