For organizations to survive and thrive in today’s dynamic business environment, workplace learning is becoming increasingly essential. A large portion of the workforce requires re- or upskilling to remain competent for future work. To fulfill this requirement, the learning and development (L&D) department needs to look externally when building its strategy.
The L&D department traditionally takes center stage when it comes to organizational development initiatives. It identifies training needs, develops training material and implements training solutions. This exclusive ownership can be insufficient for a few reasons. Firstly, it can be overwhelming for the L&D department. A human resources (HR) team of fewer than 10 people is common even in large organizations, which highlights the heavy workload L&D teams endure. Helping organizations navigate a world of constant change requires more than a thinly staffed team.
Secondly, engagement levels drop when employees perceive their role in learning to be a passive recipient. This mindset undermines companies’ efforts to become a learning organization. Finally, L&D professionals may not be the best candidates to teach some skills and concepts. Take data analytics as an example: While this skill is critical for a company’s success, people outside the data science team often feel challenged when working with data.
To avoid L&D burnout, low learner engagement and lagging learning solutions, organizations need to decentralize training and help more employees become allies of the L&D team. Here are three suggestions:
Creating a Culture That Encourages Knowledge Sharing
The more people contribute to the movement of information within an organization, the more that organization can harness the power of knowledge. Factors such as incentives, work processes and physical environment can drive a culture that promotes knowledge sharing.
At DBS Bank, the GANDALF Scholars program provides employees with funds to learn any subject they want as long, as they teach it to their colleagues afterward. Employees benefit from the monetary reward and experience a boost of instinct motivation when they are empowered with the opportunity to influence and teach.
Instead of removing employees from their daily workflow for sporadic training sessions, organizations should weave learning into their workflow. Leaders should consider reserving time for reflecting and best practice sharing when developing a project schedule, advocating for regular lunch and learn sessions, and distributing performance support materials regularly.
An office should offer more than furniture and device. The design of shared spaces and break rooms should encourage social interaction and information exchange.
Adopting a Blended Approach
Due to the effort required to build a learning course and the pedagogical knowledge required to ensure quality, subject matter experts (SMEs) often refrain from providing learning sessions, even when they have in-demand knowledge and skills. A blended approach offers a solution to this challenge. To equip engineers with fundamental data science skills at a high-tech company, an experienced data scientist adopted this approach in the development and delivery stage.
Rather than building a program from scratch, he tapped into the pool of massive open online courses (MOOCs) for inspiration during the development phase of this training. The course selection criteria included:
- The scripting language taught in the course.
- The incorporation of both theory and practice.
- The exploration of all aspects of data science.
Based on the MOOCs, he built complimentary materials that aligned with the learners’ work context. As a result, he ensured both instructional integrity and business relevancy, with a manageable workload.
The delivery phase used a flipped classroom model. Learners reviewed the course materials before attending weekly face-to-face sessions. During the sessions, learners received additional information and answers to their questions and participated in peer discussions. The course also encouraged teamwork, as learners developed a project proposal for senior management that would apply data science to improve a work process or generate revenue.
New technologies are transforming how organizations scale their training and enable more employees to contribute to and benefit from learning content. Thanks to technology, for example, user-generated learning content is gaining popularity. With high-definition cameras, screen-recording software and videoconferencing tools, employees can create video content quickly and cheaply. Learning experience platforms also offer an easy tool for learners to share content.
Algorithms are also pushing the boundaries of workplace learning. To deliver leadership training to the entire organization at the point of need, Cisco deployed an algorithm and supporting technology to capture team members’ behavior and offer leaders real-time advice when their team experienced changes and challenges. The marginal cost of this initiative, according to senior vice president Ashley Goodall, was $0.
These suggestions don’t reduce the L&D team’s importance. Instead, it should serve as the founder and guardian of this shared approach by formulating the strategy and providing ongoing support. The goal is to engage more people in workplace learning. An organization where everyone is responsible for and capable of continuous learning is an organization that sees constant innovation and continuous growth.