Much has been published regarding education and providing school pupils with the skills that will empower them in a 21st century workforce. But, far less has been said about training adults that are already in this rapidly-evolving workplace and the challenges it presents. Unbound by politics, company training ultimately comes down to the bottom line: what’s the return on investment? The good news is that it’s never cost less or been more efficient to train workers more effectively.
But many organisations are still stuck in the past. Simply, thinking about company training days can make both organisers and past participants shudder. Too often they involve traditional ‘transmissive’ teaching whereby learners are herded unwillingly into a space (at great expense and high levels of logistical wizardry) and talked at for the best part of a day.
Absorbing new information is a challenge and, just as with schools, people are forced to learn at a forced, one-size-fits-all pace. As such, people whose learning progresses at lower or higher trajectories will get left behind or become bored rigid.
So how do we fix this? e-learning has helped improve engagement and advance access to remote workers to some degree but many elements of the associated-technologies are showing their age in this rapidly-evolving space. But by using the latest technologies in tandem with the latest teaching techniques (techniques that carry rare, expert consensus) adult learning can become better value for employers and even (gasp!) fun for participants. Here are seven pillars of effective modern company training.
7 pillars of modern company training
• Peer authoring
It stands to reason that some of the top experts in your industry’s field will work for your own company and yet few organisations think about leveraging their own expertise when it comes to training. Whether it’s a highly-experienced salesperson sharing knowledge on dealing with specific types of customer, or a machine operator detailing the day-today foibles of an operational workflow, peer authoring is regarded by experts as a technique that should make up 20-30 per cent of all organisational training. Plus, it’s not just the knowledge assets that are desirable but the trainers feel more valued and happier in their job while learners can connect better with a colleague than an outsider.
• On-demand learning
The learning and development industry calls this “point-of-need” and “just-in-time” training. It refers to training people shortly before they require the knowledge. This, again, is far more effective than burying a lesson within a course that may have been delivered a considerable time earlier in a context that was neither pressing nor relevant at the time of delivery. If a worker is about to meet an important client or is about to start work with new technology or at a new location, the ability to access a short, highly-targeted, highly-effective, contextual lesson, right before the interaction, will improve the outcome.
• Machine learning for insights
If just-in-time-training sounds fraught, it needn’t be. The latest training technologies incorporate machine learning, A.I., big data and analytics to predict when training will be required and what form it should take. This could be as simple as automatically scanning a calendar invite and identifying people and topics that would be discussed before offering targeted briefings to those involved shortly before a meeting. On a larger scale, analysis of performance metrics and KPIs may determine that a particular group or branch within an organisation is failing and automatically recommend (and even distribute) courseware to address the issue.
• Personalised learning
Historically, one-size-fits-all learning has rarely worked. With different people’s learning capabilities traversing different trajectories, it makes sense to allow learners to learn at their own pace. By targeting specific courses and lessons towards individual workers (rather than groups) and providing them the means to complete the training at their own pace on their own terms, it is far more likely that knowledge transfer will be effective.
Research shows that human short-term memory can only hold four new pieces of information at once and that if anymore is taken onboard, it overwrites or pushes out information before it can be transferred to long-term memory. The effective way around this is chunking – breaking complex information into easily-digestible, bite-sized pieces. It’s the reason that an 11-digit phone number like 04025551918 is hard to remember, but when broken into three chunks like 0402 555 1918, it becomes much easier. Any complex subject can be broken down into microlearning using similar method and courseware constructed of multiple microlessons can quickly and effectively train anyone: even if the subject matter resembles something seemingly-impenetrable like political influence on trade agreements in particular countries.
• Mobile learning
At the forefront of eLearning is mobile learning. This allows workers to perform company training on their own mobile device, wherever they are at their own convenience. Thanks to near-ubiquity of smartphone ownership, it’s easier than ever to harness the power of mobile technology and transmit lessons anywhere in the world. These (micro)lessons can be highly engaging thanks to the interactivity provided by mobile computing power while cloud-based distribution negates traditional, logistical, organisational hurdles.
Interactivity makes for more-effective learning but adding game elements takes matters a step further. By adding gamification elements like timers and point-scoring to lessons, learners are better encouraged to do well. Organisations can also provide incentives to complete a course before a cut-off date and award prizes to the best performers.
With so many advancements in learning now readily available, the notion of ye olde, rote memorisation methods of company training seem quaint. While the barriers to kids learning about future work environments regularly stumble over a combination of funding and political issues, in the commercial space they are more dogmatic: it’s easier to do what’s always been done rather than innovate. For CIOs, embracing the latest eLearning innovations has never been easier. It’s also a win-win in terms of keeping employees engaged, happy and feeling valued while simultaneously improving engagement, boosting effectiveness plus reducing costs and logistical headaches.
Darren Winterford is managing director of Ed Microlearning & Mobile LMS.
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