Why your L&D strategy still needs the human touch

May 17, 2019 Jenny Ayre

The workforce is changing. Technology has fast become part and parcel of everyday working-life. Emails, teleconferencing and digital platforms allow team members to collaborate no matter their location or time-zone, and automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are taking on roles that human have been carrying out for years. It’s no wonder the workforce has transformed. As roles and tasks are increasingly being removed or modified due to technology, it's now the responsibility of L&D to ensure that employees are being upskilled and reskilled, equipping them with new responsibilities required in the hybrid workforce.

Knowledgepool’s latest report The digital opportunity: Striking the digital balance for better learning experiences investigates the increasing need for digitisation across L&D to support wider organisational goals. How do business and HR leaders perceive the impact of such a transition? What will the role of the L&D professional look in the future?  As technology takes on more tasks than ever before – will humans still be needed in the future of learning?

What technology can bring to the L&D table

To enhance the capabilities of the hybrid workforce, technology needs to be incorporated into L&D processes and delivery. As employees work increasingly alongside technology, learning provisions and training should be digitised too, if it can. By doing so 95% of HR and business leaders believe this will improve learner experience. Housed within an accessible online portal, learners can find the materials they need more easily, and faster too. 90% also believe that digitising the learning journey will allow learners to take control of their own development. In doing so, they’ll gain the ability to learn autonomously in their own time and source the content they require to develop rather than being spoon-fed and told what they need to learn.

With 89% of L&D professionals forecasting that over the next five years learning administration will be automated, 80% foresee employee learning apps being implemented and 78% predict that bitesize content will be readily available for learners, the world of L&D is transforming due to technology and L&D teams need to invest – with over half (51%) of L&D professionals agreeing that digitising learning will improve the learner experience and 48% state it will improve learning outcomes, it’s imperative they do so.

The removal of administrative tasks allows L&D teams to get to back to working with learners on a personal level. Through this, they can understand learners’ requirements, how best they learn and what engages them most, creating personalised learning plans. Technology and digital programmes such as apps, snackable learning and videos can provide content through a medium that learners find engaging and easy to digest.

Why machines cannot replace humans in L&D

Clearly, technology is necessary within L&D, particularly when it comes to improving learner engagement, experience and outcomes. But this doesn’t mean humans will be usurped by machines. It can enhance the roles of learning teams, not remove them.

80% of employers agree there should be a blend of human and digital provision to achieve optimal learning and create tailored and highly engaging learner experiences. With barriers to digitising learning, human provision is still very much required.

Identified by 40% of those surveyed, the biggest barrier to digital adoption in L&D is a lack of employee skills to manage their own learning. In fact, 90% of employees see digitisation as providing them with the opportunity to take control of their own development, but there appears to be a concern amongst leaders about what’s required for employees to learn autonomously. There is clearly an education piece to consider and gap that needs to be bridged.

We need people to communicate with people about technology’s capabilities, setting expectations of what can be achieved. Whilst algorithms can derive bespoke learning plans based on actions and preferences, they can’t truly personalise a programme the same way a human can. For instance, identifying a person’s passions, career aspirations or current challenges in their role.

There is a near even split across employees when asked if they prefer human interaction vs machine automation when it comes to learning, development and training, with 55% opting for human over automation and AI. Clearly human interaction is still key for L&D. After all, learners still need people to talk to, confide in and communicate with. Particularly when it comes to discussing private or potentially difficult matters that require emotional intelligence.

Technology is your support, not your steer

Technology can enhance the learner experience, delivering content through a multitude of channels and formats. This allows learners to independently select content depending on their unique way of learning and engaging with information. To derive what learners needs and expectations, human interaction and relationship building is required. No matter how smart, a chatbot will likely not understand reasons behind the challenges faced by learners during certain tasks. There could have been a previous experience that’s created a mental block. Or they could have specific career aspirations but want to build on broader skills not directly related to their role.

Clearly, the digitisation of both the learner journey and wider tasks of L&D does need to occur. However, it’s important to retain the human touch, especially when learner experience and engagement is so crucial.

To find out more about the impact of digitisation of L&D, download our latest insight today.

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