Experiential learning has become the buzzword, and organisations need to build an immersive learning ecosystem
Lesser reliance on management development programs and greater emphasis on mentorship will be seen in the coming months
One of the key questions which an organisation and an L&D leader faces every day is the question of impact. Impact is important because organisations are facing some very real challenges as a result of the current talent environment both externally, as well as within the organisation. Almost every business discussion seemingly hinges upon aspects of talent crunch, lack of skills, and the dearth of leaders. As the lines between business and talent continue to blur, companies have started to see talent management as one of the critical pieces of not just future growth but to a great extent, of survival and sustenance. Not surprisingly, L&D budgets are showing no signs of shrinking in the coming months, as companies look to build capabilities and competencies within the organisation that will become their source of competitive advantage.
Interesting developments in the learning space have propelled the emergence of methods and philosophies which will drive the learning function in the coming months. Learning budgets will cease to remain conversations about spend on classroom sessions, participation metrics, or diversity of learning channels. The idea of learning is transitioning to an integrated system of delivery mechanisms targeted to achieve very real outcomes, such as subject matter expertise, customer-oriented workforce, or growth leadership. Perhaps the biggest shift that will happen in the learning space will be the assessment of the overall portfolio and a readjustment of focus on the key areas of impact. The need from an external partner will also shift from a deliverer of service to a consultant, involved across the breadth of the learning process. While assessing an external partner, organisations will thus look to evaluate the depth and expertise that the external partner will be able to introduce in the organisation to raise its overall competency.
Resurgence of the “Gurukula”
Almost every learning expert that we spoke to discloses that for far too long, the L&D function has been experimenting with tools and techniques which focus more on metrics than actual impact. A common example of such an L&D metric is the “extent of coverage of an e-learning module.” Evidence suggests that progressive L&D are shifting their focus toward learning delivery that trigger actual implementation, change of behaviours and attitudes, and have long-term recall. As a result of that, concepts of experiential learning are emerging and several terms such as ‘pervasive learning’ and ‘immersive learning’ are doing the rounds.
It has been empirically and statistically proven that experiential learning can impact desired outcomes much more deeply that traditional methods. Learning is, thus, moving away rapidly from a one-way delivery of content to a class of bored participants to the more exciting concept of living in a knowledge environment. Organisations are working with service providers to create such learning environments either through intelligent facilitation or through the implementation of technology. This kind of a ubiquitous learning environment is similar to the ancient concept of “Gurukulas” where students were part of an ecosystem designed to offer learning opportunities all through the day and with every action.
Mobile learning investments to grow
The changing nature of work, the accessibility and improvement of technology, and the changing composition of the workforce has propelled a serious interest in mobile learning. Mobile learning has all the critical elements of pervasiveness, beside the fact that infrastructure and technology advancements have made it possible to enable mobile as a universal learning platform. Most organisations will be looking at mobile as a key component of their instructional design as well as for learning technology decision making.
Up one level- gaming and simulation
Organisations have been flirting with the idea of gamification in the enterprise for a while, and it will be safe to assume that gaming has moved up one level of maturity. Gaming and simulation flows into the concept of immersive learning very well by way of their capability to replicate real-world experiences. Traditional gaming and simulation methods, such as leaderboarding and badges, however, prove ineffective in the long run. Gamified learning, thus, has to build an experience where the participant gets a holistic or complete experience of the learning process.
Gaming and simulation companies are creating learning games that cover the complete spectrum of the learning process including needs analysis, evaluation, design, delivery, and accelerated learning as part of the complete simulation exercise. As a result, not only do the participants but the entire organisation across all levels get involved in the L&D process making the exercise not only simulative, but also immersive. A December 2013 research by “The Strategist” magazine argues that opposed to traditional classroom learning, network-based learning and gamification will pick up among Indian companies in the coming months. Four areas emerge as the most effective for gamification- induction training, soft skills training, technical training, and policy training.
The end of education
Formal classroom training sessions have not only proven to be ineffective, but also shown very low content recall value among participants. As a result, the reliance on an instructor-led content session or “lecture session” is gradually diminishing. The swelling of the next generation workforce in the enterprise, who come to a company with new set of expectations has also contributed to this trend. As the classroom gets gradually replaced by an immersive gamified environment, services and L&D design will evolve to accommodate this trend.
At the same time, it has also true that personalised touch in learning goes to a great extent in making learning effective. Mentoring, however, requires a planned approach and the role of the external consultant becomes important in designing of a mentorship program. Mentorship is proven to be a more effective tool in building the true leaders that Indian organisations are in need of at this hour. It is expected that in the coming months, progressive L&D organisations will discontinue lofty investments in Management Development Programs (MDPs) and divert those funds to strengthening their mentorship model.
Surveys across the industry among business heads all point toward the fact that retention of talent and building leadership capabilities will continue to remain top of the mind priorities for heads of businesses. L&D thus will need to evolve from a reactive function to a more proactive function, capable of sensing talent needs and devising solutions and enterprise capabilities of the future. While new methodologies continue to evolve, organisations should reduce their reliance on traditional channels if they want to make their L&D efforts successful. This is the age of mobile, experiential, and pervasive learning—a clear indication that employees are looking for experiences, not education.