Recently, Josh Bersin posted about the changes happening in workplace learning in The Disruption of Digital Learning: Ten Things We Have Learned. I’ve known Josh and his work for 12 years now and from the beginning, I’ve found both his research and his analysis to be rock solid. This post is no different.
He generally isn’t swayed by today’s latest fad. Microlearning and gamification are variables in the mix, but not what Josh views as trends. He looks at more foundational/structural trends that the fads may be an element of.
He opens the post by talking about the gravity of the change ahead. L&D has grown into a $140 Billion dollar industry. He also notes that 83% of companies see delivering compelling, digital learning experiences as urgent or important. Add to this the data from so many other sources that C-Suites around the world are growing weary of L&D to become a strategic partner in the enterprise and you have a massive, volatile transformation in progress.
He points out that this isn’t just a shift in the tools we use it’s a complete shift in what L&D professionals do. It’s not about changing textual content to video or making small chunks of learning.
…so our job now is simply to “deliver learning to where people are.”
It’s about phones or VR. It’s about bringing learning to where employees are. We’ve been talking about delivering what the learner needs, when the learning wants it, whenever the learner wants it, where ever they are for ages now. Well, rehearsals are over – the curtain is going up!
Here are Josh’s 10 Trends that will disrupt L&D. (my commentary is in blue)
- The traditional LMS is no longer the center of corporate learning, and it’s starting to go away. Why? It’s old. Based on a 30-year-old mindset focused on a course catalog and compliance. The paradigm has shifted. As Bersin quips, “their cheese has been moved.” I agree that the “traditional LMS” is on its down slope. But I’m curious to see how well those who are dancing on its grave will react to the new world order. The expensive, controlling LMS is out, but L&D has had the luxury, in most cases, of being left alone with its big toy. The learning ecosystem will be dependent upon systems that L&D has limited control over. New rules of usage may impact learning implementations. Whether a needed functionality is turned on or not will often be in the hands of IT or Sales or Marketing.
- The emergence of the X-API makes everything we do part of learning. Everything we do is part of how we learn at work. xAPI will enable delivery and tracking of all of it. Bersin indicates that vendors will be building more and more tools that are xAPI compliant. No doubt, you know this brought a smile to my face. If it gets rolled out properly and quickly, xAPI will be a game-changing enabler of new ways of guiding and tracking learning.
- As content grows in volume, it is falling into two categories: micro-learning and macro-learning. His point here is that there is an appropriate time for all “sizes” of learning during an employee’s learning journey. I believe that microlearning has been blown totally out of proportion in the past 2 years. Microlearning isn’t new. We used to call it “chunking.” It plays a role in effective learning at different times in the learning process. But it isn’t the square peg that finally fits into the round hole.
- Work has changed, Driving the Need for Continuous Learning. Reading and answering emails takes up 28% of our time. 19% of our time is spent searching and gathering information. Combined with the statistics Bersin quoted at the beginning of the post about the need for more learning because of rapid change and growing complexity, the 24 minutes employees spend, on average, in learning activities clearly isn’t enough. No one has time for “course level training” anymore. Combined with the trend above about crafting learning journeys and the trend below about spaced learning, this trend is obvious.
- Spaced learning has arrived. No need to go into depth here. We’ve finally discovered that research begun in the late 1800’s shows we forget things. And with all the information flowing at us, we forget more. But we’ve also discovered that spacing out learning and reviewing and questioning for retrieval increase our ability to retain and recall information. OK, Bersin wasn’t as snarky as I may have just reflected it. This is a major shift in the way L&D thinks about learning. It’s also a trend that will give us some quick wins if we measure it well. Retention up. Scrap learning costs down.
- A New Learning Architecture Has Emerged: With New Vendors to Consider The LMS isn’t dead, but it’s only one of the players on the field. There is a wide range of new tools hitting the market to meet the needs of the learning that is more personalized, self-directed, and just-in-time. Some of the new tools are from vendors we know, but many are by new players. The landscape is going to be shifting for a while through this transition. Not much to agree or disagree with here. I would advocate that L&D professionals put their curiosity caps on and invite vendors in to pitch these new products or sign up for their demos online. Sure, it will take up some of your limited time, but it will be well worth it. There is some amazing stuff out there. Make it a team activity one a month. Yes, you will get a biased view of the world skewed to that vendor’s sweet spots, but they’ve also had to spend alot of time synthesizing some of the issues in this blog post to get to a point of being able to program a solution. You’ll learn and, maybe, find a new tool.
Today learning is about “flow” not “instruction,” and helping bring learning to people throughout their digital experience.
- Traditional Coaching, Training, and Culture of Learning Has Not Gone Away With all of the “new toys” to play with, two key factors in high-performing organizations are mainstays of current practice – culture and coaching. (I’m not sure why “Training” is in the title of this trend) Bersin talks about the importance of the four E’s of learning at work (education, experience, environment, and exposure) to generate sustainable development. He shares that he feels there will soon be a tighter linkage between L&D and performance management tools. Culture is clearly vital to the success of this vision of learning. Peer support, knowing the organization supports you in taking the time to learn, linkage between learning and organizational objects are examples. Coaching by managers not only can provide direct support for learning, but it also should generate a “my manager cares” and “I’m not just a number to leadership” feelings, which increases engagement.
- A New Business Model for Learning With the diminution of the LMS and the de-emphasis of 3rd party content collections, L&D will no longer be in the massive capital investment game. Bersin encourages a “pay by the drink” approach and encourages L&D purchases to push back on vendor pricing. He also warns that the technology marketplace is going to be volatile for a while. Vendors will come and go and there were be mergers and acquisitions. He argues that signing long-term packages might be risky until things settle out. My reaction is mixed to this trend. One of the things that got many L&D departments “to the table,” sometimes briefly, was the acquisition of an LMS for millions of dollars. There are numerous new tools out there that are testing out “pay by the drink” pricing methodologies. Unless you have strong historical data that can inform what your potential usage might be, these methodologies could result in much larger invoices than you are expecting. Bersin also doesn’t address the use of open source tools which in some cases are as powerful as their commercial competitors and just as secure. Finally, APIs, webhooks and other connecting tools like IFTTT, Zapier, and Apiant are making it easier to mix and match vendors and to short cut review periods. I’m not even going to go into the impact of the Internet of Things that is coming.
- The Impact of Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Slack Is Coming Tools from these companies are radically changing the digital experience at work. Up until now, L&D has generally stayed away from email and messaging tools as part of the learning ecosystem, but these tools are incorporating learning capabilities. Bersin encourages us to think about Microsoft incorporating LinkedIn’s Lynda.com courses into Excel. He suggests we need to open a dialogue with IT regarding the next generation of messaging tools they are likely considering today. This is a very important call to action, in my mind. I am concerned that this may prove to be L&D’s kryptonite. For numerous reasons, we have stayed away from using normal workplace tools as learning tools. Microsoft Office, Salesforce, Slack, Google, Github are all already incorporating learning functionality. If we don’t incorporate these and other tools into our learning experience designs, we may be perceived as out of touch and irrelevant.
- A New Set of Skills and Capabilities in L&D Roles in L&D are going to shift and, likely, some will go away as we take on these new challenges. New roles will arise. Many companies are already re-training their L&D teams learning design thinking, MVP (minimal viable product) approaches to new solutions, and understanding the “employee experience.” He does point out that the overarching principle that has historically driven L&D’s work: Our job is to understand what employees jobs are, learn about the latest tools and techniques to drive learning and performance, and then apply them to work in a modern, relevant, and cost-effective way. This can’t be overstated. L&D and it’s professionals are in an “adapt or die” situation. To use two overused, but familiar terms; we need to be responsive and agile to deal with this changing environment. Some of us may be sitting in the same chair in 5 years, but the work in front of us is likely to have little resemblance to what is there now.
- (Wait, you thought there were 10?) Based on a comment to Bersin’s post by W. Nema, I’m adding an 11th trend – the Need to Understand and Incorporate Business Structure. Nema is specifically advocating that business-specific ontologies, taxonomies and metadata are necessary to enable effective contextual search (which is a mainstay of the modern workplace). Of course, to add to the degree of difficulty, these structures are rapidly changing due to Big Data, Cloud-based interoperability, the Internet of Things, and other factors. On this specific concept, I totally agree. Those working on xAPI are spending 4 months this spring re-evaluating the role of Profiles in the standard. Profiles include what Nema is suggesting. Without rigorously developed profiles xAPI is clunky and hard to program to – at best. Well defined profiles will enable vendors and practitioners to fully exploit the full potential of xAPI. But I would expand it to include more than what Nema is calling for. We need to understand IT, Processes, and Cultural Structures in our development of learning experiences.
PHEW! Hat tip to Josh Bersin for his ability to synthesize all of this.
Now it’s your turn. What do you think of any or all of this? Is Josh on the mark? Am I a suck up for agreeing with most of it? What do you think the challenges are that L&D must address? Please feel free to use the comments section to share your thoughts. Or do like me and refer to this post and comment on your own blog.