Digital Transformation Builds a Bridge Between Training and Learning
What is digital?
Basically… digits or bits of information that form your usual data, be they pictures, sounds, texts, their combinations: softwares, applications: Enterprise Resources Plannings, web, social networks (Facebook, Linkedin but also Pinterest, Instagram etc. and their corporate likes). Digital also includes theirs carriers : servers, mobiles, desk and laptops, wearables (watches, glasses), internet of things (could be your connected fridge…) drones, 3D printers etc. You name them. If you want to elaborate, add 2 elements: Cloud (your softwares “don’t perform” in your machines but in servers that can be everywhere in the world once you’re connected, hence the “cloud” nickname) and SaaS standing for Software as a Service (a software you don’t have to care about because it will be managed from the cloud). This equation allows you to be connected with all your apps and data everywhere, therefore using them anytime…
Fine and why is this that digital is important ?
I know that you know but let’s recap. Digital changes the way people live. Humans behind these fancy machines and softwares produce information in almost every aspect of their life, when they work, play, chat, buy, meet, write… Machines programmed by humans produce also information when they perform: the fridge “says” that it will need milk. All this pouring information is stored, classified, exploited aka connected to other information to produce more …knowledge. Note this change in vocabulary because that the change factor everybody talks about. So these interactions produce exponentially information: more info leads to more potential connections between these informations and produce more unpredictability (discover new things, unveil things you didn’t think about before… ). This unpredictability leads then to 2 consequences : 1. It supposes more learning efforts to manage these unknown territories and 2 It means more knowledge which can be used to innovate. Innovations lead to tiny (a new button in your favourite social network) and big transformations (Airbnb, Uber,…) Innovations impact products, customers’ experience, employees’ experience, … It gets straight to the heart of the corporate world (to restrict our view in that area) and it goes faster and faster. You ‘d better follow because your competitors – know or unknown – will. You get the picture.
Ok but how is this connected to my people’s way of learning ?
Digital disrupts business models and clients’ value chains. Take the banks for instance. In fact, people don’t need a bank. They need banking (the activity): our dearest GAFA perfectly understood that. When travelling, people don’t need a car or a train but a transportation solution. That was perfectly understood by Blablacar, Drivy or Uber: they provide solutions. Digital forces corporate people to think in terms of solutions, services rather than in termes of jobs (more or less well done). Jobs are not that important, added value or contributions to the company missions or vision are. Digital changes the corporate game. It spreads, connects, transforms uses and knowledge to create new ones. So, here we are. Because of these changes, your own knowledge can become obsolete or irrelevant if you don’t keep up the pace. Because of these changes, your job is less important than your contribution: you’d better be an efficient deliver of relevant solutions, then! Technical knowledge lasts (on the average) 5 years. Careers change quicker. Parts of your job are automated (thank you SAP, AX or Peoplesoft or Salesforce). Don’t freak out! Most of your added value will still exist! Take again the bank example. You could ask for a loan and get the bank answer without seing / talking to anybody, just filling some questionnaires on a workflow. Bank algorithms are, then, able to score you without any human assistance, just computing the data. But as a customer, you won’t accept that kind of answer: being judged by an equation! Therefore, a fellow human being (account manager or something like that) will still explain it to you, listen to your projects and make you feel good about the bank decision in order to … keep you in his/her clients portfolio! Your added value goes up in the complex stuff: project manager, human relations manager, content manager, … Behavioural skills are therefore affected too: technologies impose new ways of thinking / learning / relating to / doing things, be you digital native or not. Let’s focus on the learning part. Start with three major elements : 1. Millenials will be your main workforce within years, they interact naturally with all kinds of devices including those they work with (except if these tools are so poor that they rebuke even the most motivated among them ) 2. The amount of information at your disposal is huge, so are your opportunities to learn 3. New technologies put on steroids certain ways of learning (social learning for instance): multiplying canals, information sources, publications etc.
Digitally enhanced employee need enhanced training, let’s call it learning!
Training focuses for ages on the content and the techniques (pedagogy) but it doesn’t always reach its objective: sense making thus turning information into actions. Training is OK (at least at the beginning of your career) but not enough: training is limited by the classroom format, the unique expert and the time frame or the topic (for e-learning) when learning needs are permanent and when learning comes at fast paces from connections of multiple topics. Training is limited because when employees have so much information, they won’t stand to train just when allowed to do so. Training is limited because it can’t bring enough context to the learning process. And we learn when we put information in our own context, rebuilding a new knowledge from a former one. Digital allows a shift in the transfer of knowledge : it is not only from the expert (trainer) to trainees. Training is OK, “sharing” is better; knowledge circulates from one person to another, adapted, re-adapted, re-constructed. Trainer becomes more a facilitator helping to focus on an objective (a solution) rather than THE knowledge owner. Digitally enhanced employees learn alone: learning logs (2) from your childhood could be the new mantra. They learn from others (social learning on LinkedIn, Enterprise Social Networks, ..) online or live. They learn at work of course, but also in bus (podcasts) at home (looking for a tutorial for their own WordPress blog). When people get used to share on social networks, they tend to share in real life too. We have, then, more collaborative teams.
Good bye training! Enter learning! This is a shift of power: the power to learn always belonged to trainees (call them now learners). After all, this is their brain which is in charge of processing the learning. But there is something more that this single operation: because we have digitally enhanced employees, we have people able to learn by themselves when they want, what they want, with the persons they want. With great powers come great responsibilities (3). More questions arise then: will employees want to be empowered ? Will HR (namely Learning and Development staff) keep up with the challenge?
(1) The Future Of Work by Jacob Morgan; Works Rules by Lazlo Bock, How Creative Workers learn by Alexandro Magno; The Digital Workplace by Paul Miller, The Digital Renaissance of Work by Paul Miller and Elizabeth Marsh
(2) Modern Workplace Learning by Jane Hart
(3) Uncle Ben in Spiderman by Sami Raimi 😉