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Blending Humans and Technology in Learning & Development

Learning & Development, Business Articles

Is it possible to benefit from the efficiency of technology, without missing out on the positivity of human interaction? We take a look at how to get the best of both worlds in learning and development.

In a world where two out of three people are quitting their jobs due to lack of learning and development opportunities (Totaljobs), it’s clear that learning and development strategies need to improve. Staff loyalty, employee retention and company performance are all at stake if learning and development isn’t properly addressed in the workplace.

The obvious place to look to partially solve the problem is technology. It’s not feasible for most companies to be able to send employees to training courses more than once or twice a year. So giving employees access to online learning software could theoretically help to bridge the gap. Yet we also live in a world where 74% think technology can never replace the human mind (Workforce of the Future, The competing forces shaping 2030, PwC).

“Who has fallen out with Alexa? We’re teaching our kids to bark commands at various pieces of tech and be satisfied with the answer. We’re losing the art of enquiry. What about those moments when we just need to speak to someone?” - Pam Bateson, CEO, Thrive Partners, Sundial Group L&D Thought Leaders Conference 2018

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Learning isn’t a one-way street, and employees value interaction with humans to discuss ideas, ask questions about real-life situations and to generally feel inspired by human connections. The solution needs to be a middle ground, where learning has a human touch while maximising the benefits of technology.

Here are three ideas of how to find a balance between humans and technology to provide learning and development opportunities that really work.

1. Peer Learning via Existing Systems

Meet the demand for learning to be a continuous process by tapping into the skills that already sit within an organisation. Giving staff the opportunity to learn from colleagues trained in specific skills not only meets learning and development needs, it also creates better rapport between employees and a more connected workplace. Introduce peer learning opportunities using existing systems such as an intranet. Employees can outline their areas of expertise and search for others according to skills they want to learn more about. Staff can subsequently connect and arrange knowledge-sharing sessions.

2. Webinars + Discussion Sessions

Dedicated online learning portals or topic-specific webinar providers can be a low-cost way to give employees access to learning and development opportunities more frequently than they might be able to attend in-person training. What is missing from such sessions is any form of face-to-face interaction. Add the human touch by finding webinars with subject matter that is of interest to a group of staff and organise an in-person discussion session directly after the webinar runs. This gives staff an opportunity to share ideas on how this learning can be applied to their particular circumstances, providing connections with people in the workplace and making the learning more ‘sticky’.

3. Online Coaching

When more personalised learning and development is needed, online coaching could be a good solution. Platforms such as MyThrive offer this service, where 30-minute sessions with a network of professionals in different fields can be booked. Platforms like this give employees the all-important human interaction they crave, yet time out from work is kept to a minimum.

“Today is the era of intelligent learning. We believe gadgets and life hacks will make us happier. But most people crave being listened to and want to ask questions, set goals and give feedback.” - Pam Bateson, CEO, Thrive Partners, Sundial Group L&D Thought Leaders Conference 2018

Learning and development nowadays needs an element of continuous, on-the-job training. Days out for more in-depth training have an important place, but what happens in between these more extensive sessions is crucial. Blending humans with technology has to be the way to make this manageable for organisations while ensuring learning is tangible and useful to employees. 

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