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Trending in Workplace Learning 2015….

Many colleagues have asked what I think will emerge in workplace learning in 2015. Some put it this way, “Have you read anything worthwhile that summarizes trends for 2015?” Or this, often this, “I should be assessing my learning organization as we move into a new year. It’s an opportunity. Got a bumper sticker on trends, 2015?”

I don’t have that bumper sticker. What I do have is enthusiasm about reflecting on emergent directions in workplace learning. I’ve been reviewing what others (such as Malamed, Deloitte/Bersin, and Taylor) have to say on this matter.

Here is where I think workplace learning will trend in 2015. I’m consciously using the verb, to trend, not the noun, trend. I think we’re trending, we are moving towards, making tracks, inclining in particular directions.

Few learning organizations are executing at the peak of these trends. Not yet. But soon.

  • Personalized. Outrageous, isn’t it, that casinos provide more personalized development experiences than corporate learning organizations and universities?  Casinos know who we are and what we do and then they serve us accordingly. That is personalization based on choices made in the past. Unlike curriculum delivered with a fire hose, individualized programs emerge from performance, assessments, self-assessments, and guidance provided by coaches, supervisors and competency maps
  • Customized. Personalization is devoted to the individual. Customization looks to assure an aligned organization wrapping around that individual. Think of it as a move from habits that favor courses to data-driven decisions that tailor solutions. Robert Mager and Peter Pipe, in the last century, and Marc Rosenberg and Steve Foreman, in this one, urge us to look at each request (better performance appraisals, safer equipment operation, introduction of a new software package) in order to customize systems based on data. Customization is characterized by humility regarding the power of any course, in and of itself, to accomplish strategic purposes like technology innovation, leadership and compliance
  • Miniaturized. We are not talking about just any customized and personalized solution. We are trending towards those are small, flexible, reconfigurable and above all, intensely useful. Retired VADM Pat Tracey expressed dissatisfaction with the status quo at a Navy Learning Strategies Consortium in 2007: “Sending our people to residence programs is not compatible with our urgent needs in the field and our human capital strategy….”  That was then. Today, with even more pressing requirements for speed and cost reduction, and tastier technology options, many line leaders demand programs that are available 7/24/365. A 16-week residential course for retirement specialists? Naaaaa. A four-day class on ethics? No way. Executives and their people prefer answers, guidance, and support at the moment of need, in bite-sized chunks that are targeted to the task or question at hand. Less is more in 2015, via sliced and diced courses, tools, webinars, conversations, videos, and apps that automate sometimes more than they educate.

    Think Legos not the Leviathon.

  • Mobilized. Line leaders seek education, information and support delivered smack dab in the middle of work every day, everywhere. For that we are turning to mobile devices. Mike Glass, now the learning leader at ThermoFisher, described his enthusiasm for learning and support delivered via phones and tablets to the peripatetic sales force in his prior position. Mike noticed that the fund managers were devoted to exercising every night, with devices stuck in their ears. He saw this as an opportunity to deliver financial updates and reminders, in small nuggets, because of their gusto for staying up-to-date and working out. Another Mike seconded the enthusiasm for mobile. Mike Yonker is President at Learner Mobile, a division of SVI Inc. He described how they use mobile devices to deliver immediate updates to retail sales people about the latest beauty products witnessed by millions on the Red Carpet at the Oscars.
  • Informalized. While there are few learning organizations that I would characterize as informal, there are emerging and dramatic signatures of informality in 2015: more choice for employees in ways of learning and purposes too; more personalized programs born of assessments and self-assessments; and more conversation about proof that makes sense. Is your organization ready to move in these directions? 
  • Socialized. ATD’s 2014 State of the Industry Report confirms that instructors still reign supreme in workplace learning, with 70% of formal training hours delivered by an instructor in a classroom. That much? Never the less, I contend that we are trending to less in the classroom and more delivered where the work gets done, through networks, communities and online conversations. Consider the results of UK-based Donald Taylor’s poll regarding what’s happening in adult workplace learning. Collaborative learning came out on top, above personalization and mobile learning. Listen to Jane Bozarth. Look at your own life. Want to sharpen sales skills and maintain motivation in the face of long sales cycles? Want to learn to play the ukelele or better understand retirement options? What about that resolution to eat with health in mind? Where once we looked mostly, even only, to an instructor or subject matter expert, now we cast a much wider and more pervasive net through our opportunities to socialize online. I couldn’t do what I do without Twitter.

picture of allison from videoIs that all there is? Just six? Of course not. I edited harshly. I could go on. I stifled myself.

I considered pointing to more aggressive efforts to use data, big and otherwise, to enlighten decisions about programs and services. I also thought about highlighting technology, especially video, all to enable on demand learning and support. Data, technology and systems have been trending for years, for decades, in fact.

My focus here has been on what distinguishes 2015 to me. Weigh in, please. I hope you will.

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