As continuing professional training goes digital, Learning and Development (L&D) teams have to build on their key skills. But they also need to develop a digital reflex to best serve modern learners and boost previously sidelined skills. In the end, digital technology will become part of their everyday working lives.
Digital technology and L&D: what are the essential building blocks?
Adults have a deep-rooted desire to learn and the principles that shape training courses are well established. Just look at current learning models. Andragogy, or adult education, has much to contribute. Meanwhile anthropology can open our eyes to why people want to learn. Imitation is described as the basic mechanism of learning by René Girard, a French anthropologist (1923-2015), in his “Mimetic Theory”. Training departments must build on these foundations to design the right courses and tools for learners. They must also track the latest developments in cognitive science and add any new findings to their work. That’s why a modern digital learning and development strategy is important nowadays.
The long-lasting impact of learning principles isn’t at all surprising. Nor is it to hear that the market takes direct inspiration from them, or that they percolate down into digital learning innovations. Virtual classes mimic classroom-based workshops. E-learning modules borrow extensively from face-to-face training sessions (for example: their aims, resources, activities, milestones, and assessments). And learning-focused social networks provide a space for people to exchange views, something instructors have long dreamed about. There are endless examples of how digital learning draws inspiration from existing teaching and learning practices.
Digital technology is no longer a cause for concern for training divisions. In fact, they provide the inspiration and execution in reaching their objectives. The impact of digital evolution on their profession shouldn’t be underestimated either. In fact, the combination of digital technology and L&D is becoming more and more crucial.
Stepping into the digital and development world
The digital transformation has changed the way we discover the world, how we communicate, what we consume, and how we learn. It would be a big mistake to take learner expectations that are forged in the digital age too lightly. Distracted and addicted to social-media, overwhelmed by the wealth of online and mobile resources for peer-to-peer communication — they are the “modern learners”, vividly depicted by Josh Bersin, that training divisions must focus on. But it isn’t that hard to see how digital transformation is affecting us. Everyone, from training staff to executives, may look at their own behaviors and consider the day-to-day relationship they have with digital technology, even at work with web-free activities. “Know thyself”, the Socratic maxim, can also apply to training.
Training now has to marry two complex yet interconnected challenges: how to keep adult learners motivated and how to meet modern learner expectations. Training divisions can pass the first test by selecting the right tools from their vast skills libraries. Careful consideration will help them make the right choices. They can also draw on new uses, inspired by the Web and smartphones. Evidently, any training professionnal may look at their own device during work hours.
Keep on keeping on
Despite reassuring progress, training divisions and digital learning and development must not ease up on their efforts to adapt to the digital world. On the contrary, they should focus on gathering and analyzing needs, designing blended-learning architecture, leading online classroom sessions or moderating online communities of learners, assessing the impact of training on business and on talent retention, and so on. Reviewing these activities, rethinking what’s on offer, and redesigning processes (concept, build, production, and distribution) is critical. These tasks rely on having the right technical expertise and IT culture on-hand to help training divisions organize HR programs. And thus, support the company’s digital transformation.
Other skills that took a step back in modern training programs should once again be prioritized. Marketing skills are one example, because attracting and keeping the undivided attention of learners is a key concern, especially now that they’re bombarded with resources from all sides. Let’s not forget that once upon a time, training opportunities were snapped up because they were so hard to come by—one session a year for lucky learners.
Financial expertise is also becoming critical in the battle for training budgets. Training divisions now have to defend significant investment in digital learning. To do this, they need to establish a financial culture, be able to calculate ROI (return on investment), and come up with effective funding mechanisms.
Marketing and financial expertise aren’t the only skills needed for the digital era. But good training divisions shouldn’t have any trouble meeting this new skills-development goal, provided that they are motivated by the power boost that awaits them. If training divisions can accurately estimate the impact of the digital learning and development on skills training, support an ongoing modernization program focused on digital technology, and develop complementary skills, then they are definitely on the right path.