Buying Learning Tech now? You may pay for it later!
Pandemics. Skills shortages. The Great Resignation. L&D has endured quite a lot of change in the past two years, meaning we have had to pivot, adapt and evolve at an unprecedented rate. Many of us have moved away from formal classroom training and embraced the technological innovations at our fingertips. Whether it’s been by choice, from pressures in the C-Suite or as a result of the pandemic, we’ve all gone digital. And that’s just great.
But we hate to break it to you, there’s a lot more to a modern learning landscape than just digital learning delivery. A lot more.
The changing face of learning
The recent pandemic is the last in a very long list of disruptors for our industry (hello smartphone). Much like the world around us, we have had no choice but to adjust our approaches to meet changing learning needs and learner expectations.
And unfortunately these adjustments can be painful. They can force us to disengage from our comfort zones and break habits that we’ve become rather accustomed to. For example, for years it was not uncommon for a L&D function to be order takers who were churning out elearning modules for every training need in their organisation. Hey, it sure beats classroom training, right?
But these days, L&D is multifaceted and much more than just elearning. We’ve learned, oftentimes through baptisms of fire, that we need to embrace change and support our learners where they are, rather than expecting them to come to us. That means providing multi-device learning, an emphasis on content curation and even embracing social learning. We’ve had to blend many approaches and become much more agile in order to survive. To accomplish this, we still rely heavily on technology. But is that a help or a hindrance?
Don’t be distracted by the shiny
It’s easy to become enamoured with the idea of tech and how it could help us solve all our problems (especially when many vendors promise that their solution does precisely that). However, L&D’s failures rarely lie purely with technology.
We don’t often think about that though, do we? We see our tech failing our business and our learners and naturally, we take umbrage with the tech. We assume it’s causing the problems.
It’s out of date. It’s clunky. It’s failing us.
Or, perhaps we’re failing it?
Perhaps we aren’t using our existing technology solutions to their full potential? Perhaps we are too quick to move away from existing solutions in a bid for the new and shiny, only to find ourselves in the same position a year or two from now. And that’s because our problems run much deeper than the tech.
Technology-first is not the solution
Enabling great learning experiences in your organisation is your ultimate goal. And of course you’re going to look to tech to support that goal. However, the reality is, tech alone will not solve anything, especially if the core cause of dysfunction surrounding tech is not the technology itself.
Amanda Nolen, co-founder of learning and EdTech consultancy, NilesNolen: “A technology first—or technology only—approach to innovation is a common mistake in L&D. Although you do have to have the right tech in place to enable great learning, tech alone will not change anything. You can’t expect to spend all your time, energy and budget into implementing a new platform without tackling everything else that needs changing around it.”
And with that in mind, it’s absolutely vital that L&D functions undertake root cause analysis prior to investing in new technology. This helps to deeply understand what your true challenges are as well as what’s causing them. Chances are, the poor performance of your technology is due to other factors (learner engagement, barriers to access, awareness, and even organisational culture, to name a few); but without root cause analysis, it’s impossible to know what the real problem is.
And so most people just revert back to replacing their tech. But before you throw the baby out with the bathwater, consider whether your tech is really the problem.
We need to understand our ‘why’ more
It’s true, for a good long time the standard ‘LMS and elearning’ combination worked for L&D departments. But times are changing quickly, and continuing to just throw more content, or a newer platform, at growing problems is not going to be a solution.
Instead we believe it’s business-critical that L&D begins to cast a discerning eye of their current approaches and identify opportunities to improve. Before they buy MORE tech. Ask yourself:
- What are the problems I am attempting to solve?
- Am I certain that the functionality of my current technology is the cause of my problems?
- Do I know why we are exploring new technology solutions?
If you can’t confidently and comprehensively answer these three simple questions, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
We need to better equip ourselves
The reality is, we often neglect our technology. We get so ensnared in the ‘next-big-thing’ that we forget housekeeping, optimisation and a continued focus on leveraging our existing solutions.
One thing we’ve never been very good at is pushing the tech we use to its limits and that’s often due to a lack of internal capability. So rather than spending six figures on a new platform, consider leveraging your existing tech by introducing new capabilities into your L&D team:
- Business servicing: If you haven’t already, move away from order taking and instead focus on how your team can act as competent and proactive business partners. Stop the content churn, spray and pray approaches and instead focus on business-oriented outcomes.
- Learner experience: We cannot continue to expect behaviour change from single learning interventions. Instead L&D needs skills to plan and map the overall learning experience for maximum learning acquisition, retention and application.
- Platform maximisation: Make sure your team has at least one person whose sole job is to keep your platform in tip top shape. Ideally, they should have some community management skills too, if social learning is a thing in your business.
- Efficiency of resource: Make sure your team are able to quickly create and curate content. Agility is important. Do they understand how to identify and filter this content to create modern and meaningful learning experiences? If not, focus on this skill immediately.
- Data utilisation: Whilst L&D is renowned for not having access to the greatest sets of data, that is improving. We need to better understand our performance both at a micro and macro level and need real data skills to do this well.
We know pretty much every organisation in the world is contending with a growing skills gap. It’s only natural to assume that as the shifting demand in skills grows, so too will the skills that L&D needs. On top of this, it’s absolute madness to spend all your budget, time and resources on new solutions if you’re not going to resolve the issues that surround it. Because it will just fail.
So to truly become a modern learning function, you need to address your core challenges in tandem with enhancing the skills and capabilities of your team. It really is that simple.
Head of Engagement, Jam Pan