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November 23, 2016

In my previous posts, we discussed how to close the digital skills gap. In this last post of the series, I will discuss how technology trends have shaped learner behavior and how organizations can entice digital natives to consume training, especially in an era where application upgrades and technology breakthroughs happen every day.

Figure 1. Mapping the Impact of Technology on Training and Business since the 1980s

Figure 1. Mapping the Impact of Technology on Training and Business since the 1980s

The ubiquity and pervasiveness of Web 2.0, social media, and collaboration tools has led to the proliferation of user-generated content (UGC), resulting in the dis-intermediation of knowledge. Employees are not just passive consumers of knowledge; they are knowledge producers too, sharing their ideas, opinions, expertise, and experiences in the digital world. Search engines such as Google, hosting sites (such as YouTube, Vimeo, and Tumblr), social media platforms, crowd-sourced platforms like Quora, developer forums and blogging sites such as Drupal and WordPress have simplified access to information available on the internet. This unbridled access to information in the connected world has changed learner behavior. They expect on-demand, contextualized access to learning, and greater autonomy over their own development. Corporate training must stop subjecting learners to archaic training and change their approach from compliance to enabling learning.

  1. Put learners at the helm:Although giving learners complete autonomy over their learning will not work in corporate training because training needs to align with the business goals, L&D must focus efforts on creating training that is rich in practical application of skills and knowledge. The content should reflect not only the latest technologies shaping the IT world but also the trends shaping the industry to which customer organizations belong. Organizations should allow learners to specify their aspirational roles and interests, and offer them seamless access to curate content from all organizational resources.
    The LMS should facilitate intelligent search, where results are not based on a string of keywords but on relevance, need, and intent. Advanced search should extend beyond metadata into capabilities such as predictive search based on browsing history, recommendations based on most popular searches, and so on. Eventually, companies should attempt to take the search engine to the level of an intelligent personal assistant, like Google Now.
  2. Go the whole hog with digital: Companies should deliver training in multiple formats that can be viewed across devices. They should gamify the learning experience through digital badges, leaderboards, experiential frameworks, and so on. Game-based learning must be delivered through newer channels such as browser plug-ins, mobile devices, etc., that offer better visibility and access for repeat play. Analytics can be leveraged to make personalized learning recommendations based on the learners current and aspirational roles and digital footprint.
  3. Make managers accountable: Without manager accountability, even the best training programs will not translate into tangible business outcomes. Often project priorities take precedence and training becomes second priority. The common grouse is that training programs are often pedantic and irrelevant to current project activities. Quick onboarding and just in time training in the context of the project seem more practical. The pitfall however is the lack of a broader perspective of business processes, process and system interdependencies, and industry trends. As a result, associates are unable to demonstrate business knowledge and make proactive recommendations.
    By building a portfolio of programs that are mapped to role progression and publishing a balance scorecard that evaluates project teams on training, managers can be made more accountable. In addition, managers must provide work assignments that allow learners to put the newly acquired skill to use, and extend on-the-job feedback and mentoring.
  4. Befriend the learners: L&D teams should collaborate with learners in the early days of courseware design by seeking inputs on the challenges learners face at work and what content theyd like to see in a training or performance support app. Direct and engaging messages can help invite learner participation. After the release of training courseware, any new content on industry trends must be curated and training material updated. This will help L&D earn the trust of business leaders by continuously demonstrating industry relevance, and also ensure that the workforce understands the industry and is ready to take on disruptions in the customers world. Finally, its important to analyze learners feedback and implement changes when required.


Its time for the corporate learning ecosystem to be remodeled based on the natural structures that digital natives use in their pursuit for information and learning. The focus must be on quality content, packaged creatively and delivered digitally across platforms and devices with sufficient opportunities for collaboration and social interaction.
Through this blog series, I have shared my perspectives on how organizations can better equip their workforce for the constantly evolving digital landscape. Continued emphasis on inculcating industry perspective, building technical capability in emerging digital technologies, and the ability to reimagine business processes and customer journeys, will be the way forward.

If you enjoyed this post, Id be very grateful if youd help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook. Thank you!

Indira Perumal leads the Retail Domain Training initiative at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). She has over 15 years of experience in instructional design and corporate training, spanning various industries such as IT, retail, insurance, and healthcare. Indira specializes in competency definition, instructional pedagogies, program development, and technology adoption for better learning outcomes. The programs built by her team have won the leading industry Brandon Hall Awards for Excellence in Learning, under various categories.


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