23 (118) 2016
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Time to innovate HR – trends in in-company learning 2016

by Zofia Baranska, director, Blackbird Academy
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We live in incredible times. People push the boundaries of human experience on a daily basis. There are ways to print human tissues and organs and to personalise medicine. Communication has never been faster.

The landscape around us is changing rapidly; in a blink of the eye new businesses replace old ones and new models of collaborative consumption begin to dominate the marketplace. We’ve moved away from product/service based economy to experience-based economy, where what counts is the experience and where Pepsi loses with Coke because Coke offers better emotions.

Nestlé recently completed a review of how learning could play a more strategic role in a world dominated by the need for innovation, agility, and social, mobile, and digital technology. The company’s chief learning officer (CLO), Fausto Palumbo, presented a bold view that learning could be a strategic lever within the organisation to change the way employees think and act.

It means new challenges for HR managers and CLOs who must adapt quickly to this changing landscape and adapt continuously to keep their companies competitive. Global businesses of today requires them to see the big picture of organisational training needs and stay atop of things when it comes to cutting edge training and talent management tools.

HR managers should be ready to innovate and create training strategy which is both stimulating in content, cost effective, holistic in its approach and adapted to meet the needs of a new generation of employees: mobile, tech-savvy millennials who expect edutainment solutions accessible from their smartphones.  

As a training solution provider with a global outlook, the Blackbird team has identified three must-know trends which will define your learning strategies in 2016. It’s time to reinvent in-company learning – do you know how?

TREND #1: Holistic approach designed for complexity, diversity and engagement

Diversity is the only strategy which can be applied in the face of complexity. Today’s landscape is dominated by cross-cultural and cross-functional teams operating across multiple time-zones. As a result, we’re moving away from training which addresses one or two specific skill gaps of an individual and towards a broader training approach which looks at the skill set of a team instead. HR should adapt a holistic approach where the priority is on making global teams effective. As Andy Molinsky, the author of Global Dexterity said:  “Companies don’t go global, people do” and the learning programmes of an organisation must reflect that.  In terms of training products companies no longer want and need e.g. just language training – they want effective communication training which consists of language, communication and cross-cultural training and is aligned with the company’s language strategy.  Deckers Outdoor, a leading shoe manufacturer has redefined its learning strategy as a critical part of employee engagement, communications, and culture of not merely ‘teaching people’, but ‘inspiring people to learn’. Each programme includes an element of ‘why’ and communicates purpose and meaning, not just content.2

TREND # 2: Edutainment – fun factor is no longer an option – it’s a must

We’ve moved away from product/service based economy to an experience based economy. It’s true for educational products and services as well. First of all consumers (yes – your employees as well!) expect entertainment and secondly the impact of training, especially in terms of shaping attitudes, behaviours and skills (Bloom’s taxonomy), is greatly enhanced when fun factor is introduced in the learning process. One of the benefits of gamification is that it increases engagement which leads to higher retention and recall. It also drives behavioural change through a system of rewards, points and badges. In so called ‘serious games’ we can combine real life activities with virtual world activities to shape attitudes in, for example, the area of health and wellbeing.  

In its recent paper, Deloitte recommends assigning a learning technology and design thinking team: “Companies need to redefine learning as an agile and routine experience. This often requires the assignment of a development team to build a new ‘learning architecture’ as well as assigning people to be ‘product managers’, not just instructional designers2. The design thinking process consists of five stages and the first one is: EMPATHISE –  work to fully understand the experience of a user. The user is a global employee of tomorrow: a millennial who exhibits an incredible capacity for learning and adaptation, is well-connected, cooperates with people across time zones and cultures on a daily basis and is not threatened but rather stimulated by uncertainty.     

78% of corporate workers were using some sort of game-based motivation at work. The benefits of gamification include an increased desire to be at work and be engaged (30%), inspiration to be more productive (27%) and a sharper focus on tasks (20%).1

TREND # 3: Forget e-learning.  It’s time for Experience Location-Based Learning

Just imagine you could have access to knowledge and experts at the point of need. Technology and the need for on-demand services are driving Uberisation in all areas of our economy including learning and training services. On demand services include a social factor characteristic for collaborative consumption platforms like Task Rabbit or AirBNB, enabling people to learn and meet new people. There is an exciting element of randomness and chance when your choice of a service provider is driven by proximity and their online reputation.

The world is going more mobile: 90% of employees use mobile devices on business trips and by next year, more than half of companies will require employees to bring their own device to work.

A wave of new sophisticated and inexpensive augmented reality and virtual reality education and training products have come on the market in the last two years. Smartphone-enabled virtual reality education apps are a new type of mobile learning. Proximity triggers location-based learning on mobile devices which combines the cost-effectiveness of e-learning with fun and social factors to create a highly engaging and stimulating learning experience available at your employee fingertips.  

Experience Location-based Learning products are built on location-based services (LBS) technology -  knowledge transfer enabled by wireless network interfaces and sensors responding to the actions of a user at a specific location in space and time. RFID chips, GPS chips, barcodes, QR codes, SMS, and image recognition are used in these solutions. These products are becoming more and more popular in clinical healthcare environments consumer and patient education, museums, tourist attractions, parks, and exhibitions. Google's Field Trip app sends users information about nearby restaurants and entertainment venues as well as information about historical and architectural sites close to the user. The user's proximity to the locations triggers the data feeds.

At Blackbird we cooperate with founders of Talks in the City – a mobile app which uses geolocation to enable users to request a class with a native speaker as little as 5 minutes in advance. You can use this session to rehearse your presentation or proofread some important documents before sending them to a client.  It’s not just about expertise at the point of need but also about a social factor – you get a chance to meet new people from different cultures.

When combined with a holistic approach and edutainment these technological learning solutions can transform your company, inspire people to learn and lead to higher employee engagement. Reinvent in-company learning to achieve these objectives and increase business impact of your training.


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