Advances in technologies such as cloud computing, blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation are having a profound effect on our lives and reshaping our business environments. As technologies disrupt at an ever-increasing rate, leaders across organizations need to embrace the changing nature of work, anticipate shifts in business needs and leverage technologies to augment leadership.
Amid this change, there is an opportunity for learning leaders to demonstrate the appropriate use of technologies and focus on strategic transformation. Below are some ideas to get started:
Focus on human first, technology second. Behind every technology is a person. Decisions on technology implementation, usage, data collection, analysis and intervention must be based on how technology can serve people – not the other way around. Learning leaders need to look beyond their responsibility to provide training. When implementing a new learning analytics tool, for example, we must mitigate bias, as well as respect and take privacy and data protection into consideration. It is critical to have the right technology management and data governance processes in place. While we rely on IT departments to make appropriate recommendations, it will serve us well to be well informed on data management and ethics.
Learn to lead online. As we bring global talent together and form remote teams, leaders need to reconfigure the way we lead. One study predicts that 73% of all teams will have remote employees by 2028. Leading a strong remote team presents many challenges for leaders, especially those who are accustomed to face-to-face interactions. Learn to adapt to new and different technical solutions based on your team’s size, communication preferences and the organization’s culture. Understand the various communication options available and use them accordingly. Synchronous communications – such as live chats, voice over IP calls and video calls – allow real-time interaction and build a sense of belonging. While asynchronous communications – such as emails, discussion forums, messaging software and collaboration platforms –are helpful in discussing more complex or in-depth topics. People can respond in detail to a question or topic that they might have answered incompletely in a real-time conversation.
Understand the “why.” Technology must be used for a practical purpose, not for the sake of using technology. The benefits of integrating technology into learning and development are well-supported, ranging from enhanced motivation to increased accessibility. However, there are times that technology is not relevant to or supportive of workplace learning. Don’t jump to video-based learning without confirming that employees have the means to play back the videos or critically examining if video is the best format for the subject matter. Don’t fall into the trap of the Shiny New Tech Syndrome. Dazzling technology doesn’t necessarily promise more effective learning, and it doesn’t necessarily align with larger business goals. Focus less on the details of the technology and more on its impact and use.
Make data-driven, evidence-based decisions. Technologies, such as big data analytics and AI, can be immensely powerful. Leverage these tools to make evidence-based decisions supported by hard data rather than making decisions that are intuitive or based on observation alone. Recognize that multiple data types across technology platforms can inform decisions, and find out what support is available to accurately interpret the data. However, remember that simply having data does not mean that it will be used appropriately or lead to improvements in learning. Attention must be focused on analyzing data and providing interventions based on its findings.
There are many ways for learning leaders to thrive in this age of technological disruption. Changes in technology require changes in leadership strategies and styles. Start with an agile mindset, and be prepared to unlearn and relearn continuously.