In the 1990s, technology helped chief learning officers streamline and scale learning, moving time-consuming and costly in-house programs from physical classrooms online. The biggest value proposition: huge company cost savings, making e-learning a big win for the executive team, if not for employees.
Today, technology is changing the game again, but this time the driving force behind it is no longer the CFO working to cut costs. Today, it’s being propelled by millennial employees looking to connect, share and deliver innovation using the mobile, social and video tools they’ve seemingly used since birth.
Learning leaders have gotten hip to the potential of technology. A survey released this week sponsored by Saba revealed that HR leaders in the U.S. and U.K. are very tuned in to digital tools that support “always on” learning and development. In the study, 83 percent of HR executives say a modern company cannot compete effectively without its workforce using talent management tools, and development is a key tool.
HR execs and chief learning officers are actually ahead of their employees in envisioning what’s next. The survey shows that 54 percent of HR executives think it’s highly likely their people will work remotely and work primarily on smartphones in the near future. By contrast, only 36 percent of employees think this is likely.
With this in mind it makes sense to try and engage millennials, the biggest portion of today’s employee base. The survey uncovered a number of insights learning leaders can use to derive maximum benefit from the new generation of employees. For instance:
Help them learn to stop the churn. Millennials are one of the highest flight risks in an organization. Many businesses have tried to combat this by juicing up their culture with foosball tables and all-you-can-eat sushi lunches. But, as the study found, 86 percent of millennials are more inclined to stay at their current company if they’re given access to quality learning and development. That’s higher than Gen Xers and baby boomers, who are less likely to stick around even when they are given quality development. This means companies that want to thrive in the future must embrace new tools. The study bears this out: 72 percent of all U.S. employees agree that modern technology tools are very important to effective communication in the workplace, especially when it comes to younger employees.
Open your ears and act. Employees today demand to be listened to. Therefore, employers need to tune in — and respond — to their workers faster and more often. However, the survey found 59 percent of U.S. employees think when asked for their feedback that their concerns won’t be addressed in a timely manner. And 52 percent feel their concerns will be dismissed outright. Asking for feedback and downplaying or ignoring it is a business mistake that can cost you your best people. Technology can help connect the dots. Imagine linking an always-on survey tool for easy intuitive feedback with a talent management system that could recommend developmental actions to help address that feedback?
Mind the gender gap. When organizations don’t heed feedback from employees it creates a listening gap that causes workers to disengage. You don’t listen, so they don’t talk — especially women. The survey found 63 percent of female employees are rarely asked for feedback, versus 54 percent of male employees. Not surprisingly, women are therefore less comfortable giving their input. The survey showed only 58 percent of women are comfortable giving feedback, compared to 65 percent of men. This is a potentially damaging disconnect that requires immediate attention from HR and learning teams.
Embrace modern learning tools. Employers should welcome social, mobile and video learning tools to create a platform for a collaborative exchange of ideas. In the survey, mobile was ranked the “most important” tool by 68 percent of U.S. employees, followed by social (67 percent) and video tools (64 percent). Employees don’t want canned classes. They do want access to “in the moment” learning, such as a GoPro how-to video by an internal expert or a real-time video stream from a small group meeting. But they’re not getting what they want. Right now only 52 percent of employees think their company is effectively engaging and empowering them and their coworkers. It’s time to arm your multigenerational workforce with tools that provide continuous learning, easy collaboration and informal knowledge sharing, and that allow workers to develop their skills and constantly grow.
Don’t overlook “native genius.” One of the best performance drivers is social capital from in-house subject-matter experts, otherwise known as native genius. But organizations are not tapping into it. The study found 66 percent of HR executives and 60 percent of employees in the U.S. believe a significant amount of knowledge goes unshared with colleagues who could use that information. The onus is on the organization to draw out this social capital and communicate it to people who can use it. To do this, companies need a better way to track those conversations, shared blogs and articles, and connections to internal subject matter experts. Learning is no longer about employees taking the required class and checking off a laundry list of compliance requirements. It’s about bubbling up all the smarts that reside within the organization — unlocking and sharing native genius.
Personalized skills and leadership development will be key for learning leaders and their companies to succeed in the years ahead. The more you enable employees to explore the content, contacts and context that are most interesting to them, the more engaged employees across all generations will be.
Didi D’Errico is the vice president, brand advocacy for Saba. To comment, email editor@CLOmedia.com.