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The New Role of HR in Digital Learning
By Pascale Anderson Mair, Chief Human Resources Officer, Kantar Media
Human capital provides companies with unparalleled agility and adaptability to cope with the vagaries of the economy and the ability to seize new opportunities, under the condition that they constantly acquire skills adapted to market demands. Digital advancements are the main lever to providing learning opportunities adapted to the volatility of market conditions and organization structures. Increasingly, employees are also expecting to have a choice in terms of learning tools, provided training content and would ideally like to be able to access the information at the most relevant moment for them.
Digital learning methods and content empower employees in developing their skills according to their own aspirations, giving them greater autonomy and flexibility. The mobility of tools and technological performance of networks allows for the development of much more responsive, interactive and playful teaching approaches. There are countless digital learning tools available to employees: mentoring platforms, MOOC, SPOC, pre-recorded videos, webinars, gamification, collaborative online training sessions, e-learning and many others. Additionally, learning can become an extension of a CSR programmes, and take the form of continuous peer learning.
However, there is a flip side to all this as well. Today, knowledge does not descend but circulates continuously. Digital learning environment creates an unstable framework that is constantly being saturated and subsequently reconfigured with new information. At the very moment when it becomes vital to integrate new knowledge, apprehending it may seem more complex than ever. Employees may very quickly feel overwhelmed by information on multiple fronts: in the quantity of content and tools, ease of sharing, and breadth of audience reached. The risk is of over-exposure to this “big learning data” is that employees do not derive the full benefit from digital learning possibilities, or even worse, completely abandon them.
Digital learning environment creates an unstable framework that is constantly being saturated and subsequently reconfigured with new information
HR play a key role in protecting the employees from “infobesity”. Their key role is to help employees find the right focus. Learning partners act as first filters to make sure the content the employees see is relevant, of interest, and adapted to their needs and serves the company’s interests. In front of this richness of information and learning possibilities, HR need to provide guidance and transmit a methodology while also leaving enough room for autonomy. Where there are millions of online modules, finding the right content for the right person is valuable. The solution may be to build recommended learning pathways for different roles or adopt an even more personalized approach, tailored to each employee’s needs.
Here also digital comes to our aid. Data allows to better identify the needs and expectations of employees to offer them adapted and personalized learning paths, whilst aligning with the company’s strategy. For example, a simple assessment of the maturity of employees on different topics through an online questionnaire may effectively guide the learning programme construction. Once the programme has launched, data analysis can help to propose the best adapted content, depending on the learner’s profile, the modules previously consulted, their level of progress and learning objectives. To reveal the full potential of learning data analysis, HR need to be more than data scientists: they need to rely on their real understanding of the employee’s needs. HR and digital learning need to work in tandem to achieve the best results.
The digitalization of training allows it to take place anywhere, at any time and reach a broad audience at a relatively low cost. The data helps build personalized pathways which can be invaluable. I believe that the digitalization of the learning environment must therefore continue but not at the expense of human interactions. HR should set up a multimodal training architecture, combining face-to-face and distance learning, because nothing is more conducive to learners’ engagement than creating a relation with other employees and a sense of sharing of common goals.
One of the recommended training formats, often practiced at Kantar, are the ‘lunch & learn’ sessions organized to collectively acquire the content of online modules. These informal sessions, organized during lunch breaks, provide an occasion for employees to meet with the specialists who develop a more concrete link between digital content and the daily assignments of professionals. Through this type of practice, we are removing the risk of complete lack of human interactions, which remains vital. We also make our employees more agile in their learning approach: through these short sessions they progressively rise in competence on the skills crucial to them, allowing them to pass more quickly from theory to practice.
The deployment of these new learning methods is a great opportunity for HR to highlight their added value in the development of human capital. However, as beneficial as this change can be, it requires a change of position, a development of skills and a refocusing on the added value tasks. To achieve success, HR should master their own learning technologies first. As part of their new role, HR need to constantly communicate and guide on digital learning possibilities, assist the users and help them optimize use of the platforms. This task takes a more complex dimension if the employees’ level of digital skills is heterogeneous.