Eighty-three percent of 4,000+ executives believe talent is their No. 1 priority, not merely talent acquisition but also the strategic engagement, retention and growth of each company’s people. As companies strive to more strategically invest in their talent, especially in light of shortening retention, learning and development (L&D) has come to play a powerful role. Likewise, as remote workforces become more prominent and companies expand ever outward, organizations are seeking ways to integrate technology into their L&D programs as a means to increase efficiency and automation while reducing costs.
However, nothing turns an employee’s cheery day sour like frustrating automated phone menus, faulty vending apparatuses and error messages on their computer screen. In brief, there is a precise, careful balance between technology and human interaction that must be struck. That is, ensuring we leverage technology as a supplement – never a replacement – for human interaction.
The following offers a guide for balancing technology with humanization, and how to give your L&D teams the opportunity to focus on what talent management is all about: the growth and engagement of your people.
Technology’s Role in Today’s L&D
From social collaboration tools to formal learning management systems (LMSs), technology serves as the platform for facilitating most workplace learning. With organizations increasingly expanding to encompass a more global workforce, even one-on-one coaching requires internet conferencing or VoIP tools for facilitation. Technology’s role is far reaching and evolving:
1. Empowering L&D through Customization and Efficiency.
The use of technology such as an LMS provides massive benefits to L&D teams. With such a wide variety of platforms, organizations are able to customize to the needs of their workforces and improve efficiencies in learning. More traditional LMS usage focuses on learning being “pushed out” to employees, primarily in the form of compliance training or certification and continuing education fulfillment. Conversely, modern LMSs are evolving to include the opportunities for employees to “pull in” or self-select on-demand learning in areas both within their scope of work as well as development in areas of personal interests.
This continuous learning environment has become more interactive and engaging as it continues to evolve from a workplace requirement to an advantage that empowers the growth of your talent.
2. Eliminating “One Size Fits All” Approaches to L&D.
LMSs also facilitate a more tailored approach to learning rather than the traditional one-size-fits-all. Through the use of an LMS, learning is housed in a central location which allows for ease in creation of learning paths that can be tailored by industry, organization/department, position/role, and individual areas of opportunity. This learning can then be tracked and reported on for compliance, as well as individual development achievement to facilitate succession planning.
One of the most beneficial aspects of an LMS is the consistency in accessibility; this is especially important for large and/or growing organizations who want to ensure that the same opportunities are afforded to its employees no matter where they are geographically located.
3. Focusing on the User Experience.
When further integrated with other HR technologies, such as HRIS and ATS tools, administrative burdens can be reduced to better streamline employee selection, onboarding, learning, and performance management. The most important factor to consider when selecting and implementing new technology is the user experience and intuitive nature of the platform – especially as even the most well-intentioned technological advances can result in setbacks if time consuming training is required in order to properly utilize various technologies.
The Human Aspect of Learning: Today’s Professionals are DOers
Today’s professionals learn best through doing; they desire empowerment and are taking control of their careers. Toward this end, there is recent, highly relevant research supporting the “70-20-10” framework of adult learning. Specifically:
Take into consideration the social learning aspect of this framework – learning through interaction with others. This can be facilitated through coaching from managers or peers, group discussions, seeking advice or asking opinions, professional associations and more. As 18-35 year olds (Millennials and Gen Z) will soon make up 50 percent of the global workforce, this 20 percent need for social learning is predicted to increase to as much as 35 percent – in large part, due to our increased use of social media and the internet as a learning tool for shared experiences. This prediction supports the aforementioned need to leverage technology as a facilitator of learning while the human aspect drives the knowledge and experiences being learned.
Companies need to provide their people with relevant training opportunities, in a manner that is efficient, applicable and substantive to their ability to grow within (or outside of) your organization. Such efforts promote morale, empowerment, and an overall culture of learning – and, specific to bottom-line impact, greater capabilities, retention, brand ambassadorship through referrals, growth in employment branding (as employees today so often share their experiences), and business alignment.
This last component is especially vital, as companies that align HR/talent strategy with the overall business are witnessing upwards of a 250 percent increase in business performance compared to tactical/transactional HR/talent functions.
Finding the Balance: Personalizing the Impersonal
Optimized use of technology is enabling more intimate, strategic human interaction by making various pieces of talent management automated, more easily tracked and efficient. With the right tools, recruiters, HR and talent leaders can now put their true expertise to work in the most critical areas – building relationships, learning, listening and empowering.
However, technology will never be able to engage employees, provide mentorship or listen to the needs of your workforce in the same way your human subject matter experts can. Further, though integral, we must ensure that improved tracking and reporting doesn’t dehumanize work. Analytics should be leveraged to inform decision making when developing strategy, but solutions need to be created that are people-centric and personal in how they’re applied.
Michaela is a Learning & Development Consultant within WilsonHCG’s Tampa headquarters. She utilizes her experience working with both clients and internal stakeholders to identify and implement solutions for knowledge gaps and employee development. Michaela serves as a subject matter expert for HR technologies and creation of employee development programs.