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Redefining Workplace Learning For The 21st Century
By Jenny Dearborn, Vice President, Chief Learning Officer, SuccessFactors – an SAP company
Forbes, October 2013
Disruptive technologies and shifting demographics are redefining the workforce. In response, smart companies are reinventing workplace learning in an effort to make their programs more relevant and effective, and to create a culture that encourages continuous learning and develops innovative leaders at all levels of the organization.
“Today, workplace learning has achieved mission-critical status,” says Sam Herring, CEO of Intrepid Learning. “Global CEOs face an environment that is more competitive than ever—one in which they live or die by their ability to lead innovation, which can only be realized by having world-class talent that is highly competent, motivated and engaged. Top companies understand this connection, and they know that success requires more than waging a war to acquire talent; it requires that they strategically develop the talent they need to envision and execute the business strategies that will make them successful in the future.”
Get out of the classroom
For most of the last century, workplace learning had a familiar look and feel: students sat in rows taking notes as an expert stood at the front of the room and dispensed information. Technology offered new ways to communicate and learn, but all too often technology-based learning programs turned out to be little more than upgraded versions of the same traditional K-12 model.
Today, that is changing rapidly. New advances in mobile devices and cloud technology, a deeper understanding of neuroscience and how humans learn best, and the emergence of the millennial workforce—the tech-savvy generation that is the largest in U.S. history—is creating a growing demand for more innovative and informal approaches to workplace learning.
“Employees no longer see their careers as the function of a single organization, but as the culmination of a purposeful set of development experiences they own themselves,” says Mary Slaughter, senior vice president and chief talent officer at Sun Trust. “When you combine their motivations with ubiquitous, on-demand access to skills and knowledge, and the unrelenting pressure to increase workplace productivity, it’s fruitless to maintain traditional, static learning architectures.”
How workplace learning is changing
In the very near future, workplace learning will be about social collaboration, team-based activities, and decentralized peer-to-peer learning. Learning will be mobile, and access will be continuous and instantaneous. Workers will attend fewer scheduled classes and online training sessions. Instead, short videos, game-like simulations, and peer communities that offer networking, information sharing and informal coaching will engage and motivate workers by delivering “anyplace, anytime learning.”
In the future, workplace learning will be increasingly experiential and relationship-based, knowledge will come from everywhere, and companies won’t be able to control or standardize it. Corporate-sponsored training will become less important and knowledge assessments or certifications will become more important. Companies won’t care how their employees acquire knowledge or obtain a certain skill or ability, but only that they canprove their expertise.
“Companies that understand the power of learning are thinking holistically about how learning happens in the workplace, and they are seeking to create environments where learning thrives,” Herring says. “They understand that classroom training (or derivatives such as e-learning or virtual classroom sessions) isn’t enough. They know that an effective learning environment often must include performance support to provide ongoing reinforcement, easy access to knowledge repositories for quick micro-learning lessons, collaborative communities to tap the wisdom of the crowds, and most importantly, abundant opportunities to practice new skills in the work environment, to reflect on one’s performance, and to improve.”
Learning should be continuous
Employees should begin their workplace learning their first day on the job—and never stop. No one should ever wait for a training class or direction from management to get what they need to be successful. Considering the rate at which information changes and the nature of our always-on culture, employees must be pr…
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