“Learning, learning and continuous learning, ladies and gentleman, is the key differentiator to become a successful organisation.” These words were very powerfully and animatedly stated by the Head of HR of a large Indian Conglomerate at an L&D conference, in Mumbai. Almost all organisations talk about the importance of learning and development, however, few do much about it. It is not because they do not believe in L&D activities; it is because the benefits of learning are difficult to measure. Rather it is very difficult to measure learning. Therefore, learning and development somehow hover in the abstruse realm of management. The last to receive a budgetary allocation and the first to experience austerity drive.
The economic landscape has drastically changed and is changing at an unprecedented speed. This is both an Indian and global phenomena. The core of this change is an advancement in technology –especially computing technology. Massive pools of data can be processed in seconds and this ability of big data analytics is able to provide inferences in real time. This results in quick decision making as well as the need to execute quickly. Now marry this ability to compute quickly, correlate abstract data and provide meaningfully, analysed data with learning and there you have a birth of ‘true’ digital learning. Add to it the developing science of Artificial Learning and Machine learning – making digital learning effective, efficient and engaging.
Digital learning is there – from basic Learning Management Services (LMS’s) to high end assisted learning intelligence platforms, but the question is the ability of the businesses to adapt to digital learning. Anything and everything on a digital device is not digital learning. With this definition, Computer-based learning has been there for some form or other since 1970’s and it later avatar of eLearning since early 1990’s. I would like to share some facts which came up with some interesting findings (based on 189 clients that we have worked with).
Some of them are:
Up till 2012 – 80% of the core training was in-person and classroom lead. Where average classroom training averaged 56 training hours a year out of a classroom learning opportunity of 80 hours. Getting 8 hours of eLearning was a challenge, being limited to product and process knowledge or induction programs. An average program lasted for 2 days in 2012. In 2017 – the average classroom came to one day. With consistent demand for classroom programs not exceeding 4 hours or half a day sessions. With eLearning
Consumption increasing up to 19 hours a year –from an average eLearning opportunity of 300+ hours. The attention span has dropped considerably to less than 5 minutes and is reducing all the more. This is more due to the choices that a learner has and multiple sources for getting information affecting the ability to concentrate. The workforce that now comprises more of millennial, desire for more personalized input, on the go and self-paced learning opportunities. 89% of respondents in a survey conducted by SKILLDOM stated that they find the classroom training uninteresting and that they can better use their time learning the same thing through online media. 100% of stakeholders were challenged and struggling to measure learning effectiveness and efficiency in 2012 and 100% of stakeholders are still challenged on the same issue in 2017. Nothing much will change in 2018 – until organisation start adapting to intelligent digital learning platforms.
In the same survey conducted by SKILLDOM, 79% of the learners wanted classroom sessions to be skill-building sessions, where they could interact and do activities and exercises that helped them become dextrous or sensitive to a certain subject/competency. 74% of the respondents said that micro learning would be better as they can collate mentally concepts and probably apply them to work as and when needed. Both the business and the learner wanted to know – how much I have learnt in the end.
Now on analysing these points, the major inferences are:
Classroom learning is important but needs to be focused on skill building. Digital learning is the need of the hour to provide personalized, on the go, self-paced and measured learning. The advantage that digital learning platforms bring is immense. Think of a large bank or a pharma company or a multiband retail outlet that employ probably 1000’s of people. Reaching to every learner is a challenge and reaching in real time is all the more difficult, forget about providing learning opportunity consistently and regularly. A digital learning platform can provide all this at a cost that is significantly less than spend which the organization does on coffee per employee per month. Moreover, it is able to measure learning, as it is able to record minute transactions that correlate with learning. Learning content is sourced from the knowledge repository of the organization and curated content from the internet that probably has millions of content pieces on the most common competencies that are associated with a role. Which means you can actually measure the learning that a learner is doing. Hence you know what the ability is and all that is left for the business or the learner’s immediate manager to do is bring in the ‘human touch’ to influence the ‘willingness” part.
With improving bandwidth, digital learning is possible and it is here to stay. Even in the remotest part of the country, you will find not only the youth but people across a broad demographic spectrum happily hooked on to YouTube and Facebook. The only challenge is to engage with a digital learning platform that can be as interesting as Facebook or YouTube. So when I hear the words “learning, learning and continuous learning” from the head of HR of an Indian conglomerate and I know it can happen. But to make it happen the core way of functioning and looking at the learning function has to dramatically alter. Adapting digital learning platforms that operate on new age technology is critical. Only when this learning change is initiated will business organisations of today start becoming successful.