Relearning learning (1/3): The Future of Learning for Companies and Employees
By Cegos Team the 18 June 2019
Companies struggle to find qualified specialists and managers in the current labour market. They want to strengthen their competitive position and position themselves for the future together with them. However, companies are aware that only a small portion of the skills and abilities they are looking for can be directly brought into the company via the labour market. A decisive – and growing – factor is therefore the further training and additional qualification of existing personnel. This is also underlined by the current continuing education survey conducted by the German Economic Institute (IW Köln).
High need for further training
According to the study, German companies use further training to: increase the job satisfaction of their employees (85.5 %); enable them to use new technologies (85.3 %); develop new specialist skills (81.9 %) and promote interdisciplinary skills (80.8 %). The IW study also provides reasons why despite some companies are noticing a need for further training, they don’t do anything about it. Respondents cited low employee interest (51.1 %) and lack of time (50.7 %) as the main reasons for their reluctance.
One problem – anyone who feels under time pressure at work and doesn’t know whether and how the learning outcomes can be used in their daily work doesn’t place much value on continuing education. However, the perceived rivalry between well-used working time and time used for training is also an indication that the potential of new learning programmes and methods are not yet fully known. The new type of learning is in several respects an answer to the changed demands which further education is facing today.
Does New Work need New Learning?
Because the way we acquire knowledge and skills changes as the way we work changes. The key phrase – New Work. For example project-oriented tasks play an increasingly important role here. Such projects often create completely new challenges, which we are insufficiently prepared for from our training or our professional experience. Instead, additional skills are expected for the limited project period, which can be acquired and applied quickly. It is obvious that face-to-face seminars – which might only take place three months later – are not the best way in such cases.
New Work also includes corporate structures that are increasingly transforming. Rigid hierarchies are broken down, responsibilities are decentralised. In some dynamic mixed teams, this can be as far as ignoring management positions. The trend is moving towards being entirely responsible for one’s own work. And of course anyone who also works flexibly from home or while on the move needs to take on a great deal of personal responsibility and have a good capacity for self-organisation. However, the widespread learning culture is still based too heavily on ideas from earlier decades, in which knowledge was imparted formally and detached from its later purpose. With the digital transformation that is transforming entire companies and the everyday working lives of their employees, this is also changing.
Digitisation brings questions and provides answers
Digitisation is not only the catalyst for rapid changes in the world of work. It is also a door opener for new learning possibilities. Many employees are used to mobile collaboration tools or cloud-based information management anyway. Digital or digitally extended learning formats fit in seamlessly with this. In contrast to many classic formats, they are not linear or serve as many of a group’s expectations as possible at the same time. Instead, their central strength is that participants can adjust their learning goals, intensity, timing and duration of learning to their individual, precise needs. This way of learning in small, well-measured out units directly benefits the company (and the employees).
For the example of project work this means employees learn the required skills at short notice and have them available when they really need them. Of course, this practical type of learning also brings considerable advantages outside of projects – what is learned can be integrated more easily and sustainably if it is applied directly. In digital learning programs, which are integrated into the work process, the learning content provides answers to questions raised while working. And, through continuous transfer of learning into the daily work routine, employees directly experience the relevance of the learning material. To learn in a motivated way, this type of connection is an enormous advantage.
Motivated and independent learning
If motivation is high and the learning can be flexibly integrated into everyday working life, there will be less rivalry between learning and working. This facilitates a further requirement for modern work – increasing own responsibility. Each employee can individually find out what type of learner he or she is, on what previous knowledge learning can be built and what content is important now or in the medium term. At the same time a community experience is still important and possible; using integrated learning platforms, participants (e.g. team members) can communicate with each other and exchange materials, media and questions.
This exchange not only increases motivation and independence. It also allows a glimpse outside the box and brings together experts of different ages and from different fields of activity, while they all follow their own personal learning paths. Companies that implement a training project for their international branches also benefit from internal company exchanges, and from the fact that digitally supported training courses can take local needs, requirements and time frames into account.
Accompanying with monitoring
An important element of face-to-face learning is the direct contact with the trainers. In digital learning formats this does not have to be done away with. Tutors advise participants throughout the programme, coaches provide feedback on progress and prepare participants for exams. In terms of time, content and learning, the digital formats mean that highly individual one-to-one support is possible. In addition, superiors can also be involved on an ongoing basis so as to align learning goals and content and accompany participants through to their successful course completion.
Digital learning programs offer comprehensive monitoring so as to be able to clearly determine whether the goal is correct and whether training courses are really successful. With success measurements, participants, team leaders and superiors can record the individual learning process, readjust it if necessary and finally transparently document learning successes. This gives companies the opportunity to determine KPIs and determine the return on investment of the training initiative. After all, there is much more at stake than simple participation certificates: in digital training courses, actual progress and performance can be compared with work-related learning goals.
Success is based on the mix
Companies that want to integrate skills and abilities not just by bringing in new employees, can further develop their employees’ skills in a targeted manner. New digital learning formats provide the opportunity to do so. Of course, established, teacher-present types of learning have not lost their meaning and value. Rather, an individually adapted mix is possible – depending on learning goals, content and personal preferences. The “digital maturity level” of the individual and the entire company plays a major role in this. What are your previous digital experiences? How confident and independent are employees in using digital devices, media and processes? And finally: How curious people are about new and forward-looking approaches that can be used to acquire skills for new work and digital transformation?