What Role Should Corporate Learning Take in Digitalization? - The Vibons Blog

What Role Should Corporate Learning Take in Digitalization?

By Tugrul Turkkan, Co-Founder   |    6 min read

What Role Should Corporate Learning Take in Digitalization?

By Tugrul Turkkan, Co-Founder
 6 min read

Recently, The Economist magazine published an article that has a crucial point on the influence of digitalization on human resources. According to the article, “The total market value of the top three car manufacturers in Detroit was 35 billion dollars in 1990 and they had reached this value with 1.2 million employees. In 2014, the total market value of the top three companies in Silicon Valley was 1 trillion dollars and they have only 137 thousand employees in total.” Experts foresee that computers will soon take over many simple jobs. Over the next 10 years, the work force must develop more distinctive skills and qualities. The question is, what role must Learning & Development play going forward?

At Vibons, we have attended two EdTech conferences in the last four months (Devlearn and ATD TechKnowledge). Determining the role L&D departments should play in digitalization was one of the key topics of discussion at both conferences.

To summarize, three issues related to Corporate Learning’s role in digitalization stood out as most important:

1. Corporate Learning should actively take responsibility for closing the digital talent gap.

2. Corporate Learning should digitalize itself first (along with its training programs and processes).

3. Corporate Learning should be the Marco Polo in any company’s digitalization, leading the way into uncharted territory.

1. Closing the Digital Talent Gap

Through history, many professions have undergone a great transformation. In 1860 in the United States, six out of ten people worked in farming; by 1970, this ratio had declined to one to twenty. Similarly, the percentage of industrial workers in the United States, which measured 26% before globalization, has now dropped below 10%. While some professions have fallen out of favor, other entirely new professions have emerged. According to a McKinsey research report, the development of the personal computer has created 16 million new jobs in the United States since 1980.

According to the latest research by the World Economic Forum, one out of every three professions that society will require by 2020 does not yet exist. C. B. Frey and M. Osborne from Oxford University analyzed over 700 professions to determine to what extend they will be computerized. According to their results, 47% of the professions will be automated within 10 years. One of the fundamental questions the report asks is: Will employees be able to improve and update their existing skills as quickly as progress requires? According to a joint study conducted by Technical University of Munich and SAP, despite the heavy interest in digitalization, companies are still losing the talent battle. As of 2015, 53% of the company executives participating in this study believed their companies did not have the competence and skills necessary for digital transformation. According to a subsequent 2017 study, the number of executives with pessimistic perspectives had increased to 64%.

Talent Management has an important role to play in closing the digital talent gap. As only a limited number of people have the necessary skills to take on new jobs, recruitment of new employees will not be a viable option for solving this problem. Therefore, companies will need to identify the professional skills they employees in certain fields must have in the near future and then train their employees accordingly. For instance, how many people in your marketing department really understand digital marketing? Do you have someone in your Human Resources department who is extremely competent in data analysis? In machine learning? Artificial intelligence? Blockchain? Chatbots?

2. Digitally Transforming Corporate Training

Digitalization has forced most L&D units in the U.S. to enter a digitalization race. We are preparing a detailed report on this matter, and Digital Learning is the subject of another article. We developed the checklist below to help you evaluate your current approach to digital learning:

  • How focused are you on the “Learning Experience”? The “Instructional Design” approach, which focuses more on the content than the learner, is losing its validity. Recently, companies have shifted their emphasis to “Learning Experience Design,” welcoming new approaches, such as design thinking, agility, nudging and journey mapping.
  • How efficiently are you using video? According to Cisco’s research, video viewing will soon comprise 80% of internet traffic. The new Youtuber generation learns heavily from video. Many companies have begun developing learning experience platforms which, as Josh Bersin puts it, “resemble Netflix or Youtube.”
  • Is your content macro or micro? The employee of the digital age is frequently distracted and has limited time. Instead of bombarding their employees with information, companies have chosen instead to present “the required amount of” information “when required” (Source: Cigdem Calik, Vibons).
  • Do you have a Digital Marketing outlook? Whether a course system based on the “teacher-student” relationship and higher education models is most effective is now a matter of heated debate. Do you focus on the publicizing your programs as a digital marketer would instead?
  • Is you approach agile? The world is changing rapidly and so are our needs. Does is take months to design an average training program? Or do you hobble your effectiveness by sending your employees training materials quickly tossed into a Powerpoint? As explained in this article, it is important to sustain a balance between quality and speed and the agile approach can help you do so.

  • Do you strategize about solving employee commitment problems? E-courses often bore employees over time. According to research conducted by KPMG, not one of the respondents from the 68 companies surveyed described e-courses as “fun.” The same study reported that only 10% of the respondents said that they were “motivated” or “very motivated” by an e-course.
  • Do you use data effectively? Do you act on limited data provided by Scorm for your training?  Or have you made an effort incorporate data analytics from the world of big data?
  • How digital an approach do you take to your own job? Have you asked the question, “As the L&D department, how can we most efficiently digitalize ourselves?” How do you best transition your own job so that your department will thrive in a digital arena?

3. Being the Marco Polo of Digitalization

When we say digitalization, a clear picture rarely appears in employees’ minds. Most of us tend to be familiar with a few key concepts, like “big data” or the “cloud,” and to know about companies like Tesla, Uber, Airbnb and Netflix. But few of us really understand why digitalization is being defined as “the third great wave.” The duty of corporate education should be to make the potentially destructive, profession-altering effect of digitalization understood within the company.

Does the sharing of information lead to development? Leaving aside the “giving information is not teaching” cliché, yes, it indeed does. As a matter of fact, the first trigger of most development is “keeping people informed” rather than “teaching.” The fate of pre-Columbian American civilizations is a typical example of this. When Spanish conquistadors landed on the American continent with guns and gunpowder, Central America hadn’t even entered the Iron Age. The Incas in Peru hadn’t invented writing. While Phoenician sailors or explorers like Marco Polo were carrying knowledge across shores, American natives, isolated in their own world, were deprived of these opportunities for progress.

Digitalization will change our lives. Driverless cars are touring the streets of Silicon Valley. Entrepreneurs have begun testing virtual glasses that use infrared beams to add another layer onto the real world. Newly developed machine learning technologies and applications show you where in the market to direct your sales. How will all these developments change the profession? Informing its employees of digitalization and the developments that will inevitably result from it is one of the most important responsibilities of corporate education departments. In other words, education departments must keep employees informed of the coming world, just as a Phoenician merchant or an eccentric Italian explorer might have centuries ago, spreading information from the old world to the new.

Lighting the fire of curiosity should be another key goal of L&D in the area of digitalization. Some experts push this even further, stating that the real job of L&D is not to teach but to support employees with resources and spark their desire to learn– a growth mindset. In one of the best articles on this subject, Nick Shackleton-Jones recommends that we to shift “from courses to resources.” While acting as the Marco Polo of digitalization, work together as a digital marketing department; learn, produce and spread information and light the initial fire for the company’s digital transformation.

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