Digitization is challenging the way we live, work and relate to one another. The pace of technological change is accelerating and disrupts our current business models (while creating new inspiring ones). Many companies and their workforces are challenged in terms of location, roles and capabilities. Will we indeed have 50 percent fewer business process workers and 500 percent more digital business jobs by 2020, as Gartner predicted in 2015? Is corporate L&D doing what it can and should be doing to build the future workforce? How ready are our organizations for the digital disruption?

Business professionals recognize that digital technology is reshaping the way people work. In a 2016 LinkedIn article, Katelyn Donnelly of Pearson advised employers to consider hiring talent for behavior and attitude – not qualifications – and then provide the training needed to acquire the skills. Employees need to find the necessary digital skills to survive and to remain effective. A 2016 study conducted by Accenture found that employees are fully aware that digitalization would improve their jobs and job prospects. These employees are already actively seeking out the skills they would need to suit the demands of a digital business.

L&D has to seize the opportunity to act as an enabler for the business to overcome the challenges of the digital transformation. The digital business will entail a new role for L&D that starts with redefining digital learning strategy, which incorporates leadership, learners, learning offerings and technology – and a re-engineered L&D operation with a digital mindset and skills. Are your employees, learners and L&D team successfully leveraging digital learning to build tomorrow’s business capabilities?

Benefits and Barriers for Digital Learning Readiness (DLR)

Towards Maturity’s 2016 “Embracing Change” report found that a modernized learning strategy, underpinned by digital transformation, delivers a tangible business impact in top learning organizations. Benefits include 12 percent improvement in productivity, 15 percent improvement in customer satisfaction, 19 percent improvement in time to competence and 16 percent L&D cost reduction.

On the other side of the DLR coin, there are numerous obstacles organizations must remove before achieving major results. In 2015, research from McKinsey found that executives list a number of strategic hurdles to achieving their digital objectives:

  • A lack of internal leadership or talent for digital projects
  • A lack of understanding of the impact of digital trends
  • Inability to keep pace with the faster speed of business
  • Inability to adopt an experimentation mindset

In parallel, their organizations face practical obstacles like a lack of employee skills to manage own learning; lack of resources, support and time; line manager reluctance to digital change; unreliable IT infrastructure; and a misfit between performance management and learning.

Furthermore, the McKinsey report found that despite the high stakes for L&D, many learning professionals are still conservative in their digital approach. They feel more comfortable sticking to the tried and tested methods for learning content, social and collaborative learning, and tools supporting learning management and administration.

On the other hand, pioneering L&D leaders understand that modern learners across the business need to be supported in their “consumer journey” if they are to deliver top performance. Staff at all levels are learning through experience, social networks and formal learning. L&D professionals need to redefine their strategy, role and necessary skills in supporting learning beyond programs. In a 2015 Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development report, L&D professionals were urged to look beyond learner satisfaction and measure initiatives in terms of how they add value to the organization as a whole and society in general. Technology can play a critical role in helping to establish a learning culture by facilitating knowledge-sharing and social learning. According to the Towards Maturity report, digital thinking is also transforming access to learning and building the flexible, agile approach to staff development that underpins business success.

How to Assess Your Organization’s Digital Learning Readiness

Based on CrossKnowledge research, a pragmatic DLR “scan” with four clusters can help organizations improve DLR in their organization. The four digital learning readiness clusters are:

  • Learning Offer and Technology: the learning design, tools and resources and their integration with existing infrastructure and processes in your organization
  • The Learner: learners’ access, opportunities, motivation, confidence and WIIFM (“what’s in it for me”)
  • The L&D Organization and Capabilities: learning strategy, governance, measurement, and whether L&D staff are thinking and acting digitally themselves
  • The Organization and Leadership: the extent to which the organization facilitates learning and embraces continuous learning and to which leaders have a digital mindset and coaching capabilities

In order to meet tomorrow’s digitization business challenges, successful companies must develop the right leadership capabilities, workforce skills and corporate cultures to support digital transformation. Can L&D keep up with the speed and demands of the business? Digital learning readiness is a challenge for most corporate L&D organizations. In not being ready, they run the risk of losing credibility, senior leadership support and resources, which could potentially result in extinction. These best practices can shape and boost digital learning readiness and position corporate L&D as a strategic change powerhouse.