From education to employment

What does the future of workplace learning look like?

Christian Foerg, General Manager, Access Learning

The term ‘e-learning’ was first applied in a professional content in 1999 by educational technology expert Elliott Masie. It’s no surprise that in the 23 years following this date digital learning has transformed immensely, with personalisation, ‘rightskilling’, and learning throughout the lifespan all on the agenda for future workplace learning strategies.  

The modern workforce has a different set of needs than the workforce that Elliott Masie knew at the turn of the century. Demand for relevant, personalised, long-term approaches has become widespread among employees. As such, organisations should consider refining their existing digital learning experiences to better target individual needs.

Building personalised, meaningful learning experiences

Traditionally, workplace learning and development was a one-size-fits-all solution. Employees were equipped with a blanket learning pathway to follow, often seen as a necessary box to be checked rather than an insightful moment in their professional development. Unfortunately, this approach fails to consider individual differences or preferences – the truth is that one size fits nobody.

The market is currently shifting to understand that learning is a highly personal journey. With this perspective in mind, some organisations are already implementing personalised learning pathways. These allow each employee to focus on their personal goals and fill individual skill gaps. It is still vital that organisations offer workforce-wide training on key compliance topics such as health and safety. Personalised learning is not about erasing standardised employee training entirely. Rather, personalised learning will run alongside compliance-centric learning, to ensure that every individual has access to meaningful learning experiences and can therefore concentrate on their own unique professional development path.

Building individualised learning pathways is crucial to inspiring greater engagement with training plans and ensuring that employees feel that their employer is investing in them directly. In turn, this can lead to greater employee loyalty, higher staff retention, and an overall more rewarding employee experience.  

Shifting from ‘upskilling’ to ‘rightskilling’

The main benefit of offering a personalised learning pathway to each member of staff is the ability to focus on an individual’s specific needs. Too often, employees are provided with training that isn’t relevant to their roles and responsibilities, or that covers a topic on which the employee is already an expert.   

In moving away from this approach, innovative organisations are concentrating on ‘rightskilling’ their workforce. The idea behind this new trend in digital learning is that organisations need to make ‘precision learning’ a priority. Given that 58% of the future workforce need new skillsets to carry out their roles, learning is no longer just about upskilling the workforce but ensuring that they gain the types of skills that they need to progress in their careers.

A good place to start with this is for HR teams to discuss role requirements and pinpoint specific skills gaps that exist across the organisation. From there, rightskilling involves helping people find the right content through personalised learning pathways. Therefore, organisations can ensure that learning experiences remain highly relevant, thus increasing employee buy-in.

Kicking off learning on day one

When applying these learning principles, organisations should ensure that a learning culture is built from an employee’s first day on the job. The onboarding stage is a business’ first opportunity to shine; employees should be brought up to speed as efficiently as possible, especially if working in a remote or hybrid setting.

From the interview process and any assessments done as part of recruitment, a manager should know what the important areas of knowledge are for a new hire. If possible, ahead of, or at a minimum within the first few days and weeks of an employee joining a company, their manager should identify the priority knowledge and skills that must be developed in the first 90 days.

These requirements can then be outlined in an onboarding learning pathway, with efficient digital tools streamlining the process. Investing in a strong onboarding strategy will pay dividends for employee and employer alike later down the line.

Facilitating learning throughout the employee lifecycle

As we move towards the implementation of these innovative strategies for workplace learning, organisations should equally begin to accept that learning should take place at various touchpoints throughout the employee lifecycle. To ensure that employees engage positively with learning opportunities, organisations should consider implementing bitesize, regular learning that can take place within the flow of work.  The average employee has just 1% of a typical workweek to focus on learning and development, and so they need bitesize, regular learning that can take place within the flow of work.

When different employees are undertaking learning at different times, it can be difficult for employers to retain visibility. Organisations can consider implementing a Learning Management System (LMS), which gives them the ability to mine actionable insights from employee activities and adapt learning pathways accordingly.

Learning has advanced significantly since e-learning rose to popularity in the early 2000s. Today’s advancements in digital technologies ensure that learning is personalised to each individual employee, thus allowing for relevant and stimulating learning experiences every time. As we move forward to the future of digital learning, it is likely that investment and buy-in will grow, allowing every individual to truly take charge of their professional development. 

By Christian Foerg, General Manager, Access Learning

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