In years past, many people landed their first jobs thanks to their education and perhaps some industry knowledge. Companies offered a long ramp-up time for employees to learn the organization, presented chosen candidates with a clear path to leadership, and conducted training via seasoned workers, written materials, or formal classes. A “new person” had a cocoon of time to develop in a company, learning about its people and processes.
Today, expectations for both newly hired and long-time employees have changed. Companies want everyone to understand standard software and be familiar with an array of technology. The pressure is on to skill-up quickly, maintain competencies in changing environments, and accept learning delivery in many different forms. Binders have given way to databases. The human element is still present, but has been enhanced through social networks and informal learning.
Trend 1: Infusion of New Technologies
Poll colleagues on the number of devices they use in an average day, and it quickly becomes evident that hopping from PC to smartphone to tablet happens with the greatest of ease. Each appliance has its purpose based on such factors as available applications, power source, proximity to a network and the need to share materials or print documents. Today’s workforce has become a multi-device population and has developed a comfort with – indeed, a need for – fingertip access to just the right amount of information, delivered at exactly the right time.
Baby Boomers are currently in the majority, but are expected to cede that dominance to the Millennials by 2015. At the same time, Gen Xers will have a diminished spot in the working population. This shift in demographics may put pressure on organizations to focus development and promotion opportunities on Millennials at the expense of Gen X. Another interesting phenomenon is that unlike any other time in modern history, half of the workforce will be over the age of 40 and one quarter will be over the age of 55.
These factors mandate the need for flexibility in learning solutions. Traditional methods of scheduling will not suffice for Millennials, who are eager to learn and are used to seeking knowledge on demand. They will not wait to be assigned to classes, as they are true proponents of real-time learning. Millennials typically need training that is:
At the other end of the spectrum are Boomers who are staying actively engaged in the workforce. Rather than retire, many are working into their later years because of good health, economic necessity, and the desire of many organizations to retain and share the intellectual capital they have amassed during their working lives.
Boomers have grown up with education that includes scheduled events and classes, supplemental materials and quick tests as the means for assessing knowledge transfer. They generally prefer training that is:
Informal learning has been fostered by technology. Like those DIY home makeover shows on TV, technology has changed the traditional approach to creating educational materials. People now use free tools to share tips, techniques, information, and opinions, developing and nurturing a rich DIY resource of learning solutions. Wikipedia is probably the greatest example of a comprehensive resource created and maintained by a community of collaborators. Web-based social media such as YouTube and blogs also have allowed individuals to offer an array of information to others in an informal, collaborative environment.
From an insurance industry perspective, little training-focused content is available via web-based tools and social media. A recent search on popular social media sites shows that the industry—at least the claims component—appears to be underutilizing resources that could attract, retain, and develop talent and offer a near-term solution for a mobile learning platform.