Where Are We With Technology

Learning and development is undergoing dramatic shifts – the workforce is changing and so are the ways workers access and use knowledge. Does your LMS meet new technology and business expectations? How should L&D functions respond, and what role should learning management systems play?

– Brandon Hall

Since the global financial crisis, corporate learning and development has undergone a significant transformation. In the early stages of the recession, particularly in the US, many learning and development operations were closed down altogether or drastically reduced in budget and headcount. But as the investment has returned the old model has not been replicated, there have been significant changes of emphasis:

  • much greater emphasis on business benefits
  • increased accountability
  • learning and development as internal consultants to the business
  • key role in delivering business benefits
  • massive increase in the impact of technology for: i. development and delivery, ii. content curation, iii. measurement of impact, iv. collection of metrics, v. management of the process

This is coupled with fundamental changes to business based processes such as SaaS (software as a service), BYOD (bring your own device), social networking and mobile delivery of information and the inexorable rise of smart phones. All of these have direct correlations for those involved in learning and development.

Staff are having to:

  • deliver to multiple platforms depending on user demand
  • manage a new generation of Learning Management Systems that incorporate significant talent management components so that an holistic approach to entry, performance management and career development can be implemented
  • provide key analytic data to the employer about impact rather than quantum.

The market place is consolidating very fast to provide one source of data and a single seamless process across all human resource functions such as recruitment, on boarding, performance management, development and progression etc. The recent purchase of Taleo by Oracle for $1.9billion following SAP’s purchase of SuccessFactors for $3.4b is indicative of a market in a rapid phase of development.

Both purchases propel the companies into the cloud and help ramp up their talent/development offerings. But what is potentially attractive to the purchaser is the seamless access to data and a consolidated information base.

The move is, clearly, from separate technology systems all unable to talk to one another, with lack lustre data and complex systems for getting the data out, to coherent rich data sets from single or integrated suppliers. This is a broad seam that has only just started being mined.

It is attractive to companies to have a single source for content, assessment, metrics, delivery and management that can talk to the main enterprise systems. The key features people are looking for are:

  • leaky systems so that user developed or multi-sourced content can be incorporated
  • performance management elements
  • delivery at the moment of need
  • small bites of appropriate content
  • elements of social or informal learning assessment tools
  • relationships with job competency profiles

The nature of these changes knocks on the door of knowledge management systems and the use of social networking to bring immediacy and relevance to the learning and development context. And of course the building out from the enterprise into the extended enterprise which includes suppliers, contractors and even customers. These complexities cannot be managed in separate pieces and require coherent strategies and articulated systems to work successfully.

Two other factors are also increasingly relevant. There is now a great deal – an increasing amount – that is happening outside L&D. managers / execs tend to get things done rather than waiting for L&D to show up. Individuals and small groups do it on their own. There is a significant possibility that L&D will just get sidelined in many organisations if it focuses on providing delivery rather than on facilitating outcomes.

Secondly, the best-of-breed vs. single platform struggle is one we will hear a lot more about. Certainly you can get a lot more done in a single system, and information flow and data generation is facilitated but there are also dangers:

a. It gets too large to be flexible
b. It isn’t leaky enough to allow UGC (user generated content) etc.
c. Its existence leads to a sort of status quo where nothing is allowed or expected to happen outside the system, even small scale / skunk work / non-learning tech supported stuff that is actually very good. There is the possibility of stasis once the HR and Talent Management systems control the process and there will be limited or no innovation.

I think that there are significant opportunities at a point of massive realignment. As the landscape becomes clearer the key players will be in place and the opportunities will diminish! Are you ready?

I am grateful to Don Taylor who commented on an earlier draft of this blog and mightily improved it.

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