Training for Agility: Understanding the new paradigms in eLearning

Dell Technologies Inc, one of the largest technology manufactures in the world, said recently that “…around 85% of the jobs that today’s learners will be doing in 2030 haven’t been invented yet.”. The new world will be based on organizations “…becoming more agile and profitable”. This bold statement was made in a report titled “The Next Era of Human Machine Partnerships”.  

If this prediction is, in fact, true, it then introduces a brand-new paradigm for trainers and instructional designers alike: How do you train future workforces to embrace that leaner, more competitive, agile and profitable future?

Agility in eLearning

The challenge with future of workforces, as laid out in the report cited above, is that information and knowledge is expected to become redundant at a much faster pace than it is today. In the new paradigm, while employers have already mapped out a new business model, they won’t have a sizable enough trained workforce to implement their vision – unless they adopt appropriate training strategies to support their agile ambitions.

Current training approaches rely on pushing out eLearning to learners in a vast array of methods. And that helps employers keep their workforce trained to respond to changing workplace dynamics. However, as future business environments are expected to change more quickly than they do today, employees and employers will need to act with agility to respond to those changes.

Here are some strategies you can use to train your workforce for such an eventuality:

1. Go Back to Your Basics

The first thing you need to do, in order to train your workforce to respond to an agile business environment, is to understand what your short, intermediate and longer-term business objectives are. You may not be able to identify specifically what type of training needs (what courses; what technologies etc.) might be needed to support those objectives but, at a macro level, you should be able to identify the types of skillsets you’ll need to move your vision forward.

Employers can then build shorter-term training strategies to meet the immediate training needs, and revise those strategies more frequently than is done today.

As part of your “back to basics” training needs evaluation, as an employer, you’ll need to also put in place appropriate learning and training feedback loops, so that you can more quickly adapt your training plans to changing business, economic and competitive landscapes. And that leads us to the next training strategy for agile workplaces.

2. Get Communicating Again

The predictions that Dell makes in its report raises a critical question: If employers don’t know what learners today will be doing in five to ten years, how do you train them to do those jobs? The answer is: Train your employees to better communicate – with one-another, and across the company’s chain-of-command.

Employees are usually connected with external groups – on social media, within competitor organizations, and in professional and industry-related bodies – and know what trends are coming down the pipe, which might impact their jobs. Having an excellent communication network across the organization will help quickly identify potential changes in the workplace which, in turn, will help training managers respond more promptly with appropriate training content and curricula.

3. Think “Short and Concise”

For anyone unfamiliar with the concept, agility in the workforce is all about taking small – yet tried and tested – business processes, and then repeating them across the organization before moving on to the next process. To train an agile workforce, employers will need to consider rolling out eLearning in “bite sized” modules – short videos, lectures or pod-casts based on what’s known about the current business environment.

Training for agility will depend on the speed with which new and relevant training content can be developed and delivered. The days of putting employees through extensive six or eight-month long training sessions is no more! Short and concise learning can be quickly rolled out across a target workforce and, if required, can be rapidly and cost-effectively modified and re-taught when training needs on the ground change.

Such agile training may also be delivered in the form of self-directed learning, or even informal peer-to-peer informal training.

4. Train for Employability…Not Just Employment

Today’s training model is largely based on providing employees training based on the employment expectations of the company. What this means is that training content is designed to be restricted to the job description. Agile workforces will need to be trained differently!

As discussed earlier, the workplace of the future will be nimble – quickly adapting to changing business and economic imperatives. When creating training and learning opportunities for an agile workplace therefore, employers will need to understand that workers of the future will also be looking at their own future employability quotients beyond their current employment prospects.

Training content will therefore need to be created, not just to prepare employees to transition agilely from one role in the company to another, but also with a view of enhancing worker employability prospects outside the organization. Organizations offering this type of training/learning proposition are far more likely to attract higher-quality talent than those that don’t.

5. Continuous Versus Scheduled Training

By its very definition, agility implies moving when opportunities exist – often when they materialize without formal notice! And to be prepared to take advantage of such opportunities, your workforce must be ready and able to function at a moment’s notice.

Agile workforces will need to undergo training continuously, and not just according to a training calendar that’s been prepared twelve or eighteen months in advance. However, such continuous training does not necessarily need to happen in a formal setting. For instance, a daily morning 10-minute scrum session, where all employees huddle together to learn something new from older and more experienced colleagues, might be one way to train a workforce for agility.

The Train-The-Trainer model is also a great way to train agile workforces. Instead of a batch of employees attending an off-site training session, employers might send a few senior employees for short training courses, and then have those “master trainers” tailor the content, to make it more relevant, and then deliver it frequently across the organization.

Training Technologies and Agility

All of the strategies discussed here will need to be supported by eLearning and training technologies. When training for agility, employers must be open to concepts like Virtual Reality (VR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR) and Wearable Technologies, and integrate them into their overall training strategies.

Newer eLearning trends, such as Machine Learning, will also need to be embraced when training workforces to be more agile and nimble. And last, but not least, the one trend that will help future learners become more agile is Big Data. Using meta-data about a learner and the learning environment, will enable training content to be personalized in a way that it can more readily be absorbed and understood by learners who will be extremely busy to tell Learning Management Systems (LMSs) what and how they prefer to learn.


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