We’ve all been there – sat in a dull, grey-walled room that features uncomfortable metal chairs and a complete absence of character as the tutor moves onto slide seventy-six of their presentation. Time itself stands still and you feel like a kid again, waiting for the clock on the wall to strike the hour that signals ‘home time’. Traditional training sessions, while still entirely relevant in certain situations, are gradually giving way to new forms of employee development. Learning can now be conducted anywhere, at any time and with pretty much any device you have to hand. Mobile learning, social media, personal learning networks and rich forms of content are making employee development as exciting as it should be, and in this post, we’ve picked out eighteen ways we think technology is transforming learning in the workplace.
1. Video conferencing & remote training
Just because training is moving from the classroom to the digital realm doesn’t mean it has to lose the essence of human-to-human contact. Thanks to video conferencing technology that is increasingly accessible, training is perhaps more personable than ever. Likewise, remote training sessions can be carried out that enable the tutor to share their computer screen in order to demonstrate specific tasks or share important content. It really is as though they’re in the room with you. The best news? Both video conferencing and remote training scale all the way down to smartphones, meaning they can be undertaken virtually anywhere.
2. Integral learning
You can no longer rely on what you learned at school or university to see you through an entire career, but learning is fast becoming ubiquitous within the workplace thanks to an abundance of training content that is constantly at our fingertips. Learning at work is now integral, with technology enabling employees to fact check and develop new skills whenever they need to as opposed to waiting for the next available training course.
3. On-the-spot learning
Learning new stuff should be exciting and unexpected, and modern software has taken this concept to a whole new level with in-app training that only makes its presence felt when required. Most of us have experienced this at some stage; while struggling to work out how to perform a particular action in a piece of software, a little tooltip appears, pointing us in the right direction. That’s on-the-spot learning in action.
4. Content combos
The best e-learning experiences are interactive, but should also feature a wide range of content. Videos, blog posts, podcasts and quiz-based games can all be combined to create a rich learning experience that simply can’t be achieved via traditional training methods.
5. Social media integration
Many HR systems are now integrating social media functionality that enables employees to share learning material and notes, rate courses and comment on the contents of modules. Employee development, while focussed on the individual, should be an inclusive, collaborative affair, and social media is uniquely placed to make it just that.
6. Digital talent profiles
If you use any form of social media, you’re unwittingly building a digital brand – a virtual representation of yourself, if you will. Learning via digital means within the workplace enables you to do the same with your professional persona. As employees use new technology to further their careers, they build their own digital talent profile, which can be analysed by employees to facilitate career planning.
7. Talent Pools
As technology makes its presence felt in HR, businesses can begin building ‘talent pools’, which provide them with a unique insight into the skills contained within the workforce. As employees complete e-learning courses and contribute to the social side of learning, their digital talent profiles and achievements can be added to the talent pool, and HR departments alerted when opportunities for multi-directional career progression arise.
8. Better documentation
What’s worse than completing a training course only to find that the subsequent reference documentation comes in the form of heavy, War and Peace-sized hardback books? Documentation should support career progression – not hamper it. Digital training and the content used during e-learning is eminently more accessible and engaging than its ancestors. Documentation that aids employee development can be easily shared, annotated and accessed from any device, no matter where people happen to be.
Sometimes referred to as ‘PLNs’, personal learning networks are often constructed naturally and entirely by coincidence. For example, if you regularly turn to your Twitter followers or Facebook friends to ask a question that aids your development at work, you have a PLN. It’s a brilliantly social way to learn.
10. Virtual world training
Virtual reality (VR) is believed by many tech experts to be the ‘next big thing’, and while it is still relatively nascent, expect to see it applied more regularly to workplace learning and development as we make our way deeper into the digital age. The potential of VR in employee development is incredibly exciting. You can be transported to any place, situation or time period just by donning a visor. New techniques can be explored without getting your hands dirty and high-risk careers such as policing can be developed safely.
11. Virtual coaching
Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are becoming an intrinsic day of every day life. For proof, look no further than the iPhone’s digital assistant, Siri. Virtual coaching is no different and, thanks to clever integration of AI in training programs, employee development is never at the mercy of tutor or course availability.
12. Mobile learning
There’s no doubting the ubiquity of mobile technology in modern day life, with experts predicting that there will be 6.1 billion smartphone users globally by 2020. What were once mobile phones capable of sending text messages and rendering web pages are now genuine pocket computers that are more powerful than many of their desktop equivalents. This has made learning on the go a reality and enables employees to develop new skills and take on additional knowledge wherever they happen to be.
Another form of AI that’s increasingly making its presence felt is the ‘bot’. Used primarily in chat apps, these virtual beings are capable of having near human-like conversations with us. Bots can answer questions and respond with rich content when required. Although not quite the same as talking to a human expert, if a quick answer is required that will aid employee development, a bot will often be far more accessible to most people.
Video game-inspired features are gradually making their way into business apps and enterprise software. The idea of ‘levelling up’ and building profiles to showcase your achievements at work may sound a little extra-curricular, but these techniques are fantastic ways to encourage employee development. Healthy competition and the desire to better one’s own score are just two aspects of gamification that make learning within the workplace genuinely exciting and addictive.
Few things are less inspiring than the entirety of a business course being delivered without the opportunity for any interaction or input from those learning. Interactivity resides in the heart of technology, and by integrating it fully into workplace learning, HR and employee development, staff will benefit from two-way learning that increases information retention and the desire to go one step further.
Most enterprise software applications now feature companion mobile apps, enabling employees to install workplace tools on their own smartphones and tablets. This has paved the way to the ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) phenomenon within the workplace, but also means we can continue to learn the skills required to operate business software even when sat on the couch at home.
17. Instant messaging
There are now a multitude of ways in which we can be contacted. And, while this may occasionally hamper productivity, it can be put to great use in employee development. Tools like WhatsApp, Snapchat and in-app messaging within business software have broken down every conceivable barrier to reaching out for help. Friends, colleagues and family members are nearly always on speed dial, adding to that all-important personal learning network.
18. Information sharing
Thanks to social media, we live in what is often referred to as a ‘sharing economy’. Put simply, that means we’re all inclined to share stuff that has in some way benefitted us. While this often pertains to funny pictures of cats, in the workplace, it’s a great way to aid development. Useful training material, documentation and discovered content can be shared among peers, facilitating organic learning.
Say goodbye to the days of beige off-site training. We now live in an age of technology that makes employee development exciting, community-driven and, most importantly of all – addictive.