4 ways HR can help employee learning go viral

Informal learning is the way forward, according to Sylvia Vorhauser-Smith, as the millennial rich workforce is growing rapidly

The way we work and consume content is rapidly changing, and as a result is shifting the focus of organisational learning. Advancements in technology and changing demographics are making lifelong learning the new norm, while increasing our appetite for quick access to snackable and on-demand information. The challenge for businesses is to adapt to these new expectations by adding informal, continuous learning to their Learning & Development (L&D) mix in order to drive employee engagement and productivity.

Here’s a look at how new directions in organisational learning may impact businesses and how you should be engaging today’s modern learners to deliver better business results:

The changing L&D landscape
The millennial rich workforce that we’re experiencing is estimated to make up half the global workforce by 2020. Businesses are being faced with employees who are more time poor than ever and have short attention spans – less than 1 per cent of the working week is available for training and development. The increase in flexible and contingent work is also driving the imperative to constantly update skills, therefore challenging businesses to deliver continuous learning that is bite-sized, focused and relevant.

“The millennial rich workforce that we’re experiencing is estimated to make up half the global workforce by 2020″

The modern-day learner is familiar with consumer-centric technologies and has grown up in a self-directed learning environment. Given this, they are finding new ways to meet their needs through informal learning that’s delivered via mobile technology. Nearly 50 per cent spend approximately 30 minutes each day on informal learning activities such as reading articles or blogs, watching videos and taking online courses. Having content that is not mobile-optimised or available on-demand does not offer the tailored, consumer-experience that’s now expected.

The challenge ahead
The new shift we are experiencing calls for businesses to move away from the traditional, structured approach to integrate self-directed, social, informal learning. However, only 38 per cent of L&D professionals believe they are ready to meet the needs of tomorrow’s learners. This is concerning as 91 per cent of millennials say the opportunity for rapid career progression is one of the most important things about their job.

Followed by many organisations is the 70:20:10 learning model which is categorised by 70 per cent on-the-job learning, 20 per cent learning through others and 10 per cent formal learning. However, it should be used a guide, not a framework. As social collaboration and the delivery of on-demand, informal learning content accelerates; we foresee a change in this mix. It’s now becoming more relevant for businesses to view learning as the three ‘S’s – self-directed, social and structured learning which better compliments the current landscape we are in. In fact, Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report shows that employees are increasingly expecting to receive “dynamic, self-directed, continuous learning opportunities”.

“Employee learning as we know it is being flipped on its head as employees continue to work and consume information differently”

Harnessing informal learning through technology
Technology has made it much more achievable for businesses to adapt to the new expectations and integrate informal learning into their L&D mix. It supports the countless ways people like to learn by making information available whenever and wherever employees want it. Several companies are already integrating new technologies into their approaches and are seeing the benefits of delivering 20 per cent less learning via traditional training and eLearning, and 90 per cent more via on-demand resources. HR and L&D practitioners who are prepared to take these steps will help their organisation position itself for the future.

4 informal learning trends to consider

  • Gamification: This introduces incentives that fuel the reward mechanisms and embeds learning. It allows employees to feel more motivated as they see their development as a “skill-growth tree”
  • Mobile: Mobile enables learning to be location independent, reinforcing the concept of on-demand learning. Smartphones and apps provide access to content and information whenever needed and it is something contemporary learning strategies should include
  • Microlearning: Small bursts of useful information will be reinforced through repetition in further bite-sized lessons and tasks. As our attention spans are dwindling and we are constantly time poor, snackable learning is the best way to effectively absorb information for today’s generation
  • Social: Creating new ways for social learning that improve learning uptake is key. Successful social networking platforms provide channels for sharing and communication and in bite-sized formats

Employee learning as we know it is being flipped on its head as employees continue to work and consume information differently. To make learning stick in the digital era, we need to harness the viral, ‘network effect’ that informal learning, together with formal programs, has to offer and watch learning go viral.

Image source: iStock