In corporate learning, innovative modalities like online collaborative learning are often challenged by an institutional reluctance to embrace the new. According to a Gartner survey, only 4% of organizations still lack a digital initiative, emphasizing digital’s growing role as a clear corporate priority. Learning and development (L&D) leaders’ hesitation to invest in collaborative innovations that nurture human capital is not only disconnected from the larger trend of corporations’ viewing technology adoption as crucial to the future of their business. It’s also a growing liability.

Digital Business Transformation

Gartner defines digital business transformation as “the process of exploiting digital technologies and supporting capabilities to create a robust new digital business model,” essentially automating and streamlining processes by leveraging cloud-based technologies to drive new productivity and efficiency where applicable. In the context of L&D, a digital business transformation initiative might entail embracing a blended learning approach and transitioning at least some instructor-led training (ILT) onto an online platform.

The upside of this transformation is that the online learning platform can leverage data to assess if the learning is actually driving new behaviors, like the adoption of new skills that can transform the business. An effective collaborative learning platform can enable broader scale and on-the-job application by bringing learners together in the flow of work to share insights and solve real-world professional challenges while reducing associated ILT costs. This approach has the added benefit of elevating corporate learning’s relevance by demonstrating a clear link between learning and business outcomes.

The Problem With ILT

In Intrepid’s 2019 “State of High Stakes Learning Survey,” over 87% of chief learning officers (CLOs) said that they were still using ILT for high-stakes training. While ILT has had its day in the sun, it cannot give the modern workforce the contextual, applied learning necessary to compete in an increasingly digital landscape. As a result of the reliance on old-school ILT, organizations are sacrificing scale, analysis and efficiency to stick with a flawed but familiar method of instruction. People are stubborn; teaching old dogs new tricks is never easy, and once an information technology (IT) department’s skill set is threatened, it can be difficult to break through organizational inertia. Everyone is busy, and the idea of breaking old habits and learning new systems and technology is always daunting, especially with L&D’s limited budgets and flexibility.

It’s critical to take a big-picture approach to understanding the difference between short-term headaches and long-term benefits. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it’s generally understood that successful organizations can see beyond short-term initial complications to long-term benefits.

Investing in Digital Transformation

It’s one thing for 90% of respondents to recent EY research to say they are prioritizing an increase in capital allocation towards digital transformation It’s another thing entirely to pull the trigger or put one’s name and, ultimately, career on the line for a potentially unknown technology that may or may not deliver. Deloitte found that the number of companies investing in digital transformation almost doubled from 2018 to 2019. This finding cements the notion that while the benefits of technology investment might still be up in the air for L&D, the rest of corporate America is jumping on board, albeit with mixed results.

It would be impossible to accurately project a firm dollar cost or overall organizational risk to delaying a digital transformation in L&D. However, the available data illustrates that the growing trend of corporate technology adoption is disconnected from the stubborn and data-neglected world of L&D. While a majority of executives support better engagement and reskilling, actual L&D investment continues to lag, to the detriment of the workforce’s evolution and overall efficiency.

The longer an organization neglects a consistent approach to technological investments in L&D, the greater the likelihood that it will come back to haunt them. Treating L&D with an inferior fiduciary urgency will no longer work. Human capital must align and evolve with technological progress before the disconnect becomes a competitive disadvantage.

As a result, there is a newfound requirement for CLOs to treat their human assets with the same urgency that chief information officers (CIOs) are increasingly treating digital transformation initiatives elsewhere. Failure to adapt means wasted time, diminished quality and lost money as competitive advantage is sacrificed on the altar of procrastination.

Innovative thought leaders don’t hide from technological advances; they embrace them. In the cutthroat world of corporate America, the sooner they do so, the better.