The future is here

by HRD05 Dec 2016
With immersive technology starting to take hold of the corporate L&D space, HRD Magazine gains some insights into where L&D is heading and what is shaping this future path

Imagine you are the HR director of a leading department store chain. Your HR team’s traditional means of inducting and onboarding new  seasonal staff was to send them some ‘must read’ documents the week prior to them starting, and then on their first day have them spend time meeting with their supervisor as well as with a peer in order to be ‘shown the ropes’.

In 2016, suddenly that seems quaint. While inducting and onboarding will always require the human touch, the L&D elements of these processes are being revolutionised. Today, two weeks from starting in the job, a new hire can potentially use their mobile to be introduced to their direct manager and perhaps a future colleague, and be shown the location in which they will work. In addition, video technology can demonstrate how to use the cash register and process EFTPOS payments. And that’s just the start – in a few short years onboarding will likely embrace the same augmented reality technology utilised in the perhaps unexpected tech hit of 2016: Pokémon Go.

Moving with the times
A number of key elements are coming together to help transform corporate L&D. Apart from technology, chief among these key elements is the desire of employers to create cultures of continuous learning. Marc Havercroft, VP of Business Transformation and Advisory, SAP SuccessFactors, defi nes these cultures as being critical to any business moving forward into the digital age. Learning in this era is being impacted on by two disparate but related components.

Firstly, there’s leadership’s fear about being able to grasp the shift towards ‘Industry 4.0’. “As leaders, it’s the ability to take their business into the digital age,” Havercroft says, adding that it’s no surprise that companies like ANZ Bank have for the first time appointed people to their board who have both a digital focus and digital skills.

Secondly, there’s been a shift from the employees’ perspective. They want to proactively manage their own careers now and into the future. “Today, one of the biggest reasons people pick a certain organisation to work for is not so much for the work they’ll do; it’s more about what they’ll learn on the job. Continuous learning is going to be a mainstay of the EVP for many organisations,” says Havercroft.

While once it was a ‘tick the box’ exercise in risk mitigation, especially for compliance training, today both employers and employees realise it’s in the interest of both parties if learning is self-directed and enjoyable.

Research from Deloitte states: “Employees at all levels expect dynamic, self-directed, continuous learning opportunities from their employers.”

With change being the new normal, Havercroft suggests that employees are perhaps more interested today in keeping their skills sharp. “Anything that will ensure their skills don’t become obsolete will help,” he says. “Everyone wants to remain a valuable asset in the work environment. Self-directed learning to me also means relevant content on mediums that are based on the individual’s wants and expectations.”

What role does technology play in such a world? Havercroft suggests it’s a lever to execute and harness change – but it’s the learning content that remains critical. “An LMS is an LMS; it’s your learning strategy and the content that’s going to make the difference.”

He likens technology to a car, which will get someone from A to B, but it’s still important for the driver to know where A and B are.

“That’s why I think technology facilitates continuous learning and facilitates the growth of individuals and organisations. However, you must know where you’re going,” he says.
Marc Havercroft of SAP SuccessFactors outlines how the best learning technology builds upon basic human behaviours.

“Peer-to-peer learning is what we do best as human beings. It’s why we set up buddy systems at work. It’s why classroom education has been the default for so long and why we have internships in the workplace. You can be an expert in something, but your social relationships are a big infl uencer on how you learn or try new things. Traditionally we would have viewed peer-to-peer as having someone physically sitting next to you. But today you could be collaborating with someone on the other side of the world via channels like SAP’s Jam collaboration tool, or you could be interacting on wikis. Peer-to-peer technology simply draws on how we learn and how we interact with each other as humans.”

L&D and the cloud
This last point is where cloud technology plays a critical role. 

The cloud is simply information and knowledge stored in a central location – a data warehouse or similar. In the L&D space, the cloud allows employers to store greater knowledge and content, and also provide access to that knowledge and content across multiple digital platforms. This might mean learning via a YouTube video at home or a learning portal at work – or anything in between. The cloud also provides the ability to easily distribute and add to that knowledge – a major boon for employers interested in capturing the knowledge of their employees in a central portal.

Eventually, virtual reality and augmented reality-based technology will be additional mediums through which learning can be delivered. However, Havercroft says success is not really dependent on technology; that’s just the medium through which learning is delivered. Instead, he suggests HR leaders concentrate on:
  • relevant content
  • the medium that works for their business and their workforce
  • measuring the success of any initiative
On this last point, he suggests that measuring engagement is not enough.

“Engagement to me means I know what I’m doing and I’m doing it well. It’s really about productivity – because productivity means bigger profits.”

Citing the earlier example of induction and onboarding in the department store, Havercroft says the manager’s time to get a new hire up to speed could potentially be reduced from two weeks to a few hours; productivity is therefore increased for both the employee and the manager. “When you consider the manager’s salary and the employee’s salary and how much business the company does in the two weeks in the lead-up to Christmas, suddenly you get a clear idea of the impact on the bottom line. That’s the power of learning – when it’s linked to commercial outcomes like that,” he says.

A focus on content as much as technology
SAP has a long history in the corporate learning space, primarily through its on-premise/ERP platforms, and now with its cloud-based SAP SuccessFactors HCM Suite, including the SAP SuccessFactors Learning solution. The cloud enables employers to deliver learning through mobile, video, peer-to-peer, and eventually virtual and augmented reality.

However, given these monumental changes in the L&D landscape, SAP SuccessFactors has shifted subtly from being an L&D and talent management solutions provider to being more involved on the content creation and consulting side.

“We realised that many clients need help in taking what I’d call 2D content and making it 3D or 4D,” says Havercroft. “It’s taking the traditional employee manual and saying ‘would this work better as a video?’ or ‘could we utilise augmented learning or peer-to-peer learning here?’ We’re urging clients to ask, ‘what are we actually trying to teach people here?’”

He reiterates that technology will be a platform for executing on strategy and getting there more quickly, but employers and individuals must be conscious of where they are and where they want to go before they utilise the latest technology.

“If you’re moving an employee manual from paper to online, if that manual is rubbish to begin with, it’ll still be rubbish online. So it’s bringing that technology and the content together in a holistic offering.

“We must harness the power of technology and not be scared of it; however, we must do that in a way that ensures we still deliver the outcomes we want.”

Mobile learning
Online learning using tablets, phones and laptops allows learning to happen anywhere, at any time. In a gig-based economy, employees could live anywhere in the world, making mobile learning an important aspect of an organisation’s L&D strategy.

Similar to mobile learning, microlearning also strays from the traditional course model and delivers small nuggets of information via mediums such as short how-to videos or text-based instructions.

Self-directed learning
In traditional L&D models, HR and management gave limited learning options at specific times. With changes in technology, learning has become more employee-centric; they can learn how and when they want.

Immersive learning
One of the most recent trends in learning is immersive technologies. Some of these technologies are virtual reality, like Google Cardboard and Oculus Rift. These allow learners to immerse themselves in any environment in real time. They could help teach employees how to react in dangerous or high-risk situations.

SAP SuccessFactors is the global provider of cloud-based human capital management (HCM) software. The human capital management application suite integrates onboarding, social business and collaboration tools, a learning management system (LMS), performance management, recruiting software, applicant tracking software, succession planning, talent management, and HR analytics to organisations of all sizes across over 60 industries.


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