3 Key Trends in Learning & Development

Discover the emerging technologies influencing L&D, the brands already utilising them and the how these key trends can work to your benefits.

3 Key Trends In Learning & Development

The business environment is developing almost as rapidly as the technological landscape, and I’m sure you’re feeling the pace as keenly as anyone. In the L&D context, learning practitioners are working twice as hard to develop and deliver relevant content to provide tangible, bottom-line benefits.

I’m interested in exploring three trends in L&D that have been creating quite a bit of buzz lately: gamification, social learning, and how measuring the impact of workplace learning is changing.

L&D technology response

1. Gamification 

With Forbes citing 2015 as the year gamification goes mainstream, it’s little wonder that this under-utilised element in instructional design is gaining momentum. Brands such as Nike, Nissan, Coca-Cola and Walmart have all turned to gamification as a means of increasing employee engagement, productivity and development.

Advantages 

Speeds up development

In 2011, a crowd-sourcing game called Foldit allowed 40,000 HIV researchers to work together to complete a project that had been ongoing for the last 15 years. Foldit is an extreme example of how effective a collaborative environment can be at encouraging innovation. By focusing on learning and continued improvement within a team, gamification facilitates faster individual development and encourages a productive working environment.

Provides real-time feedback

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m a big advocate of real-time feedback mechanisms. These strategies are effective in changing behaviour and have grown in popularity recently. With scoring systems, ranking boards and peer reviews, gamification utilises all of these benefits and more, giving HR managers an efficient measure to evaluate employee progress and productivity.

Increases engagement

Difficult to measure, with the potential to negatively impact your bottom line, employee engagement is a thorny subject (and one I’ve previously covered in detail). Allowing you the flexibility to integrate engagement strategies into workflow, gamification encourages an open and collaborative exchange between colleagues. Adding a competitive edge and providing an easy talking point, it can impact positively on engagement, providing a social environment that encourages productivity.

Gamification and Walmart

A widely dispersed workforce can be difficult to train and monitor, so Walmart turned to gamification for the solution. By gamifying its safety training, the company ensured that 5000 employees split across eight distribution centres adhered to safety protocols on the job.

The game was embedded into workflow (it’s delivered periodically and lasts just three minutes), enabling Walmart to use the scheme to reinforce the importance of safety protocols. The emotional connection the team developed for the game (i.e. the competitive element of who’s ranking where) helped to sustain long-term behavioural changes in employees, and is credited for a reported 54% decrease in incidents in the eight centres piloting the scheme.

Take home message Gamification is widely considered essential for engaging a new generation of learners. It provides benefits for large and small teams across multiple sectors and effectively promotes behavioural changes. By turning the learning experience into a game, you can increase collaboration, motivation and productivity.

2. Social Learning

With 1.5 billion of us tuning into social media daily, it’s hardly surprising that social media is beginning to feature in a number of corporate L&D strategies (ours included). In a 2014 article in HR Review, Al Bird said that while employees welcomed this approach with open arms, employers were more reserved about officially including social learning in their development programs.

For many, using social media tools in a corporate environment requires a shift in the way businesses think about learning. While e-learning techniques dominated the ‘90s, employees now want microlearning experiences; smaller insights delivered just in time.

L&D Importance

Advantages 

Increases learning speed

L&D must keep pace with technology and business strategy to remain effective, both of which are evolving at an incredible rate. By providing instant access to necessary information and encouraging a collaborative, open working environment, social learning makes it much easier to communicate changes in real-time.

Provides information on-demand

Social learning strategies recognise that knowing the right people, and being able to approach them with queries, is essential to an individual’s development. Employees are more likely to succeed if they can seek knowledge as they need it (instead of being granted sporadic access to closely held information).

Increases organisational performance

By its very definition, social learning requires a network, an essential component of organisational performance. It promotes improvement at both a team and individual level, without limiting the context in which information can be relayed, and promotes organisational performance by increasing team cohesion and the availability of information.

Social Learning and Virgin Media

It won’t surprise you to find that Virgin Media has relied on social learning for a few years now. Designed to do away with email overload, and duplicated and irrelevant learning materials, Virgin introduced its workforce to a suite of social and remote business tools.

The pilot scheme, preceding the full strategy roll-out in 2012, produced some impressive results. Virgin Media reported a 6% increase in its annually measured engagement-index (interesting if pulse surveys excite you), and increases in productivity and flexibility. But the biggest impact was from the creation of one communal space where information could be shared across departments: the strategy led to clearer communication and reduced misunderstandings.

Take home message Encouraging the open exchange of information, social learning allows individuals to connect and collaborate. It provides training and development in real-time, increasing productivity and performance at individual, team and organisational levels.

3. Measuring the Learning Impact

As with any activity that requires investments of time and money, there will always be a huge pressure on L&D to demonstrate an acceptable return. You need to be able to quantify ROI to establish realistic budgets for, and justify the expense of, these strategies.

Learning practitioners must design, develop and deploy solutions that align with organisational outcomes, and provide a noticeable contribution to profitability, to remain relevant. Thankfully, the new trends and technologies revolutionising L&D provide a wealth of data to help support these learning strategies.

Organisations ready for L&D

Emerging Learning Impact Metrics

Social ownership

Going hand-in-hand with social learning, social ownership is about identifying the learners who can articulate their knowledge and share it with colleagues. It demonstrates an ability to apply learning to real-world concepts and provides potential benefits that include ad hoc learning experiences and reduced learning expenses (since employees educate each other). Social learning platforms make tracking and quantifying this sharing of information possible, supplying metrics on the most competent learners and educators.

Skill assessment

Gamification provides a wealth of information that can be used for skill assessment. From current ranking boards to past performance metrics, both managers and employees can access real-time assessments of an individual’s skill set, making the assessment process open and easy to assess.

Take home message From an organisational perspective, measuring the impact of L&D strategies is the biggest challenge facing learning practitioners today. Without the ability to quantify success, you will, unfortunately, face an uphill struggle persuading your business to invest in emerging development trends.

Are you noticing the impact of these trends in your business? How are you driving change around L&D effectiveness? Let me know how you’re doing things differently in your business.

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