The New Learning Eco System
The New Learning Eco System is about distributing training in new modalities, to distributed teams, with new technology in an “Agile” culture. The following challenges and opportunities associated with these factors are a good starting point to align the people, process, technology and organization within the context of Learning and Development and an Agile framework:
- Continuity in training and level-setting the individual need of the learner: In a distributed environment, continuity is critical in both content and delivery. Organizations are focusing more on dynamic and engaging content that is customized to a business case and/or project. By deploying a “scenario based” instructional design model, you can achieve this baseline with limited development time. The impact points are enhanced by the flexibility to scale the content and drive it through individuals/cohorts via the experience of the facilitator.
- Engagement level toward continuous learning, especially when it is abstract to an immediate job need: The “learning culture” is difficult to maintain in a distributed environment. Reinforcement of this is required and usually most effective when driven by direct and indirect management. Organizations have embraced the required credit/hour model in the recent past to keep a focus on the learning requirements. However, left unattended, the learners time can be spent in low impact events with minimal performance return. Progressive and Agile models embrace the aforementioned yet require management participation to structure learning plans, thus resulting in a connection between the learning process and performance metrics.
- Inspiring individual contributors to self-direct the learning process: Fast paced and distributed environments result in a distraction from learning in the prioritization cycle. Creating a visible library of available learning platforms along with management participation bring the “engagement” cycle full circle. However, organizations need to create a tangible requirement to not only participate but to apply learning. This can be accomplished by including the review of self-structured learning paths thus leading to a collaborative developmental environment.
- Measuring the impact of learning and the application of the skills: This step would seem to be natural on the surface, yet there is a hidden complexity that ties all of the above together. In order for learning to result in changed behavior and enhanced performance you need the learner and the manager to “own” the result. Progressive organizations not only asses the learner on the application of gained skill, they also look to the manager to ensure a value has been added and collective progression has been made. The dovetail value results in the progressive development as the partnerships move from milestone to milestone.
In order for an organization to be successful with a learning program in a distributed and Agile environment, they will need to:
- Build a library of dynamic and scalable content, driven by experienced facilitators who can accommodate various level participants.
- Build a learning culture and embed the expectation throughout the organization.
- Build an expectation that the individual contributor is also responsible for their own development.
- Build a shared accountability system to ensure the measurement can be “owned” by the learner and his/her manager.
- Utilization of blended learning vehicles: Content needs to be scalable in multiple ways; participant level, delivery, culture and duration. Organizations are embracing design models that are modulated and applicable across these variables, driven by more experienced facilitators to help bridge the gaps.
- Access to dynamic content and community portals on internal/external Learning Management Systems (LMS)/curation platforms: The Center of Excellence (CoE) is a great way to establish continued engagement and peer based learning. Progressive learning groups are embracing; content, peer sharing and lessons learned to tie scenario based elements into continuous learning methodologies. The modern LMS and/or emerging curation platforms are good foundations to build these elements into the organization and then provide tools for both learners and managers to accomplish some of the engagement points mentioned above.
- Learning artifact and job aide library: Tools, templates, best practice and open articles are useful resources to help further deepen the learning experience. Many organizations are using this approach to accomplish a “case study” baseline. Beyond the learning impact at the training level, many organizations have seen benefit from this always evolving inventory when doing risk assessment and project ramp up. In fact, we have seen project teams leveraging these library’s as a mandatory step in the planning phase.
- Virtual mentorship/coaching programs: Cross functional learning is high impact and more available than ever with today’s technology. Organizations who embrace this see benefits ranging from; reduced attrition, next role readiness, role coverage and ultimately increased productivity. Aligning individuals with colleagues and even outside experts has become a norm in the realm of blended learning programs.
In order for an organization to be successful with a learning program by leveraging technology, they will need to:
- Provide various delivery options including; self-paced, Audio Micro-Learning, video vignettes, reading material.
- Provide a portal that is global in nature and deep in content for learners to find a “return” value.
- Provide valuable content beyond learning guides such as; templates, best practice, risk awareness and planning content.
- Provide access to mentors/coaches across the organization and support that with a structure for interacting.
- Understanding the individual learner and tailoring delivery/content: Learning professionals need to be more aware than ever when it comes to learning styles and the intermingling of those styles in cohort groups. Organizations are spending more time assessing these variables and optimizing each individual’s impact by embracing all of the tools and techniques mentioned above. It is critical to consider these variables when structuring a learning program in today’s environment as they are a proven critical success indicator.
- Reverse mentoring/coaching: With four generations in the workforce there is as much an opportunity for learning as we have ever seen. Many progressive organizations are creating a reverse coaching programs to help bridge the gap in a bidirectional way on both skills and domain knowledge. This helps with the obvious performance yet also shows significant benefit in boosting moral and contributing to the succession planning process.
In order for an organization to be successful with a learning program by considering Generational Diversity, they will need to:
- Understand the wide gaps in learning styles and ensure that is captured in the design and delivery of any blended delivery.
- Understand and embrace the range between the generations and the value they can add bidirectional, establish programs to share the value.
In order for an organization to be successful with a learning program by leveraging Agile, they will need to:
- Create an environment that scales to individual needs and organizational requirements, by imbedding a “just in time” concepts within the development, design, and delivery of each learning program.
- Enable rapid response to your learners needs with shortened “go-live” times for new programs, off the shelf customization, and business alignment through facilitator experience.
- Develop an inventory of content to quickly build, deliver, and measure impacts across your business. This will support the above points by having a core inventory.
- Promote access for all constituent groups while measuring continuity in theme, application, and viability across the inventory of learning artifacts.
- Work with vendors/partners that have scale, adaptability, and alignment to your organizations goals.
- Reinforce the “learning organization” mindset by also promoting the “teaching organization” through peer to peer engagement both in and out of the classroom.
This article is not meant to be a “manifesto” of the Agile learning environment, yet it does seek to embrace the concepts of (capital A), Agile thinking. As a learning professionals, we must seek to drive “at desk application” in the most optimal way, the Agile mindset will help us reach that goal.