Learning & Development Strategies Are Turning Social

While many pundits contend that Learning Management Systems are dying, we believe the LMS is simply maturing the same way as other business technology. Just as Applicant Tracking Systems are an important component of HR’s tech stack, the LMS remains a foundational piece of a company’s learning environment. However, it’s no longer the complete solution.

A true learning culture, meaning one that goes beyond learning only what regulations require employees to know. Such platforms promote social learning and serve as a repository for third-party content in addition to internal company materials, courses and communications. Their depth and flexibility facilitate a more adaptable, extendable and effective learning solution, one that satisfies both the needs of Learning & Development and the demands of learners.

Business learning is changing because technology is changing business itself. According to a study by MIT and Deloitte, 90 percent of organizations anticipate their industries will be disrupted by digital technologies in the near future. As employees adapt to increasingly tech-infused roles, the need for fast, efficient and continuously evolving learning systems becomes more pressing.

Bear in mind that it’s not just business learning that’s evolving. It’s learning in general. With the rise of social media — and with it, the fall of attention spans — people have adapted to creating, curating and processing information via digital and social networks both at home and at work. Given that, it’s no surprise that employees of the modern enterprise demand a social approach to L&D.

The Learning Evolution  

A social approach does more than increase the effectiveness of the L&D stack. It’s crucial for retention rates, as well. In a job-hopping economy — when employees increasingly cite "fulfillment" as a top priority — businesses simply must find ways to keep workers stimulated.

That’s why it’s exciting to see new methods emerging for boosting employee engagement via e-learning techniques such as social collaboration. They take advantage of the fact that learning is becoming increasingly social and personal. Because no two individuals see a system from the same point of view or learn in the same way, learning is most effective when it’s tailored to match the approach an individual worker takes to their job and is delivered through channels they feel most comfortable using.

That’s why curation and social collaboration are fast becoming fundamental elements of learning. Employees are already accustomed to the ways social media integrates itself into daily life through products like Facebook Messenger, Twitter and Instagram. Transplanting their social elements is just another part of the consumerization of IT, and makes e-learning both simple and more effective. Through curation, workers compile knowledge pertinent to their roles that can be useful to others. When they share their expertise through social networks and other technology, tailored learning occurs more quickly.

The Importance of a Robust L&D Stack

Nowadays, people think of technical “stacks” as interconnected tools that help departments around the organization operate efficiently. Consider the idea of Microsoft packaging its CRM product Dynamics and the business intelligence offered by newly acquired LinkedIn. The result would be a powerful sales stack. In the HR world, many technology providers offer third-party product integration so their customers can tailor their workforce-management stack to their own unique needs.

An adaptable LMS that’s packaged with other learning and HR technologies is more practical, and more powerful, than the one-size-fits-all models of the past. This is true not only because of the exponential rate at which companies are implementing new systems, but also because of a crucial paradigm shift underway in L&D. As Josh Bersin explained in a recent webinar, business learning isn’t about industrial efficiency so much as it centers on “scalable learning.”

Today’s corporate environments bear little resemblance to the organizations of 30 years ago. People work across multiple teams, hold job titles that encompass the duties of several roles and often report to more than one manager. Organizational charts look like something closer to spider webs than the traditional, top-down trees. In such an interconnected, flexible workplace, older learning systems quickly become outdated or confusing. They simply can’t keep up.

L&D’s mission is further complicated by the fact that people live longer today, and so careers may last beyond 40 or 50 years. Then consider that LinkedIn’s 2017 Workplace Learning Report says the average “skills shelf life” is only five years. Just as we can’t know what industry-specific technologies workers will need to master to remain effective in their roles, there’s almost no telling what new learning resources will develop throughout the work life of today’s 20-something. Under these conditions, harnessing an entire tool kit, as opposed to depending on a single tool, protects your workforce and your company from obsolescence.

A New Role for the LMS

Two of the big the complaints heard about the traditional LMS are that it’s confusing to users and generates lackluster engagement rates. That doesn’t mean the LMS is losing its edge. For example, organizations of all sizes constantly face compliance challenges, not the least of which is following changing government regulations. Having a one-stop shop that houses compliance and training records is of paramount importance to businesses within highly regulated industries.

But with a wide range of learning materials scattered around the internet, there’s no shortage of resources available to help learners cover various subjects that aren’t mandated by law but can improve business performance. An effective L&D stack not only taps into third-party and socialized knowledge but allows learners to build upon them incrementally through cultivated, customizable learning paths.

The result: a learning environment that fits neatly with today’s changing business landscape.

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