Why your Learning and Development is going social


The Learning and Development (L&D) departments of large organisations have traditionally been a bit of a Cinderella function.  Part of HR Training, they are the people who run those worthy courses that you never quite got round to fitting into your busy schedule. But now that is all changing thanks to three drivers that are transforming the workplace:

  • The rise of the knowledge worker
  • xAPI – the experience API
  • Social learning

The rise of the knowledge worker

The shift of money and influence to the East has long since revolutionised the world’s manufacturing economy. More and more goods from iPhones to Dysons have been manufactured to the highest standards and the fastest turnarounds in China, Korea and Malaysia. Fifteen years ago, when Dyson shifted production from a leafy factory in Malmesbury, UK to Malaysia I accused their then Finance Director of doing it to cut costs.  He admitted that the wages of factory workers in the Far East represented a saving of at least a third,  but the real advantage was the speed in which they could change the smallest detail in the manufacturing process.

Although the move meant the loss of 50 jobs in the UK plant, today Dyson employs 7,000 staff around the world. 15 years after the move of its manufacturing, Dyson announced a new high tech campus on the former RAF Hullavington Airfield near its Malmesbury headquarters. The company now has its sights on developing the next generation of electrical goods including new battery technologies and even developing their own electric car to take on the might of Tesla.

New R&D campus at Dyson HQ

The number of people employed in Dyson’s R&D facility is look set to increase tenfold and the campus will also house the Dyson Institute of Technology, a college founded by James Dyson to combat a perceived shortage of engineering skills in the UK. Not a bad return for moving up the value chain from manufacturing to R&D – both for Dyson and the UK economy.

What happened in Hoover manufacturing 15 years ago is now hitting the world of professional services organisations.  Accountancy, audits, legal services, management consultancy – all these traditional western service industries are being hollowed out by off-shoring, automation and robotics. From McKinsey to your local accountant, the only way to compete is by offering value-added services, and that means smarter and more expert people.

Suddenly Learning & Development has moved out of the classroom and into the boardroom

xAPI – the experience API

The technology that allows large companies to deliver online courses is going through its own revolution. The old standard SCORM has been around since 2000: Sharable Content Object Reference Model is a collection of standards and specifications for e-learning products. Basically it is the way that any learning management system (LMS) packages up training content into a transferable ZIP file called “Package Interchange Format”. Very useful to deliver basic content but really limited when it comes to any kind of personalisation or interaction between the user and the course.

Well that is all changing with the introduction of  xAPi, the so-called experience API.  Mike Alcock is CEO of gomo learning,

“xAPI is a real game changer; it allows any content that we build for our clients to be much richer and more intelligent.”

gomo is a cloud-based platform that is used by companies like Jaguar Land Rover, Vodafone and Deloitte to deliver training materials to staff wherever they are, on any device:

A typical e-learming module delivered on the gomo platform

“The authoring tool market, in general, has been slow to adapt to the possibilities provided by SaaS, such as shared courses and resources, integrated review capabilities and seamless collaboration among global teams. However, at gomo, we understand how the cloud can benefit our clients and have incorporated these features into the authoring tool suite.”

What this means is that boring all chalk and talk training has been transformed into glorious multimedia content that knows who you are and adapts to your training needs and competencies.

“When everything works together, teams have more time to focus on what matters, giving them more space to deliver innovative learning with real benefit and a true business impact. The gomo learning suite allows teams and designers around the world to collaborate, speeding up the eLearning production process and taking the headache away from creating, delivering, analyzing and updating content.”

Whether you already have a huge, complex learning infrastructure or absolutely none at all, Saas platforms like gomo’s learning suite can save you time, effort and money, making learning and development more dynamic, scalable and seamless.

Social Learning

Christoph Schmaltz advises and supports organizations on their journey to become digital, working on enterprise social networks for companines such as Adidas, Zeppelin and Allianz Germany. He believes that successful companies develop a ‘learning mindset’ that underpins L&D:

“Each individual becomes a master of his trade during his professional career. However, that is not good enough in today’s world. As the world becomes more complex and intertwined, companies need to adapt accordingly and create networked structures with interdisciplinary teams, promote a collaborative mindset and encourage and empower their employees to constantly learn.”

So does Christoph believe that traditional Learning & Development is a waste of money?

“I am not going to make the point that all that is futile. I very well believe that there is a case for such trainings and coachings but it is only one side of the story. If companies really want their employees to grow, want them to be curious and inquisitive, they need to lay the foundations for a learning mindset, especially when it comes to soft skills and mindset, since you cannot “learn” these in a classroom or e-learning or similar.”

Christoph makes the distinction between a “training mindset” and “learning mindset” within organizations.

Christoph Schmaltz’s Learning Mindset

To assess whether an organization focuses more on a training and less on a learning mindset, ask the following questions:

  1. Are employees that attended a training required to share what they learned with others within the organization or not?
  2. Are employees given time to apply their knowledge, experiment and most importantly reflect on the experiment (aka the learning process) or are they thrown back into their daily business once the training is over?
  3. Are employees encouraged to look left and right of their role for new things to learn or can employees only get training for things relevant to their role?
  4. Does the company openly and proactively provide the means (financial, time, space) for informal learning to happen or does it primarily offer formal training courses?
  5. Does the organization encourage employees to attend informal learning formats during working hours or only formal training sessions?