Heading into 2018, learning professionals have plenty to keep an eye on when it comes to technology. Some trends are showing promising results and requiring leaders to think about their jobs differently.
We asked Christa Manning, vice president of solution provider research for Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP, to tell us about these emerging trends in learning to watch for this coming year and beyond.
Manning helps businesses align their workforce support strategies with the right third-party software and service partners and governance models to deliver functional capabilities and employee experiences that support productivity, engagement and workforce efficiency. Questions and answers have been editing for length and clarity.
HR Dive: What’s new in learning technology right now?
Christa Manning: There are so many exciting new things in learning technology. It’s rapidly expanding with innovations to make learning more impactful and relevant.
We’re seeing an explosion of startups doing new things with micro-learning, video and self-authoring tools; and, at the same time, a lot of the bigger platforms starting to incorporate the same type of capabilities right within the flow of work. You might be able to access social media profiles of colleagues who are subject matter experts right from within your email system. Or, in your collaboration platform you could click on a link that would bring you to a piece of micro-video learning that your colleague has created.
HR Dive: How are employers responding?
Manning: It’s exciting and daunting at the same time because most organizations really never start from a clean slate. They have to come up with a technology strategy where learning and development is a part of it: but you can’t throw the baby out with the bath water. You need to find what’s helping you adapt and change and add and complement.
That’s really brought about the popularity of learning experience platforms, one of the areas we’re most focused on right now, because it tries to tie together the proliferation of lots of different tools and content with more of a self-directed pull by the individual. Self-directed learning and collaborative learning are the two big trends that are impacting technology providers. A new report by Bersin, "Corporate Learning Solutions," delves deeper into the issue.
HR Dive: How are learning professionals adapting to this shift?
Manning: Curation has come into the role of the learning professional in that you may not be creating content yourself, or leading the creation of content and tracks and curriculum, but facilitating the curation, and the collaborative creation of new content by internal employees and peers helping each other and understanding what assets are out in the marketplace that are popular and impactful and available to the workforce.
HR Dive: Is there a downside to emerging tech?
Manning: The downside with newer technology is really being able to understand what is going to be relevant to your business strategy and your talent strategy and not being distracted by all the new bells and whistles and the next shiny thing.
With learning, you have both the systems to think about — the technology, the integration, the user interfaces, the ways you’re collecting data and doing analytics — and then you have the proliferation of content. Do you really need every new MOOC? You have to make sure that the systems not only facilitate learning and productivity and development and knowledge, but also that the content you’re offering is relevant and curated.
HR Dive: What’s next for learning technology?
Manning: I think that artificial intelligence is going to have two major impacts. First, it’s going to help with curation; looking at machine learning and algorithms to find patterns of what employees are looking at, what are their ratings — positive and negative — of these systems will auto-generate recommendations to make personalization and matching of content for compliance and for career development reasons very relevant and compelling.
Second will be the impact on how work is getting done, helping organizations and HR departments augment the unique human aspects of contributions in the workforce. For example, I couldn't sift through every video everyone in my big, global corporation has watched; rather, I'll be able to spend time focusing on what is it about the content that people like and do more of that type of training.
It will also change the role of HR and workers themselves as these tools surface the knowledge that people need in a just-in-time fashion, so that training as we know it almost becomes obsolete, and changes into a different thing entirely.
HR Dive: What’s not working in learning tech right now?
Manning: While there will always be a role for compliance training and tracking to mitigate risk or protect from scrutiny, we need to change the way it’s delivered to be more compelling.
The once-a-year, check-the-box, long-form content is really going away both for traditional purposes and for career development and compliance. Learning is becoming much more continuous and collaborative.
HR Dive: How is tech evolving to meet the need to reskill or upskill employees?
Manning: I believe it gets back to the augmented workforce idea. We need to identify what's helping people be more successful, and we’re starting to see systems that can help with this. Who’s talking to whom that is driving project outcomes or team outcomes? Figuring out what skills are making people more successful is key.
This often starts with a learning experience platform. To the extent an organization needs tracking or virtual classrooms or scheduling tools, we’re starting to see some of those traditional elements and capabilities baked into the tech offered by startups. Small firms start with these newer micro-learning, mobile-first, social-enabled solutions that expand as needs become more complex.
HR Dive: What are some best practices for learning professionals right now?
Manning: The most compelling leaders find a way to connect content to an organization's broader purpose and mission. Doing so helps with completion of the modules and lets the employee realize there’s something in it for them. A manager may get a reminder for compliance training, then see something about leadership or customer service that looks compelling: it’s short, it’s quick, they can click on it. Now you’re drawing people into assets available to improve as a worker in addition compliance training.
They also know that training is shifting toward enablement; they understand how to enable employees to do their best work, especially when it comes to the tasks that require characteristics that are unique to being human, like empathy, innovation and the ability to drive change.