As organizational charts continue to change for many companies, crossing borders and oceans, learning and development (L&D) programs must also change in order to serve all their learners. Holding the line on a learning and development budget can be a constant challenge. When a learning program needs to scale, the list of variables that could cause expenses to balloon can grow exponentially. With a solid plan for expansion, creating and deploying custom content to a global organization won’t sink your L&D initiative into a budgetary and labor quagmire.
A Global Classroom
The globalization of a workforce brings new opportunities and challenges. Organizations across many industries, including manufacturing, customer support and engineering, are finding success in tapping the human capital of a foreign market. It can be difficult to maintain a high level of training and facilitating a learning environment that serves that branch of the organization — not to mention the accommodation of differences in policy, language or culture.
Improving engagement can sometimes be a simple matter of relatability. Deploying learning content to a Scandinavian country using actors who are tall and blonde will generally feel more personalized than an all Asian-cast (and vice versa). Creating content with easily swappable elements related to imagery and customs can help the learning experience resonate.
Learning for 2020 and Beyond
Digital transformation is making the need for training at all levels of an organization apparent. The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2022, 54% of all jobs will need significant reskilling just to keep pace. Some workers will need to entirely reskill to remain relevant.
There is also a growing demand for leadership development and soft skills training programs to usher in a new, more cohesive team comprised of different generational cohorts. Even basic safety protocols and compliance standards seem to have an inexhaustible demand.
Repeatability of Training
To date, what has worked well for learning leaders is the repeatability of training: They create a learning object once and deliver it to a mass audience until outside forces, such as a change in policy, new technology or even the aesthetics of the media, diminish its relevance. This model of content creation and distribution is based on the assumption that the audience shares many commonalities. Accommodating team members with different languages, customs and learning preferences challenges this efficiency.
Beyond content, using the wrong technology has the potential to cause a learning initiative to break down. To deploy a single course across the globe, it’s not uncommon to require as many as 20 languages. Though automation is improving the process, translation is still a costly and often inaccurate process requiring many revisions. Relying on traditional methods of content creation for maintaining multiple versions of a piece of content can dominate a budget and a workload. With advanced content creation tools, creating and updating multiple versions of the same content is exponentially more manageable.
Digital Consumption (or Lack Thereof)
Smartphones and the availability of internet service is taken for granted in many places, but many countries cannot rely on these technologies. For instance, in India, as of 2017, only 27% of the population was using smartphones (however, as many as 60% are predicted to access the internet primarily via mobile device by 2022). Learning initiatives will need to account for this massive audience in an engaging, collaborative and social way.
Another technological issue occurs in the last mile of the content’s journey to the learner. Building content that is adaptable for both computers and mobile devices has been standard procedure for many content creation providers in the U.S. However, the rest of the world uses a myriad of devices. There are five major operating systems with multiple browser choices in use that add up to differing results when displaying content. Planning for the effective use of screen size and functionality is an ever-evolving consideration.
Worldwide, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are often used in training where failure can be catastrophic — in industries with inherently high-risk environments, such as aviation and medicine. The expansion of this technology as a learning method to other industries is inevitable as the costs decrease. Some predict that the revenue from VR/AR in the education field will be as high as $700 million by 2025. However, widespread global adoption of this type of training is unlikely to happen until the price and labor involved fall to attainable levels for the average learning organization.
Learning leaders are continually challenged to accomplish business objectives and shape the culture of an organization; however, the expanding footprint of the workforce can complicate this task. Planning appropriately for the opportunity can help create a proactive, adaptive L&D function.