To drive organisational performance, learning and development must embrace the march of technology.
When it comes to workplace learning and development (L&D), there are three areas in which technology is seen as an accelerator of change: artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics, social and collaborative learning, and accelerating the move from courses to resources.
New technologies are shifting the paradigm away from traditional corporate training. Formal, face-to-face courses are being rapidly replaced by resources that support employees at work; that means learning that’s easy to source and access, and is available with a simple swipe or tap.
L&D teams are experiencing technology-driven change at different speeds, according to the context of their organisation and sector. For all the innovators in the technology adoption lifecycle, there are many more late adopters and laggards. The key is to understand what technology can do for your organisation’s L&D offering.
So, which technologies will continue to disrupt corporate learning? Making forecasts is risky, especially as technological innovation is so rapid. Tools such as the Gartner Hype Cycle provide some clues as to what’s coming in the next few years, but we must acknowledge that these are no more than predictions.
A more useful way to survey what’s on the horizon is to consider the direction of travel for L&D and what, as a function, it is looking to achieve. This will help steer a course through technological innovation in the coming years.
Driving organisational performance
If the aim of L&D is to help boost organisational performance and fuel business success, then every technological innovation must be aligned with these goals; the outcome will drive the innovation. There is a huge caveat here, however: the growing impact of automation. AI will continue to automate routine tasks, impacting job roles and how work is done.
For this reason, it is incumbent on those involved in L&D to understand the broader impact of technology on job roles and how the organisation works. By all means think about how technological innovation can drive performance, but ignore how technological innovation is changing the way businesses operate and how work is done. This is the new paradigm in which L&D now operates.
Personalising the learning experience
Harnessing the power of AI, and of data, will give employees access to resources that help them in their evolving roles. AI-powered recommendations will also push resources based on an employee’s development needs and where they are looking to progress to in the organisation. This is the personalised experience that has been likened to the Amazon shopping experience.
New interfaces will help your people to access resources more quickly and easily. We are already starting to see chatbots as a new interface for learning systems; members of staff can ask a virtual assistant for what they need and receive help instantly. The AI powering the chatbot continually learns from the questions asked and how employees rate the answers.
Over time, the chatbot becomes more ‘intelligent’ and provides a smoother interface. It is also very possible that use of voice assistants could grow in the workplace. In our homes many people already use voice as the interface with virtual assistants such as Siri, Cortana and Alexa.
Meanwhile, technology will determine what content is needed and how best to deliver it. ‘Just-in-time’ resources will be needed in order to help an employee overcome a problem or answer a question the instant they are required. Virtual-reality scenarios will require completely different content to what is currently available, as will content that is designed to have learning impact.
For example, spaced learning involves highly condensed learning content repeated three times, with two 10-minute breaks during which distracter activities such as physical activities are performed by the students.
The science of learning
It is worth noting that the science of learning is progressing too. For L&D, that means considering how technology can deliver experiences that have maximum learning impact. Learning science tells us that techniques such as spaced repetition and practice deliver better learning outcomes. The question therefore becomes: how can learning technology deliver these types of experiences?
Virtual reality (VR) is a good example of a technology solution built on learning science. VR scenarios immerse employees in environments where they can practise new skills. This becomes incredibly useful in safety-critical environments, such as medical scenarios and hazardous environments, where real-life practice is not an option. These environments are also social and accessible to employees wherever they are in the world.
Embracing the technology agenda
To benefit from technological developments, L&D must embrace the technology agenda. That means understanding current learning technologies and exploring future technologies that sit within and outside of the learning sphere. Look to industry sectors that are innovating their learning offering using technology and identify companies that are taking new and different approaches, considering how they could be used in your organisation.
Through understanding what technology can do now and into the future, professionals involved in L&D will be well-placed to harness future disruptive technologies. And don’t be put off if your organisation has been slow to adopt from new technologies; use what has worked for others and let that knowledge accelerate your digital transformation.
For more on the future of learning, download Capita’s white paper, The Digital Opportunity: Striking the Digital Balance for Better Learning Experiences