The importance of education is nearly universally agreed upon – 84% of executives in Deloitte’s 2016 Human Capital Trends survey ranked “learning” as an important issue. However, long-held beliefs regarding an optimal approach to employee education are swiftly changing.
The Underlying Trends
There are three primary factors driving the demand for change in the realm of education: competition, technological advances, and shifts in demographics.
First, nearly every CEO and CHRO reports that his or her company is not developing its people fast enough, or its leaders deeply enough. In today’s highly competitive talent market, companies must constantly upgrade their employees’ skills and rapidly develop leaders in order to attract, engage, and retain top talent.
Second, mobile devices make learning available nearly everywhere and accessible to almost everyone. Employees can find courses on nearly every subject. This new world of consumer-centric learning is putting employees in charge versus L&D departments.
Third, the latest generation of employees has come to recognize that “the learning curve is the earning curve” – learning is the primary driver of employee development and advancement, meaning an increased paycheck and more fulfilling career.
These trends are placing increasing pressure on organizations to improve their L&D offerings. While many organizations are struggling to adapt to these challenges, more than $3 billion was invested in new learning and educational startups in 2015, and high-performing companies are seizing this movement as an opportunity to promote a “culture of learning” that upends traditional models.
Case Study: MasterCard & Personalized Talent Development
The most successful learning organizations are placing the employee at the center of this learning architecture and a vision that treats learning as a continuous process. The most innovative companies are building internal knowledge-sharing programs with easy-to-use portals and video sharing systems to promote a collaborative learning experience.
One company that has made waves in this area is MasterCard, which has transformed itself from a traditional payments processing company into a “technology company” that provides infrastructure to connect consumers, banks, and businesses. As it has evolved its business model, MasterCard has built capabilities to help it stay agile. Chief Learning Officer & Head of Global Talent Development & Organizational Effectiveness, Janice Burns, challenged her team to develop responsive, personalized solutions that would meet the organization’s evolving demands.
This process began with a mental shift within her team. It became about showing people what they could learn – providing access to resources, tools, and connections that would empower them to do their jobs and build their careers better – instead of telling them what to learn. Burns empowered her team to experiment with new learning tools and technologies, encouraging them to work lean, fail fast, and scale up successes.
With this shift came more employee-driven solutions such as mobile performance support, massive open online courses (MOOCs), on-demand micro-learning, and online communities. MasterCard employees can weave together articles, videos, MOOCs, podcasts, and webinars to develop a personalized learning experience, developing the skills they want to focus on and addressing their performance gaps.
Initial feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with one systems analyst saying, “I am willing to invest more into the tool because it will follow me no matter where my career takes me.” MasterCard’s learning team has spearheaded a new culture of entrepreneurship and empowerment, which is contributing to an overall change within MasterCard’s business
Traditionally, HR leaders have implemented learning environments that are internally focused and corporate-centric. However, research indicates that a learner-centric approach, which puts the employee in the driver’s seat, will result in greater employee growth and development.
Where to Start
Seeing the positive impact a shift in learning has catalyzed, the next question is: where do you start?
When it comes to learning, change starts at the top. It is critical for leadership to recognize and embrace the concept that employee-learners are in the driver’s seat. Learning organizations need to think about how employees experience a company’s education offerings – they need to be viewed as customers to be satisfied, rather than students who are required to sit in traditional “learning classrooms.” This means replacing the traditional content-centric “push” approach with a learner-centric “pull” approach. This will require a cultural shift within your organization, giving up full control over the content, schedules, and platforms. While this might not be easy an easy transition, this will result in more effective learning throughout the organization.
Also, if you haven’t already, rethink what “development” means in the context of your organizational goals and communicate it broadly. Adopting a learning architecture that supports continuous learning with dedicated resources and setting clear expectations will align your corporate culture and your organizational goals, enabling employees to get the learning they need, when they need it, whether they are junior staff or senior executives.
In today’s world, mobile, social, and web-based platforms that can deliver on-demand content are “must-have’s.” Leverage technology to drive your new employee-centric learning approach.