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A good learning system engages employees

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Taking it on board: Corporate learning programmes need to be in tune with the demands of the 21st century workplace

This article is the third in a ten-part series by professional services firm Deloitte which will explore the new world of work, the top talent challenges, and how leaders can begin to address them.

Learning today has become a business-critical priority for increasing skills, improving the leadership pipeline, and enhancing employee engagement. As the corporate learning market undergoes a digital transformation, this is the year to assess your current learning environment and implement a new vision to build a corporate learning experience.

The last three years have witnessed an explosion of new learning offerings, including massive open online courses (MOOCs) (more than 400 universities now offer free or low-cost courses), digital learning tools, video offerings, and new cloud-based training systems. These new learning platforms are easy to use, provide access to internal and external content, and use analytics to recommend content in a manner similar to Netflix and Amazon.

Innovative and engaging learning solutions today are on-demand, fast to absorb, and available on mobile devices. Yet, while employees now demand a personalised, digital learning experience that feels like YouTube, many companies are stuck with decades-old learning management systems that amount to little more than a registration system or course catalogue. Research shows that less than 25 per cent of companies feel comfortable with today’s digital learning environment. The results of Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends support this: Only 6 per cent of respondents rate themselves excellent at providing mobile learning, only 6 per cent rate themselves excellent at incorporating MOOCs into their learning and development programmes, and only 5 per cent rate themselves excellent at using advanced media such as video, audio, and simulations — essential capabilities in a world dominated by digital learning platforms.

This may be starting to change, however. Many companies are starting to invest more heavily in learning and development to build the skills they need. Last year, the learning and development market grew by 14 per cent, while spending on leadership development grew at an even faster rate. The learning technology market grew by 27 per cent and is now a $4 billion industry. Last year, more than $400 million was invested in fast-growing learning providers such as EdX, Khan Academy, Coursera, and Udemy, which have emerged as large marketplaces for online training, serving millions of users after only a few years of operation.

But new technology is only one part of a learning transformation. Companies such as Philips are rationalising their distributed learning teams, cutting down on duplicative content, and consolidating technologies to build an integrated, consistent learning environment.

Beyond filling skill and capability gaps, some companies are realising other goals through learning and development transformation. TELUS, one of Canada’s fastest-growing telecommunications companies, recently revitalised its learning platforms with improved technology, the assignment of “product managers for learning” within L&D, and the adoption of new contextual learning tools. Following these steps, employee retention improved by 30 per cent.

Where companies can start:

• Redesign the learning experience: Look at your learning management systems and content strategy, and expand your thinking to create an environment that attracts and encourages people to learn.

• Assess your current learning offerings: Analyse where your current learning and development budget is being spent. Research shows that most companies underestimate their spending by a factor of two to three, and many have uncoordinated and duplicative programmes and tools throughout the company. A project to find and rationalise learning spending often identifies areas to re-engineer with little incremental investment.

• Centralise spending and strategy while carefully distributing learning capabilities: Great learning teams have a strong leader and spend money strategically, with centralised operations focused on technology, content, tools, and methods. They distribute programmes locally, leveraging centralised infrastructure and common learning elements across technical, professional and leadership programmes.

• Assign a learning technology and design thinking team: Companies need to redefine learning as an agile and routine experience. This often requires the assignment of a development team to build a new “learning architecture” as well as assigning people to be “product managers,” not just instructional designers.

• Evaluate measurement tools: The old measurement models no longer provide enough information. Look at measuring all types of activity, and capture data about learning like you do from outside customers. Monitor metrics such as activity and usage, feedback, and net promoter scores, as well as satisfaction and instructor.

For more information about Human Capital Services at Deloitte, contact Jessica Mello, director of consulting at Deloitte, on 295-1500 or at jessica.mello@deloitte.bm

Elizabeth Cunningham