Why Training and Development has to Adapt to the Changing Needs of Learners

On the way to work, you listen to a podcast from your CEO.

At the production facility, you open up a video on the company’s tablet to watch an assembly process.

In the office lounge, you scan a QR code to read about the latest developments in your industry.

The world is a busy place and our time continue to become more and more a scarce resource. This is especially true for working professionals who are often inundated with mounds of information and data that require fixes. While traditional classroom training still takes place, the use of smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices are increasingly the “point of need” to look up information for solutions. Geo-location capabilities, text messaging, social networking etc have resulted in new opportunities for learning in real-time and on demand. The examples earlier have demonstrated the fact that everyday people are becoming more reliant on mobile devices to the point that they do not realise how much they are using them to learn. Traditional classroom learning has been a “learn now, use later” approach, but learning has become a “need now, learn now” notion with the rise of mobile technology. The pace of change is not just filling up people’s pockets, offices and homes with new gadgets and tools but changing how people think, interact and learn.  Training and development have to adapt to the changing needs of learners.

In managing the changing needs of learners, companies need to recognise that they have to change their traditional view of learning and training. Rather than directing the learning experience by deciding what to learn or what courses to enroll their employees in, the learner is in control of what he or she needs to know. In the past, human resources and training departments have focused on what content needs to be learnt. With learning on the go, the focus is not simply on what has to be learned. Thought should be given to the ease of locating information, presenting the information in a way that matches the context of the situation and consider when information is most useful. Much of learning is about delivering information at the moment of need and in bite-sized chunks. In traditional classroom training, only the audience and content is taken into account. But leveraging the use of mobile devices and new technologies means that context has to be considered. Context is important as a more thorough understanding of the situation will allow for more effective learning to take place.

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Whether you are a Baby Boomer or Millennial, lifelong learning is no longer an option. It has become the mantra for today’s society. A study revealed that the global economy faces a re-skilling crisis with 1.4 million jobs in the US alone, vulnerable to disruption from technology and other factors by 2026. Upgrading your skills and knowledge is critical to capitalise on opportunities and tackle challenges that will allow you to remain competitive and relevant in the workforce. Lifelong learning would bring about a better-trained workforce for organisations and flexibility for individuals to adapt to new careers and jobs. Skills such as problem-solving, communication, collaboration and curiosity will become the foundation for which learners will become resilient and successful in the face of the changing social and work environment.

In addition, the demand for multi-tasking and intense global competition means that there is less time available for training. Many employees are already mobile. There are workers who work from home, other locations or may be in other parts of the world. Learning using mobile devices already fits into their lifestyle and work habits. Mobile learning is not merely fitting in training materials and pushing it to the learners. When designed properly, it allows for research, performance support, and learning management. Take for instance, a new salesperson who has just completed his company’s online training course. As he is deployed for his first sales pitch at an organisation, he can easily review a checklist of the elements of a sales pitch on his mobile phone while waiting at the reception. He could even harness the use of artificial intelligence in an app and “chat” with a chatbot to locate the answers he need. This type of “just-in-time” experience demonstrates the value of mobile learning. But there is a need to note that mobile learning is ideal for conveying bite-sized chunks of information that can be absorbed, for instance while commuting or standing at a job site. The information is chosen by the learners when they need them. Learning on demand enhances their confidence anytime, anywhere and at the time of need.

Today's learners love to learn and technology has caught up with their needs by providing personalised experiences for them. Personalised learning tap into their existing knowledge and interests, meaning that information can be just in time and enough for them at the point of need. Learning is then more meaningful to the recipients and not a means to an end. Personalised learning paths also help employees to manage their learning progress and work performance in a visible way. At the same time, adapting to the changing needs of learners could possibly support cutting costs and contributing to the company’s bottom line in the near future. The imperative now is for training and learning departments to re-look ways to embrace technology to meet the expectations of learners today. By helping learners succeed, organisations succeed too.

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Topics: Digital Learning, Elearning, Learning with Technology