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The future of workforce Learning is Mobile, Social and intelligent

February 20, 2014, Todd Tauber -

Technology is transforming workforce Learning and development (L&D). That’s not a surprise anymore. What isn’t quite clear to a lot of people, though, is how, exactly, Learning organizations are using the latest technologies – like Mobile, Social and analytics – to help drive business impact. But many are.

It’s a new era for a lot of people who work in L&D. From entry-level college graduates to senior executives, more than half of the workforce doesn’t have the skills employers need. Meanwhile, many jobs are being redefined faster than workers can adapt. To keep up, everyone needs to constantly update their skills and learn new ones.

Even though spending on corporate training grew 15% last year (the fastest rate in seven years), to $130 billion worldwide, that’s getting harder to do. So many L&D teams are exploring a more continuous approach to Learning – blending formal training events with informal, on-demand and on-the-job activities embedded in people’s work.

That puts more control over how development happens with the individuals. As a result, more Learning is happening at the point of need, when problems or questions crop up. And Technology is a big part of how that’s happening; it now accounts for around 40% of the time companies spend developing their people.

We see three technologies as especially useful in enabling the shift to continuous Learning: Mobile, Social and intelligence.

Mobile Learning:

At least one third of organizations are now using Mobile devices to deliver Learning content – more than triple the number just five years ago. Mobile goes way beyond just delivering courses on smartphones and tablets, though.

As a matter of fact, on-demand reference materials, videos and performance support tools are significantly more common than courses. That’s at least partly because sales teams and field operations departments are the heaviest users of Mobile Learning applications so far.

Social Learning

Social Learning isn’t new, of course. However, almost 20% of companies are now using dedicated Social Learning systems (another 47% are working on it). These systems are especially appealing to big, global organizations – the ones with the most urgent need to connect people to expertise across office locations and departmental silos.

Sharing, liking, rating and commenting on content are important first steps in bringing collaborative Learning online. The more advanced users, though, focus on driving connections, conversations and collaboration through blogs, wikis, communities and online workspaces.

Intelligent Learning

Only a few companies have even begun to explore ways to use big data and predictive analytics to improve their talent development, but Learning is starting to get smarter. We’re starting to hear some really powerful stories; for example, using Learning to predict achievements in future roles.

For the moment, though, many organizations are starting with more accessible goals like personalization. Many LMSs have been able to configure Learning paths using self-assessments and employee profiles for a while. Now, though, we’re starting to see solutions with the ability to capture and process much bigger data sets from a broader array of signals.

Some, for example, layer on Social data (e.g. ratings), community interactions (e.g. recommendations) and user behavior (e.g. clicks) – and use that to recommend content, people and groups (like Google, Netflix, Pandora and LinkedIn do). That promises to make Learning tools smarter, faster and more personal.

Of course, the future is impossible to predict. But right now, it seems safe to say that the organizations that can harness the power of Mobile, Social and intelligent Learning technologies will be well positioned to help their employees and leaders stay productive, relevant and up-to-date.


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