More so than ever before, learning & development (L&D) professionals need to juggle a range of diverse skills. In addition to their training priorities, they must fulfil project management duties while recognising the increasing importance and growing influence of technology at the same time.
Technology for L&D purposes can include but is not limited to LMS (learning management systems), e-learning, webinars, social media, mobile learning, and online tools. All of which can be used to establish objectives, track results, provide support, and administer feedback.
But in spite of its extensive applications and the ability to enhance every learner’s experience, technology can also present a number of challenges. However, suitable solutions do exist, which can address your L&D issues simultaneously too.
Integrating social into LMS
In order for a learning management system to stay on point with the ever-changing requirements of corporate training, it must start to embrace social media. Even though LMS has moved away from administration and towards performance in recent years, the learning industry has realised that an individual’s development is not solely based on formal training, be it online or in the classroom.
There still needs to be an option to track formal sessions, but by creating a user-friendly and personalised social platform, you will encourage collaboration, networking, and sharing, which should seamlessly integrate into the daily workflow.
Although Yammer and Jive are two examples of corporate social platforms, the LMS brings with it a number of unique advantages according to Fiona Leteney, Global Learning Technologies Services Manager, Bupa. LMS already has a hierarchy for reporting by managers within teams and departments, it features the ability to target and recommend learning with recognition upon completion, and data is already integrated within other HR technologies, which makes an engaged well-developed workforce more likely.
“I would suggest the focus for 2016 will be internal selling by the learning technologies professionals to their colleagues, across the various functions that deal with social platforms, performance and talent management,” she says. “Then, writing the business case to raise the funds to upgrade or migrate the current LMS to this new style.”
Creating the right performance support
Despite the fact more organisations are providing performance support to learners through regular discussions, goal tracking, and feedback, few are doing so at the employee’s point of need.
“If we are going to be serious about performance support, we really need to be very closely aligned to where the organisation is going,” says Andy Lancaster, Head of Learning and Development Content at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
Thankfully, L&D professionals are able to take advantage of intuitive online tools that can be accessed from anywhere, and at any time. This provides managers with the ability to share information and feedback when they need to. Having said that, these same tools also need to simple enough to record and manage key discussions, but also consistent when providing data on goals and development needs.
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On top of that, performance support must give just-in-time learning precedence according to Lancaster. This might mean letting go of time-consuming courses and products, focusing instead on the resources staff need as well as more digital curated content to develop internal structures and solutions. “That's a genuine challenge, but also a fantastic opportunity for us,” says Lancaster.
Adapting to a different workforce
“Ideas like working from home and flexible hours were almost unimaginable a generation ago but are now commonplace,” notes Nick Williams, Founder, Acuity Training. “However managing and controlling this new more flexible and distributed workforce is far from straight forward.”
This is especially true for L&D, as today’s way of working affects the entire employee lifecycle. As a result, tools are being developed that allow companies to tackle these challenges, which focus on applicant sourcing and recruitment as well as collaboration, team working and learning.
For certain projects, organisations can go online and enlist the help of a remote contractor, who will usually complete the work quicker and cheaper than a permanent member of staff. But when full-time employees are required, sites like LinkedIn are often the best place to recruit talent. Possible candidates can also be tested remotely prior to an interview.
As for collaboration, team working, and learning, online tools such as instant messaging and focussed forums make this much easier. Williams also says, “new LMS type solutions allow employees to access content wherever and whenever they want to,” which can also encourage participation and sharing.
Motivating and monitoring remote workers
“Today, technology provides everything an employee may need remotely,” says Bryce Sanders, President, Perceptive Business Solutions. “Managing them is the challenge.” More and more full-time employees want to telecommute, which asks several motivational and monitoring questions.
“In sales, the manager has metrics to measure sales and stack rank producers from different territories,” adds Sanders. “They are often set sales goals, providing a minimum threshold of achievement.” Alternatively or complementary, managers can travel with the sales rep on any given day or schedule regular appointments in the field.
To keep remote workers motivated, managers must hold frequent regional and national conferences to bring teams together in the opinion of Sanders. “Employees need to see each other and be frequently reminded they are valued,” he believes. “Conference calls and distance learning supplement but cannot replace face-to-face meetings.”
But not everyone makes a good remote employee, as managers require highly motivated individuals that can see the bigger picture yet still achieve their own objectives, such as sales targets or project deadlines. “Hiring the right remote employee gets the job done,” says Sanders. “Frequently reminding them of their value and developing them is the manager’s job.”
Making the most of technology for L&D
Seeing as people are better at acquiring knowledge through sharing and collaboration, it makes sense to integrate social functions into LMS. However, the unique objectives of each organisation could mean a one-size-fits-all solution isn’t possible.
For performance support, employees need information and feedback at points of need. But while online tools hold the answer, managers still need a framework in place to manage and access data about key discussions.
The changing face of the workforce is also having a big impact on L&D, especially with recruitment and remote workers. Nonetheless, you can capitalise on social media to target full-time candidates or online directories for remote contractors.
But if remote contractors and telecommuting employees start to represent a large percentage of your workforce, you will need to monitor and motivate accordingly to achieve operational objectives and keep members of staff engaged with their duties.