Talent Development

Continuing Education & Technology: Equipping Your People to Tackle the Future

By Sarah AlexanderApril 16, 2017

Robotics, artificial intelligence, and other technological advances are changing the business world. It is easy to say that people need to keep learning throughout their careers to stay ahead of the technology curve. However, the practicalities of this can be daunting. This is evident in  The Economist’s finding that on-the-job training is shrinking.

There are a number of steps you can take in your organization to reverse this trend and support your employees’ continuing education – both in technological know-how and other necessary job skills – thus setting them (and your enterprise as a whole) up for success.

Anticipate Change

It may be tempting to simply leave technology to the experts, but you will do your employees a huge favor by exposing them to what technologists in your organization are doing. In most cases, technology specialists are more than happy to explain their work, particularly if you are interested in learning in order to avoid having to call them back with the same problem in the future!

As you go partake in these conversations, consider which topics might translate into useful technical trainings or workshops. Gather input from the CIO, IT team, and other subject matter experts or partner with outside training resources. Either way, taking this initial step will ensure that you have resources ready for employees before changes hit.

Connect Technology Changes to the Big Picture

According to Didier Bonnet, co-author of Leading Digital and Global Practice Leader at Capgemini Consulting,, “Employees need to understand why a new technology is an improvement from what they had before.” If the purpose of a new app or piece of software is not apparent, then it already presents a cognitive issue to your team. And there is nothing more confusing or irritating than change for change’s sake.

With this in mind, prior to communicating with employees, it is important for you to consider: how will this technology change help the company achieve its goals? What degree of disruption will it cause to current systems and processes? You must be able to answer these questions to explain changes to your employees.

Another way to approach this conversation is to physically demonstrate how a technological change will make your employees’ work-lives easier. This is where your early adopters can help out by showing how they use the new technology to make things smoother. Engage your star performers throughout the organization to be your “evangelists.” Seeing colleagues leverage new technology will make others far more likely put forth the effort to learn and adopt the technology.

Empower your people with training

When rolling out new tech training, consider the fact your employees have different exposure to technology, learning speeds, and learning styles. Some of your employees will pick up new skills quickly while others might take longer to learn. Some prefer independent learning on their own time, while others require an in-person instructor. Some learn best by reading, others by doing.

Make sure that you provide diverse training opportunities that will cater to each of these different learners. Salesforce, for example, customizes its learning & development opportunities to each individual employee to increase productivity and engagement. A starting point to get to this industry-leading standard is providing basic self-learning portals with options for in person workshops.

When implementing these training programs, remember to also keep the 70-20-10 training model — 70% on-the-job-learning, 20% interaction with colleagues/mentors, and 10% classroom learning — in mind. While it is important to put thought and intention into specific virtual and/or in-person classroom training opportunities, take a step back for a more holistic view as well.

How will the classroom training translate into day-to-day stretch opportunities? How will you incentivize managers to carry the torch forward and support employees in their learning every day? These are not always the easiest questions to address, but giving them thought will set your organization ahead of the curve on both an individual and overarching level

Create a Feedback Loop

When it comes to technical skills and technological training, which people can have a hard time picking up, make sure that you have robust feedback mechanisms in place. These will provide an outlet for those who aren’t sure of the changes to share their feelings about the training process. Sometimes, even the simple fact that someone’s ideas and suggestions will be listened to is often enough to boost his/her engagement.

By measuring metrics (e.g., ROI) and combining these with qualitative feedback, you can iterate to constantly build momentum and continue to make technology work for the people working to master it. The resulting technological growth and innovation will equip your employees – and organization as a whole – to tackle the future head on.

Sarah Alexander

Sarah Alexander

Author & Contributor

About the Author

Sarah is an elite triathlete and independent strategy consultant with an MBA from Chicago Booth. She is passionate about empowering others to achieve excellence.

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