Are employers missing the full potential of digital learning?

January 18, 2016

Emily Burt,  11 January 2016

Andy Campbell, HCM strategy director at Oracle, thinks HR and managers should champion more digital L&D

Digital learning in the workplace is ineffective according to a recent CMI report ‘Learning to Lead. The Digital Potential’. This is despite the wealth of online resources available to employers and the ever-accelerating use of smart phones and tablets at work. Web-enabled apps and virtual resources are also becoming increasingly common, offering even more opportunities to engage learners.

However, the CMI’s research found that four out of five managers say these tools are not being used to their full potential. People Management asks Andy Campbell, HCM strategy director at Oracle, how managers can implement digital learning tools to make the most of any time any where mobile accessibility.

How can managers help improve the digital learning experience for staff?

Digital learning needs to be delivered via small, accessible chunks – like short bursts of interactive learning through mediums like YouTube – which are congruent with work. Managers can help by choosing which tools will work best for their employees. If you just put people on courses, online or in person, learning is rarely effective, and if you don’t get the chance to use your skills, whatever was learnt can be quickly forgotten. Managers have a responsibility to ensure the right type of training is delivered to the right people at the right time.

Why don’t more managers embrace these learning tools?

A lot of the time people think online learning is just a cheaper means of delivering training, so they don’t go the extra mile to make it creative or engaging.

But people enjoy learning through a digital channel, and lots of Millennials learn skills through bite-sized channels such as Twitter and YouTube. However, at the moment most employers don’t offer the same experiences or capabilities, which are available in a social context, at work.

Employers are using digital tools, but not, on the whole for L&D. For managers to take full advantage of digital learning they need to make the effort to engage creatively with it.

What’s next in the evolution of digital learning?

There will be a shift from the current one-way flow of information to more conversational learning. The future is about networking and this will translate into learning as well.

The process will become more about collaboration, shared goals and activities where you want people to embed knowledge. It will no longer just be about receiving information but reinforcing it.

I think employers that take a whole-network, or holistic, approach to learning will become mainstream. Tech company Hilti is a good example of this as they offer self-driven e-learning modules to staff, and have just begun introducing training webinars through their company’s video-on-demand portal.

How can HR encourage line managers to use this type of training?

Digital learning is about employee engagement. Without employee engagement organisations are not making the best of their people. HR can help by thinking about how employee engagement can be best served via digital tools and then communicating that more widely.

Research suggests that apps and other digital media reduce people’s productivity and attention spans. How can we prevent that?

People use apps as a daily part of their work and social life, so it’s worth giving some careful consideration to how to handle them, particularly as this technology has only been in place for five years.

Lots of workplace apps are being developed to improve brain function, which is an area to watch given the growing popularity of mindfulness and the importance of wellbeing.

Apps for managing stress, meditation and wellbeing, such as the Headspace app, became popular in 2015, while the development of wearable tech that increases feelings of calm and more focused concentration has accelerated. Digital tools like this could become health and wellbeing aids for HR of the future by encouraging and enabling employees to manage their own wellbeing.

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