By the year 2020, five different generations will be present in the workforce at the same time, creating an unprecedented challenge for learning and development departments.
Will this mean a massive shift in workplace learning? If so, what does it look like and how will we get there? And will new technology help or hinder our efforts to collaborate, work and learn?
These were questions we explored in a recent MCI Solutions webinar with guest speaker Jeremy Blain, General Manager of Cegos APAC, in which he shared valuable insights from the 2015 Cegos Workplace Learning Trends survey of L&D managers in this part of the world.
Jeremy has worked with a lot of organisations over the years to develop and grow their people. In that time, he’s seen significant changes that are already shaping the future workplace.
“We’re facing a huge shift in the 2020s workplace and I can see two main factors already driving this,” Jeremy says.
“The first is the speed of new technologies. In Asia Pacific for example, the rate of smartphone, phablet and tablet uptake is the highest in the world. Every area of our life, how we live, work and learn, is being impacted by technologies.
“The other influence is the multidimensional workplace, be it cross-cultural, cross-border or cross-generational. In five years’ time, Generation Z will join the workplace at the same time that an ageing population will still be very much present and active. We’ll be managing a five-generational mix, and that’s going to be a big challenge for L&D.”
A new mindset for a new landscape
Strong leadership will be key to making all these elements work together successfully. Leaders will require different types of skills to flourish in this new environment, and L&D professionals will need to develop a new perspective on training and development to deliver it. Just as how we live and work is changing, how we learn also needs to shift. And that, Jeremy believes, is why we need a fresh approach.
We need an evolution in blended learning.
“Blended learning as it exists today is often driven by budget or time motivations, but it has the potential to be fundamental to business success,” says Jeremy.
“We first need to transform the mindset of what blended learning can do. It’s not just about the learner going on a course anymore. It’s not an ad hoc learning event. It’s a learning journey that carries on past the end of the workshop, into the workplace and through the peer community as the learning is applied and built on.”
This approach will help build a culture of continuous learning in both the organisation and the learner. But it needs a strong community to support it and keep it going.
“There needs to be a much firmer strategy around learner community engagement that’s not just about the learner themselves,” he says. “We need formalised stakeholder action right through, from the line manager and peer group to senior management.”
Its success also relies on the application of appropriate technology and measurement tools, Jeremy adds, because it’s only then that you can show that learning outcomes taken back to the workplace are providing a return on investment.
It’s time for Blended Learning 2.0
Blended Learning 2.0 is anchored in the 70:20:10 principle that came out of research published by the Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL). It found that high performing managers learn most of their lessons not in a classroom but rather in the workplace when applying new skills. The CCL then split out what that learning actually looked like and it became the 70:20:10 framework, each figure representing a percentage of the whole learning experience.
The 10 is formal, structured learning, like a tutored classroom session to build knowledge. The 20 is about sharing — having a learning community to share what’s been learned and to practice the new skills. The final 70 is applying the learning in the workplace and therefore creating a measurable return for the business.
We asked Jeremy, what would Blended Learning 2.0 look like?
The 10: the Content element.
“We’re already very familiar with formal training, whether it’s classroom training, coaching or formalised eLearning. As we move to Blended Learning 2.0, we can focus what we do in the classroom on how we build skills, and apply them in the workplace, by working on clear projects. That way we’ve got highly relevant and effective content because the learner is doing it and we’re measuring from day one,” he explains.
The 20: the Community element.
“This entails mobilising internal resources and building a wide community both up and down the line to support the learning. The communication between these groups becomes central to its success and new social platforms are great for this. Done correctly, we’ll be able to structure informal sharing and practice within an organisation so it can take root, grow and become a habit.”
The 70: the Engagement element.
“The 70 is the continuous learning aspect, and it can be both formal and informal. The 70 focuses on learners owning and building on the application of the new skills.” says Jeremy, “It’s about extending the learning and creating value back in the workplace with measurable actions focused on results.”
Building a Blended Learning 2.0 program
As well as creating the appropriate content for blended learning, objectives for the learning need to be established right at the start, and measures by which you’ll determine if it’s been successful. This process will help identify the competencies needed for the future skills.
Then, says Jeremy, it’s a matter of using the right technologies to help build knowledge in your learners. As they go back into the workplace, they need a structure to be able to share their knowledge with their whole learning community — peers, line managers and stakeholders — to practice and build those skills.
And, finally, learners need to own the application of skills themselves so they can achieve the results they committed to at the beginning of the process.
A key factor of success is this shift in mindset from an ad hoc approach to learning to one of continuous learning.
L&Ds need to lead the charge
Jeremy sees Blended Learning 2.0 as the learning professional’s opportunity to be at the heart of an organisation’s commercial and operational success.
However, a lot of L&D professionals will need their own development opportunities to be able to lead such a fundamental change. “They’ll need to be seen as consultants and trusted advisors,” he says. “They’ll need to engage senior leadership in a different way to open their eyes to the shift that’s about to hit their workplace, its impact on working and learning, and what they can do now to ensure the business remains competitive.
“With senior leadership’s commitment, engaging the wider stakeholder group will be easier, but we have to be very clear on their roles, what we expect from them, when they are going to do it and the benefits.
“To achieve this we need a plan that builds motivation and excitement, and which is an inclusive rather than exclusive approach to learning and development,” Jeremy says. “If we’ve got that energy, then we have empowerment, we’ve got engagement, we’ve got people doing it and over time it becomes self-owned.
“But it is a journey, and it isn’t happening overnight.”
Can Blended Learning 2.0 provide the ROI of training?
The bane of the L&D and training industry for many years has been return on investment. Many organisations are still evaluating their training at the end of the process, giving a qualitative, not quantitative, result.
“Blended Learning 2.0 proposes that ROI becomes a central part of the high-level design of the process,” says Jeremy. “If we determine the outcome we want from the learning, the competencies we’re trying to shift, and put mechanisms in place from day one to understand and benchmark the current learner’s position, we can include both qualitative and quantitative measures.
“If we then include steps within the program to measure how we’re progressing based on the learning outcome, and what we got from that initial assessment, we can populate the learning far more clearly with the things that are going to matter.”
An accurate ROI measurement is not just the obvious assessment element, Jeremy says, but it’s the content we train with, how we share and work in the workplace, and the coaching that we do.
“By the time we get to the applying step, we’ve built our knowledge, we’ve practiced it many times, we’ve shared it and we’re ready to go. That’s why at the end we put in that same more robust 180/360 approach. Even if only half the people achieve a result, we’ve got something measurable,” he says.
“If we get all of those elements right and we start to measure the effectiveness from day one, we can get to a normalised level of three or four ROI based on the Kirkpatrick Model. But it’s going to take quite a lot of work — and the people who need to lead this are of course the learning and organisational development team.”
When do we have to act?
Right now, Jeremy says, because time is already running out. The older members of Generation Z have entered the workforce and Generation Y are moving into their first management or leadership roles.
“We’re facing the biggest shift in the workplace we’ve seen for many years and we need to prepare for that now,” he says. “We need a more innovative and expansive approach to helping these new learners in the workforce because they’re the ones who are going to lead the new organisation.
“If we get it right, we’re going to see tremendous benefits in terms of behaviours, skills growth and business impact — and that’s ultimately what we all want.”
About Jeremy Blain
Managing Director of Cegos Asia Pacific, Jeremy Blain, is an L&D entrepreneur with nearly 15 years of experience in the industry as not only managing director but also as partner, trainer, coach and program author. He is a sought-after international speaker and media commentator on topics related to the global L&D market including the integration of emerging learning technologies, how to implement successful international training strategies and operating in multicultural, multigenerational environments.
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