The Future of Learning is about Performance, Not Knowledge

March 12, 2020 Chris Hoban

In Conduent’s recent Webinar: The Digital Workplace of the Future, featured guest speaker David Blake, Co-founder of Degreed and co-author of “The Expertise Economy,” offered his perspective on the shift that today’s organizations and employees are making to what Deloitte has called “super jobs.”

According to Deloitte, super jobs represent the latest type of jobs on a continuum that is accelerating with the pace of today’s evolving technology. And in the context of the growing shift in the types of jobs people are doing, organizations — and in particular the Learning & Development function —  are facing an unprecedented opportunity to make a measurable and sustainable impact on organizational performance.

But how do organizations get from understanding this evolving nature of work and skills requirements to actually delivering on learning expectations and driving ROI?

First – a look at how jobs have evolved

For anyone who is actually in a job right now or who has been in the job market for 10, 20, 30 or more years, it’s hard to ignore the fact that our jobs have been evolving at breakneck speed. This is truer in certain industries than others, but looking at the way that Deloitte describes the different types of jobs in existence today, the continuum is clear. 

While years ago, the “standard” job (or traditional job) came with a very clear and specific job description that required a narrow and specialized skillset and was generally organized around repeatable tasks, today’s jobs tend to fall into the categories of either “hybrid” jobs or “super jobs.” A hybrid job takes a step away from the traditional role, requiring some combination of skills (perhaps both hard and soft skills, for example). Super jobs are similar to hybrid – but may combine work and responsibilities from multiple traditional jobs, using technology to both complement and expand the scope of work performed. Super jobs require a more complex set of domain, technical and human skills.

How do shifting job roles and expectations impact employees’ learning needs?

For employees in hybrid roles and super jobs, there will be needs of varying degree for training on new technologies, both hard and soft skills – technical and non-technical. And as the nature of super jobs dictates, there must be a constant evolution and customization of learning experiences that ensure employees have the right skills and resources to do their jobs well.

As David Blake discussed in our webinar, today’s employees expect and require a constant influx of skillbuilding to create confidence in their roles and help them perform in this new super job environment, with learning that meets them where they are in their own personal career journeys. And this kind of learning takes many forms – it may be tips served up in a software platform to help an employee perform key actions. Or it could be customized e-learning that’s pushed out to a new manager. This type of integrated, on-the-spot learning is commonly referred to as “learning within the workflow” or “workflow learning.”

And while workflow learning is not a new concept, getting it right and making it measurable is an entirely new frontier for L&D professionals and organizations overall.

Connecting learning outcomes to business impact

The greatest challenge in connecting learning outcomes to business impact has been gathering relevant data from the workflow. With the right infrastructure in place, organizations can move beyond gathering traditional learning metrics (pass/fail rates, number of student days, percentage of course completions, smile sheets), and instead, monitor adherence to process, verify successful performance, and tie it all to improvements in actual work performance (reduced error rates, reduced process time, reduced time to competency).

Let’s take an example of an organization that decides to adopt marketing automation software to help its sales and marketers better engage with prospects and measure the effectiveness of those interactions. While implementing the new software, the organization also implements technology-enabled workflow learning with the marketing automation platform. This provides contextual support to marketers as they use the software. It also ties the marketing automation software to other applications, non-system marketing tasks, and tools needed to effectively follow the company’s overarching marketing process.

During training, marketing team members use workflow learning that provides guidance from wherever a the person is in the process — within any of the applications, when using any of the tools, or simply following the specific steps to send an email or update a piece of content in the system.

On the job, marketing team members use their workflow learning tools to access the tasks and resources needed to complete various tasks. Independent of where they are, they have access to what they need within just a few clicks via their phones, tablets, desktops, and in some instances even print.

As marketers engage with the learning experience in their daily tasks, the workflow learning tool monitors those interactions and measures time to completion of certain activities, which marketers are adhering to key processes and how well the workflow learning elements are supporting the successful acceleration and completion of core marketing tasks — that’s the business impact.

Over time, the organization is able to collect usage and performance data and report on the financial impact of workflow learning — in key areas such as marketer productivity, campaign effectiveness, and error reduction.

This example illustrates the linkage from learning to financial and strategic benefit. Without a workflow learning infrastructure, there is limited capacity to make these connections.

Getting our clients to ROI

At Conduent, we believe that ROI-based learning starts with implementing the right learning design enabled by technology. While we have an entire team with decades of experience that is dedicated to creating and delivering customized, highly diversified learning content, we also know that the importance of delivering that learning in a measurable framework cannot be underestimated.

That’s why we apply rapid workflow analysis to create a starting point for understanding what employees need to do their jobs in the context of their workflows. We apply a standard methodology to our engagements that supports good design by focusing on performance and workflow together. Understanding the workflow allows us to develop and curate resources into a learning experience that allows employees to access the resources they need, where they need it, an in just enough amounts to accomplish what they are seeking to do.  Within those events and activities, and supported by technology that delivers learning in the workflow, we can integrate very specific performance measures that enable much more meaningful reporting and analytics than have ever been available before.

For more L&D insights, download our eBook: Why Learning is Pivotal to Digital Transformation.

 

 

About the Author

Chris Hoban is a Senior Manager, Learning Delivery at Conduent. He has over 20 years’ experience in corporate Learning and Development. Chris is leading efforts to transform instructional design teams to performance based learning using workflow learning design. Other interests include the application of data, analytics and automation to learning and development.

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