Learning transformed = Agility achieved

Redefining learning as a platform, rather than an event, enables and supports an agile, digital business

Posted by Lindsey West and Terry Patterson on September 27, 2018.

The corporate learning function is under pressure to deliver more capable and more engaged talent faster. How can learning meet these escalating expectations? Certainly not by tinkering at the edges. Something completely different from the status quo is in order, given the pace of business disruption overall and the way technology has permeated our day-to-day lives. The answer doesn’t lie in new or different training programs, but in a completely new type of learning platform.

The case for revamping corporate learning is clear:

However, the “how to” for revamping corporate learning to meet stakeholder needs isn’t as clear. On one hand, companies need better performance, capability, and speed from their talent. On the other hand, people want learning experiences on the job to match what they receive as consumers outside of work, seamless to needs. And, they want these learning experiences to be useful in expanding the ever-evolving constellation of capabilities and accomplishments that constitute their resumes.

These may appear to be forces pulling in different directions, but when you focus on the base need for capabilities and agility, there is more in common than at first glance. Let’s look at it in terms of a supply and demand exchange…

  • Demand: The business needs new skills, shifting teams, and rapid execution against disruption.
  • Supply: Today’s workforce is multigenerational, largely gig-oriented, wants agile moves and experiences, and expects to learn and grow.

Learning is in a position to become the underlying platform that creates a bridge from the business demands to the needs of the new talent supply. Doing so can spark a dynamic and remarkable ecosystem of continuous development and growth for both the individual and the organization.

Learning as a platform
Learning can’t meet the need if it’s focused on “point in set-aside time” development (events, web courses, etc.) and instead needs to connect people with information at the point of need. This means having a system that is multidirectional, embedded in the flow of work life, and as agile as human development. This is what activates a development mind-set, the empowerment of talent, and the digital organization far beyond installing new technology or making content mobile.

Source: Deloitte Consulting LLP

Three dynamic components are core to this learning platform:

  • Developmental Agility: Agile development breaks free of narrow thinking about development according to functional silos or job descriptions in favor of holistic career experiences and dynamic teaming. Through visibility into organizational and individual needs, and the ability to flex to meet those needs, teams can tackle challenges, the business can more rapidly generate solutions, and individuals learn on their own terms.
  • Environmental Enablement: Underlying structures support the flexibility to embed learning in every facet of the business and people’s daily work. And just like it is for many businesses and many facets of our everyday life, integrated technology is essential for making effective learning, feedback, and growth possible.
  • Informational Empowerment: Information that is free-flowing and readily accessible empowers learning in day-to-day work. Learning as a platform supports information flow, provides access to information and learning resources, and drives feedback loops to enable growth.

What have you done to make the shift?
The need to transform corporate learning has been building for some time. If you’re still thinking about it or haven’t yet begun any initiatives, your organization could already be at a disadvantage in terms of meeting the demands of the business and the talent it relies on.

If you need inspiration, consider the case of ATB Financial, a community-focused regional financial institution based in Alberta, Canada. When the company deployed the G Suite (i.e., Google) to fuel its vision to become more digital, the learning organization capitalized on the opportunity to begin a transformation of its own, moving from learning “creator” to learning “connector.” It also set an ambitious goal that went beyond helping the company transition to new technology: It set its sights on achieving a work renaissance and empowering 5,000 team members to reimagine the way they work. The company’s journey (read more here) is a testament to the power that comes from peer-to-peer learning, leveraging the wisdom of the crowd, and embedding learning into the very DNA of the organization.

That’s what learning as a platform is all about—building an entire ecosystem of strategies, processes, and tools that integrate so seamlessly into the business that the learning function itself becomes invisible—not because it’s less relevant, but because it’s fully woven into the fabric of the organization.

You can find more ideas and actions to consider to redefine learning as a platform in this perspective.

Lindsey WestLindsey West, is a senior manager in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Learning Solutions practice, where she works with complex, global clients on how to elevate the impact of learning on the business. She holds a PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology.

Terry Patterson Terry Patterson, is a senior manager in the Human Capital practice of Deloitte Consulting LLP, helping clients achieve their business goals with talent practices that are designed and executed to support more engaged, more capable people within a positive, high-performance culture.

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