15 October 2017

Why HR Must Embrace the Consumerization of Learning

  • The Modern Learner
Author: Declan Mulkeen

If your job is to organize and manage training for your company’s employees, but your training isn’t hitting the spot, then you have a problem. The consumerization of learning may be at play.  According to Bersin by Deloitte, almost 70% of Learning professionals report having a harder time getting employees to engage with learning initiatives. If you’re one of this group, then this is already happening in your company, and that means that most of your L&D resources are more than likely being wasted.

Imagine a large organization with a $25 million training budget. If we apply the 70% figure, then $17.5 million a year of this is being misspent. It’s a compelling enough reason to ask “why”.

It’s not that training budgets are a waste of time. It’s simply that they are being misdirected. Imagine then the potential benefits to our fabled company if this $17.5 million was pointed towards effective training that built skills, confidence, and productivity.

DIY Learning

According to SkilledUp, 80%+ of people do some kind of career-related training activity at least once a year, while 60% say they do it up to 9 times a year.

In recent years there have been a variety of interpretations of this change of learning behavior. People started making distinctions between formal and informal learning and there’s also the 70/20/10[1] model that says that only 10% of workplace learning happens in a” formal” (i.e. classroom) based setting that is L&D lead.

Demystifying the Modern Learner

How technology and new learning preferences are shaping modern-day learning

It could be said that learners are ‘doing it for themselves’ by choosing the learning that they think they need to progress and then finding it, and consuming it.

The Demanding Millennial

For Millennials training and development is the most important job benefit. When it comes to workplace benefits and perks, some employees enjoy target-based cash bonuses while others cherish the freedom of flexible working hours. A survey originally conducted by PWC and recently republished in KPCB’s 2015 Internet Trends Report reveals that nearly a quarter of the 4,364 graduates asked across 75 countries said that training and development opportunities are the most valuable working benefit.

The 4,364 graduates asked across 75 countries said that training and development opportunities are the most valuable working benefit

Video on Demand Points the Way

There are more than 81 million Netflix subscribers in the world, and they view 10 billion hours of Netflix content per month. In a short amount of time, Netflix and other videos on demand (VOD) suppliers have completely changed the way audiences view and consume television and movies. It used to be the case that a student would leave home with a TV and DVD player. These days it looks like the TV is out, and the portable device is the king of video content for the everyday undergraduate.

 “The change in behavior is stunning. The use of streaming and smartphones just year-on-year is double-digit increases,” Alan Wurtzel, NBCUniversal’s audience research chief said in 2015 after a startling year on year fall in TV ratings for viewers aged 18-34. Traditional TV usage, which has been declining among viewers ages 18 to 34 at around 4 percent a year since 2012, tumbled 10.6 percent between September and January according to a New York Times article. This is the next phase in the consumerization of Television.

The change in behavior is stunning. The use of streaming and smartphones just year-on-year is double-digit increases. 

A similar transformation is taking place in the learning and development industry as training moves away from classroom-based instructor-led training (ILT) to online, on demand, subscription-based models, just like Netflix.

Organisations who want to keep up with their employees’ learning demands might like to look at those Netflix numbers. Then add on the number of YouTube clips consumed per day on mobile devices and a pattern of consumption starts to emerge. We can access content anytime, anywhere, and we can find almost anything that we want. It is, in essence, a buyers’ market.

Maybe it’s time for employers to become proactive, to source their own training content, to become suppliers.

Further reading

The Consumerization of Learning Checklist

If you want to start thinking like someone who responds to the consumerization of learning challenge and consumer demand, here’s a checklist of some of the key considerations:

  • Location: Where are they and how can you easily provide them with learning content and delivery. Live or online?
  • Accessibility: Linking to the issue of location, what if your local learner can’t get access to the internet, or the local trainers aren’t up to the job?
  • Urgency: How can you set up a system for delivering learning that responds to even the shortage of notice periods but maintains quality?
  • Preferred Medium; Everyone learns differently, so you should be able to access a number of different delivery formats to suit the needs of the learner.
  • Cost: How will you pay for investment in a solution which ticks all the boxes?

The answer to the final question is a key motivator in helping HR teams to embrace all the other challenges. What if the cost was equivalent, or even less than your current spend? Makes you curious, doesn’t it?

Conclusion: HR Are Now Chief Employee Experience Officers

Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report goes to the extent of saying: the mission of the HR leader is evolving from that of “chief talent executive” to “chief employee experience officer”. In this new role, talent leaders should ask “How can we take the lead in crafting and shaping the employee experience?”

The answer lies in their ability to respond to the learner, sorry, consumer’s hunger for learning that suits their needs, their career progression, and their way of learning.

The consumerization of learning sounds like a job for an expert, right? 

[1] Morgan McCall, 1996

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