When it comes to learning, a whole new set of challenges face the HR department. The workforce, itself, is changing.
More and more millennials are filling out the employee ranks with the next generation, Generation Z, right on their coat tails. Both are looking for opportunities that offer personal and professional development. But even with the changes, much of the workforce still includes baby boomers and Generation X employees. They, too, want to continue to grow and develop. And, of course, company leadership wants the business to be successful. Developing a learning culture that addresses those needs while also creating and ensuring business success is critical. The two are inextricably linked. Culture must be diverse enough to speak to every employee and designed to meet the needs of the business. And the needs of the business are many.
The unemployment rate in the United States is just under 4%. The most recent data (June 2019) put the rate at 3.7%. For the same time frame, 224,000 jobs were added putting the number of open jobs just above the 7 million marks. The problem, of course, is the nation has around 6 million people looking for work. The fact there are more jobs than there are people looking for work creates a unique challenge for HR.
In an attempt to bring in new talent, HR is pulling out the stops on being attractive and competitive in the war for talent. Some companies are increasing employee wages while others are adding new benefits such as paid maternity leave, more vacation time, and the opportunity to work remotely. Some are adding new technologies as many current tools are not productive in this new era of digitally enabled learning and development. Employees want access to cutting-edge and/or mobile technology such as gamification, virtual reality and artificial intelligence.
But learning technology is about more than just increasing attractiveness and competitiveness in the talent war, it’s the key to ensuring the company’s ability to retain its top workers. Continued opportunities to learn and grow are major components in the future of work. It’s just as important as those experiential opportunities Millennials and the iGen are looking for as they weigh their options for employment.
That’s why the learning culture must be both the standard and the mandate going forward. By transforming the traditional delivery, focusing on the ways in which people learn and how to make learning creative and innovative, HR will increase engagement and prepare the workforce for the future while ensuring business success.
This report will address those issues in detail both from a theoretical standpoint and from the experience of HR professionals in the field of learning. Our contributors include:
MARY ANDERECK- Interim Chief Learning Officer, Parkland Health and Hospital System
DAN HILL- Chief Learning Officer, AAA – The Auto Club
CASPER MOERK- Head of Learning Technology and Digitalization, Americas at Siemens
TERENCE MORLEY- Director of Talent Development, NBC Universal
MAXANNE WHITEHEAD- Senior Learning Designer, Walmart eCommerce
THE LEARNING CULTURE
The cornerstone of an excellent learning program, especially one that drives business success, is one with a robust, targeted learning culture. Every company and organization have a learning culture of some sort, but its strength relies on several factors including:
- Targeted goals
- Knowledge retention
- Those create a very real challenge for learning officials.
“Part of the challenge that the folks who are working in this space have right now been to understand, based on my business objectives, what are the most effective strategies for them to use, what role does technology play, what role does live and in person opportunities play, mentoring and all the other various and sundry methodologies that we use for training people.” MARY ANDERECK INTERIM CHIEF LEARNING OFFICER FOR PARKLAND HEALTH AND HOSPITAL SYSTEM.
Those are not questions simply answered overnight. It takes time, and it takes the right tools. something of which there seems to be an endless supply. According to data gathered at the Chief Learning Officer Exchange by IQPC Exchange, trending technologies include:
- Mobile Learning
- Machine Learning
- Micro-Adaptive Learning
- Learning Analytics
- Artificial Intelligence
- Video Learning
- Design Thinking
- Virtual Instruction
- Led Training (VILT)
- End-to-End Solutions for Digital Transformation
“It’s really about getting our arms around the world has changed, and now, based on my own situation and the goals that I have, how do I best utilize the tools available to help my organization move forward,” Andereck explained.
Andereck makes a very strong point here that reinforces the need for the five learning culture factors mentioned earlier. There is a balance that must be struck between the goals of learning and how it is carried out. In short: the right tool for the right job.
AAA – The Auto Club Chief Learning Officer Dan Hill agrees, but adds the challenge also has a time component.
“Just the speed to market for learning solutions. I think we all get pressure from our respective organizations when they have requests for learning. It used to be, you could take months and weeks to design and develop and pilot a course, but now they want it, they need those solutions in place quicker.” DAN HILL CHIEF LEARNING OFFICER, AAA – THE AUTO CLUB.
That brings into focus the very real situation around the labour shortage right now. Learning has to be urgent and on-point. It is increasingly used for leverage in bringing in new talent. It’s also used, through talent management, as a way to support retention. As a result, professionals are being forced to find technology-enabled strategies to meet the learning needs of a more diverse, multigenerational worker population.
And they have to be innovative.
As a general observation, today’s employees are not attracted to ILT. Instead, they’re looking to scalable options that can provide learning that is easily digested, engaging and informative. When great content is mixed with great technology, learning can reach and meet every employee where they are.
In a survey conducted by the CLO Exchange with Chief Learning Officers, 40% of executives reported that they’re investing in mobile learning. What other technologies are CLOs investing in?
Those top technologies support the idea of being innovative in the learning approach. From Andereck’s perspective, working in health care, virtual reality is definitely on her radar.
“I think a great potential application of virtual reality in our environment will be dealing with workplace violence and de-escalation, all those kinds of challenging situations. Because there are situations in which you need to have that visceral reaction, you need to really be placed into the environment to understand when somebody’s pushing your buttons; what do you do?” MARY ANDERECK INTERIM CHIEF LEARNING OFFICER FOR PARKLAND HEALTH AND HOSPITAL SYSTEM.
Through VR, Andereck said employees can pause, learn the appropriate steps to take and the right language to use to bring the situation back to a place of stability.
EMBEDDED LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES
Of course, virtual reality can take workers away from their work. By its very nature, it’s not a strategy that’s embedded in the day-to-day work lives of employees. That in itself brings another issue into focus that learning leaders are dealing with work isn’t educational and that means employees are missing critical learning opportunities. Once learning is embedded, it offers a real opportunity for employees to learn through experience and reflection, something Casper Moerck, Head of Learning
Technologies and Digitalization at Americas at Siemens, believes in firmly. In fact, that’s the strategy they take within his company.
“I think for me, as a person who is in learning technology, one of the things I’m really happy to see is how we are leveraging content curation of digital content to really provide some good experiences for our employees” CASPER MOERK HEAD OF LEARNING TECHNOLOGY AND DIGITALIZATION, AMERICAS AT SIEMENS.
There are a number of ways to achieve this, through video, mobile, and eLearning for instance. In May 2019, the CLO Exchange asked its audience what are the top priorities of investment?
For Siemens, Moerck said the strategy was more internal.
“We have created our own learning experience platform called Learning World, which has been really, really successful,” Moerck said. “We brought in custom curated content, not just from inside Siemens, but we’re leveraging stuff from our vendors. We’re also leveraging the internet, what’s out there already. That’s really the basis for a learning experience platform.”
And Moerck said they’re not stopping there. They’re taking this concept as far as they can leveraging data and leveraging content from every place imaginable.
NBC Universal is also being innovative in their approach.
“We started our talent lab back in 2013, we’ve designed learning experiences to meet people where they were in their career, so if you’re a new manager, a new executive, if you’re high potential talent in the organization… you’re learning about the organization on your first day”, TERENCE MORLEY DIRECTOR OF TALENT DEVELOPMENT, NBC UNIVERSAL.
READ: Guide to NBC Universal
AGILITY IN LEARNING
The beauty of Siemens approach is that it embraces the concept of agility. That’s not the case for every single company or organization. In fact, learning programs for many are not agile and are not adapting quickly enough to keep up with the needs of the current workforce or those of the future, which include flexible, blended modes of content delivery.
In fact, CLOs are really focused on several areas of investments to address this issue. Looking at the big picture, a large percentage of the learning budget is being dedicated to emerging technologies as a solution. That’s according to data gathered during IQPC’s May CLO Exchange.
That data really points to the best solution possible: learning leaders must embed a variety of training modalities into their current learning programs. One of the best examples of this is Walmart eCommerce, which includes Walmart.com, Jet. com and the Walmart grocery. Maxanne Whitehead is a Senior Learning Designer with Walmart eCommerce. Her team works on designing learning on a global scale.
“What we’re focusing on is taking this blended learning approach, which didn’t exist two years ago. When I came into walmart.com, it was 600 PowerPoint slides. So, we’ve already made some big changes, just by adding that blended learning and reducing classroom time, in some cases from eight weeks down to four weeks. From that, we saw a shrink in the amount of time our customer care agents were on calls, our customer satisfaction percentages go up, so we saw them return in our metrics for those successes”, MAXANNE WHITEHEAD SENIOR LEARNING DESIGNER, WALMART ECOMMERCE.
Sometimes, the journey forward isn’t so clear. Within AAA, Hill says learning leaders are accustomed to experimenting and adapting new modalities quickly when it comes to content delivery. He referred to these experiments as pilots.
“A great example, we had a member experience guide. That’s how we wanted the member experience to happen for those people who went into one of our branch locations. So, how do you offer and cross sell other products and services that may benefit that member during that experience. It’s fairly complex,” Hill said.
AAA attempted to deliver the content virtually, but Hill said the audience was not captivated and thus it was not a success. eLearning was not an option. Ultimately, Hill said the company landed on teaching the content face-to-face.
LEARNING FOR LEADERS
Much of this report has been focused on the workers, i.e., the frontline employees, the call takers, the builders and so on of these companies. One area is missing: leadership.
Now leaders have a culture all their own and, as often is the case, learning is not part of it and that means it goes ignored when it comes to the business strategy. That must change.
The way to change it focuses on the learning to which leaders themselves have access. Using leadership development programs can entice leaders to take ownership of the learning culture and align it to the business.
Mary Andereck with Parkland Health and Hospital System has a great example.
“When I started with Parkland, there was virtually no leadership development whatsoever, but we committed to getting it up and running,” Andereck said. “Within about nine months, our leadership development curriculum programs for three levels of leadership; for supervisors, managers, for directors and for senior level leaders, were in progress. As we went through this process, we aligned everything around the Parkland competencies.”
Andereck said they did not want leaders simply sitting in a room together for 12 months, which was the length of the program. Instead, they used their LMS to deliver articles and videos to the learners. That content was then used as part of their scheduled workshops. Those workshops included scenarios where learners role played, took part in group problem solving and used the content to guide the process. Those workshops, by the way, were assigned in such a way that the content and learning delivered would be applicable to the learners’ job duties.
“Then about three weeks later, we conducted a follow up webinar with people to talk about what worked, what didn’t work, what were the best practices,” Andereck said.
The program launched in January of 2017. It has since expanded to the point where Parkland conducts six workshops a month to meet the demand for the program.
Another example would be NBC Universal’s LEAD program. It was created for the sole purpose of making sure leaders have continued opportunities to grow and develop. This program is directly tied to the business.
“These really exciting cohorts for leaders are created at the request of a business or portfolio. LEADS are designed under the 80/20 rule, so 80% of the content is part of a cohort and then we work with the business to customize the remaining 20%. The 20% uses provided content and includes the executive sponsor bringing in a panel of leaders that use the language and the culture of that particular business. From that we design a great three-day leadership experience that’s informed by the business itself.” TERENCE MORLEY DIRECTOR OF TALENT DEVELOPMENT, NBC UNIVERSAL.
It’s been very successful. In fact, NBC Universal has completed 50 LEADS since 2014. The reason for the success is that leaders are requesting these LEADS for their teams that ultimately drive the business through change.
As stated at the beginning of this report, a whole new set of learning challenges face the HR Department. Specifically, the report discussed directing the company learning culture that positively impacts the business’ bottom-line, embedding learning into the worker’s daily routine, providing several training modalities for the multigenerational workforce, and developing leaders and using that development to drive ownership of the learning culture.
There is one final piece however to discuss briefly, and that’s the feedback solicited from the learners themselves. Each contributor was staunch in the importance of feedback in creating and determining the learning culture. Ultimately, learning leaders not only need this feedback to determine what is and what isn’t working, but to help transverse the challenges presented in this report. At the end of the day, learning content must be sought after by the learner and received in the way that best meets them where they are in their current development journey. Learners are the true beneficiaries of a robust, targeted learning culture. If not, learning is a real waste of resources with a sub-par ROI.