In the information age, employee education and employee empowerment go hand in hand. According to the 2016 Global Human Capital Trends study by Deloitte, simply providing employees with information is no longer an effective form of development. Instead, companies must give workers the skills and resources to educate themselves. Employees must learn to seek out information and refine their skills on a daily basis. A departure from decades of educational methods, this trend has the potential to fundamentally change the nature of corporate learning and development.
The Pace of Pedagogy
The modern market changes at a rapid rate. New technologies and business methods rapidly render existing skills obsolete, requiring new training for employees to adapt. Traditional learning and development methods are not suited to this pace of change. Managers are often not aware of changes that affect individual employees until well after they happen. Even when they can identify changes immediately, it takes time to create the necessary study materials and learning programs. Learning and development managers simply cannot respond in time.
Where managers fail to provide adequate education, employees themselves have the potential to succeed. With the right training and resources, employees can identify changes in their field, collaborate with each other, and determine what they must know to respond. The most effective learning and development departments facilitate this process, giving employees everything they need to educate themselves.
Opening Your Mind To Continuous Learning
In order to move beyond the limitations of traditional learning, you must first change the way you think about employee development. It is necessary to re-imagine:
- The Role Of Learning Technology– Continuous employee education does not depend on any one source or piece of technology. Rather, it emphasizes that every device and platform an employee uses is another opportunity to learn. The most effective education programs integrate a variety of technologies, using each as a tool for the employee to learn new information, interpret it, and share it with all others who may benefit.
- Content Creation– In traditional education, your company creates all of the content employees need to stay up to date. Continuous education, however, takes advantage of content outside of your organization. The goal is to accumulate as much knowledge as possible, so any webinar, video, white paper, or article that is useful for your employees is fair game. Not only does this provide your employees with a much larger volume of content than your company could ever create on its own, but it also allows them to receive new information as soon as it is available.
- Pedagogical Partnership– For continuous learning to succeed, everyone with a stake in the company must work together to find, interpret, and spread new information. Everyone is a source of knowledge, so collaboration is key to keeping all managers and employees well informed. Learning and development departments can facilitate this collaborative process through effective content curation.
With the rise of mobile apps, education videos, and other sources of content, employees already expect to direct their own learning experiences. They know how to educate themselves, but need the resources and guidance to do so effectively.
The purpose of learning and development departments is to provide these resources and guidance, giving employees the opportunity to play a leading role in their own learning and development. They can offer a variety of resources and interfaces to aid employee development. Fuse, for example, is a platform for employees to write, exchange, and discuss educational materials with each other. You can enhance employees’ education by providing them platforms like Fuse, as well as by linking them to external information.
7 Key Trends In Corporate Continuous Learning
The most important new developments in employee education include:
1. The Rise of Filters
The sheer volume of online information is both a blessing and a curse. Employees have access to an enormous quantity of written and visual content, but if they simply dive into such information without context, they will never learn what they need. Filters allow employees to sort through vast volumes of data, prioritizing updates from coworkers, industry publications, experts, and other sources and topics. Employees can refine filters over the course of their careers, incorporating new sources and eliminating old ones to adapt to changes in the market.
2. External Engagement
Businesses and organizations can no longer provide all of their content internally. News sites, academic institutions, industry publications, and even competitors’ websites all contain valuable information that no business can afford to pass up. Not only must you encourage employees to take advantage of these sources, but you must provide them with the resources for quick, organized access. Teach them how to identify valuable sources of information, emphasizing that no informative site is off limits.
3. Taking The Initiative
According to a recent report by Towards Maturity, 88% of employees and other learners want to control their own learning experiences. If you give your workers the autonomy and resources to seek out new information, they are likely to take advantage of it. Let them decide what information is noteworthy, both as individuals and in groups. You can then communicate their findings to all other stakeholders.
4. The Limits Of Platforms
Platforms are a means to employee education, not an end in themselves. You do, of course, want to provide your employees with the best platforms for finding and sharing information, but never limit them to what a single platform can offer. Instead, encourage them to use every app and browser they have access to, taking every opportunity to learn more about their jobs.
5. Intuitive Integration
Although no platform is essential, software products like Slack do allow you to integrate a wide variety of devices and programs. This is particularly important if you have employees who are studying or working remotely. Remote working stacks allow all employees to share information with each other, no matter where they are or how they obtained it. This allows you to go to your learners rather than making them come to you.
6. API Access
Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs, allow employees to access a wide variety of learning functions and information sources into a single interface. They can accommodate both internal and external content, filtering their findings to prioritize the most relevant information. This makes learning more convenient for your employees.
7. Collective Collaboration
With employee knowledge, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. A group of employees may together already have the knowledge to respond to a new development, but each individual only knows a small portion of the necessary information. It is thus crucial for employees to collaborate on learning efforts. This means not just sharing information, but leaving questions, clarifications, and other comments. Your learning and development team can obtain and share answers to those comments, or simply pass them on to encourage employee discussion. The better your employees work together, the more intelligent they will be as a group.
According to a recent report, the most successful organizations are those that foster collaboration and the exchange of knowledge. Such organizations will adopt any technology or methods necessary to obtain and share information from any device or location.
The Test Of Time
True knowledge is an ongoing process, not a finite thing you can obtain. Every six months, ask yourself and your employees if your skills have grown more or less valuable over time. If you can identify skills that are no longer useful, or useful skills that you do not yet have, it is a wake up call to enhance and invigorate your learning and development efforts. To paraphrase Albert Einstein, we start dying the moment that we cease to learn. Continuous education is thus crucial to keeping your business alive and healthy for the long haul.
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