A New Kind of Workforce Calls for a New Kind of Learning Experience

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girl celebrating on her laptop as she studies in the library

As Gen Z enters the workforce, like each generation before them, they are poised to disrupt routines, cultures, and even what it means to do business. A disruptor in its own right, COVID-19 has accelerated the transition to a remote work model, and workers across the spectrum are demanding a flexible and better-balanced future.

Among all this upheaval, perhaps the most critical change coming to corporations is the opportunity to revamp learning systems to engage workers and lift the reputation of compliance and other “mandatory” training. A study conducted by Barnes and Noble College found that more than half of younger learners learn best by doing, instead of simply listening. Workers of all ages want to be involved in their own educational pathway. 

Better tools are needed to meet the learning and growth demands of a different kind of workforce. As training evolves to put the learner first, individuals can take ownership of a personalized journey to learn—and internalize—the skills they need to thrive in any industry. 

The tools required to shift the corporate learning mindset to new terrain are taking shape in the form of eLearning, micro-learning, AI algorithms, fast adaptation, earnest feedback and instant collaboration. Learning at work is poised to become a sought after benefit, instead of a dreaded chore. Here are some of the ways training programs can (and should) evolve to meet the needs of the new workforce. 

Meet learners where they are

Work-Life Balance has taken on a whole new set of challenges for today’s workforce as they are forced to simultaneously learn new ways to work and juggle family responsibilities. Feeling like their time is not valued is a fast path to disengagement and burnout. According to the LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report, the top reason that workers don’t engage with learning and development programs at work is because they don’t have time. 

If time is what is holding everyone back, how can we meet workers throughout their day? Training touchpoints needn’t be an hours-long seminar or full team meeting. While traditional learning still has a time and place, a new type of learning has come of age to fill time gaps as they become available, instead of constantly trying to schedule hours that don’t exist in the calendar.

Micro-learning consists of short bursts of knowledge to help workers do their jobs. Five to ten-minute modules might be the best fit for both the schedules and attention spans of today’s workers. Micro courses allow learners to quickly access available learning opportunities and spend time on what’s important to their job function right now. Spacing an hour course over a number of related microlearning sessions is a more effective way to consume and retain learning. 

Personalization is the new normal

No two workers fit into the same box. So why should their learning paths all look alike? 

With a little help from Artificial Intelligence (AI), it is possible to plan individual training paths for every member of a team. Upfront assessments can shine a light on individual areas of strength and uncover opportunities for growth. A Learning Experience Platform (LXP) has the capability to sort learners into a variety of courses.

Even better, let individual workers weigh in on what they want to learn next. Instant feedback is easily incorporated into eLearning delivery platforms, and it gives managers valuable insight into what’s on the minds of their teams. Learners who are invested in their own training and career trajectory are more likely to develop valuable skills they can immediately apply on the job.

Give learners more choices 

Work isn’t always at work anymore. While most people prefer to learn on company time, the lines are being blurred between the home, the office, and the home office. It’s crucial for administrators to find ways to adapt learning to a variety of spaces and schedules. 

These challenges mean that a blended virtual learning path is no longer a nice feature set—it’s a critical business requirement.

Blended learning encompasses as many learning options as possible. A variety of videos, articles, quizzes, games, live webinars, group meetings, pre-recorded conversations, virtual reality simulations, and more can be used to make flex time even more flexible and engage learners wherever they are.  

Use every available resource

In the digital age, organizations are in some ways competing with social media, TedTalks, YouTube, and streaming services for the attention of their workers. People can learn anything they want to know through a simple Google search. The question is, are they learning processes/procedures/skills through the lens of the company culture and goals?

Instead of fighting a losing battle, why not provide that context for your learners by curating the best content? With the right learning management system, administrators and learners can upload third party resources that support the message and objectives of your organization. 

Obviously custom-built and well-vetted off-the-shelf courses are a necessary part of training for any company, but working with outside content sources instead of against them is a useful strategy. Artfully blending all resources instead of just internally branded ones saves time and increases return on investment in the long run. 

As we migrate towards new ways of thinking and working, training has to keep up. The same LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report cited above also found that organizations can save money through dramatically reducing turnover by offering training and growth opportunities. Of all workers surveyed, 94% said that they would stay at a company longer if their workplace was invested in their career. 

With a little bit of planning and flexibility, companies can meet the differing needs of multiple generations, individuals with different learning styles, and people who suddenly find themselves working in new locations and situations. Allowing individuals to take charge of their own development, and then offering them the resources they need to make their aspirations a reality is the key.

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