Why ‘lifelong learning’ is becoming the new norm

by Brett Henebery01 Aug 2017
Earlier this year, a report highlighted growing industry concern that the L&D function needs to be modernised – and more important be more closely aligned with corporate growth – or risk being outsourced.

In particular, the report pointed out that L&D and HR departments are often viewed by CEOs as ineffectual and non-strategic. As such 61% percent of L&D providers report they have changed L&D structure and operations in the past two years alone.

To get a clearer picture of what exactly is happening and where these changes are leading, L&D Professional spoke with Sylvia Vorhauser-Smith, Senior Vice President of Research at PageUp – an HR software company.

“The way in which we work has undergone rapid transformation over the past 20 years and 2017 is continuing to see this redefinition,” Vorhauser-Smith told L&D Professional.

“The dramatic increase of Millennials entering the workforce, combined with the shift towards flexible, freelance and contingent work in the rise of the ‘gig economy’ means the three-stage life that we constructed during the industrial era [education, work, retirement] is becoming less relevant and lifelong learning is becoming the new norm.”

Vorhauser-Smith said this rapid pace of change is shifting organisational learning and development in a significant way.

“For employees today, learning must be whenever, wherever, social and spontaneous,” she said.

“Employees are consistently consuming and digesting information outside of work through mobile technology and we’re seeing that cross over into the workforce as they share their learnings with their peers.”

Fortunately, says Vorhauser-Smith, L&D as we know it is “going viral” as employees take the onus of their own learning and development.

“Employees are driving their learning journeys by harnessing the 'network effect' of this content that is easily shared amongst peers,” she said.

“This new shift will enable organisations to move away from structured, formal learning that is controlled by HR towards self-directed, employee-centric, continuous learning.

“Organisations that are joining this journey stand to unlock untapped reserves of talent and potential, and ultimately maximise business performance.”

Vorhauser-Smith pointed out that today’s learners are demanding that education be available wherever, whenever, and that advances in technology have increased our appetite for rapid access to relevant information and workplace learning that’s simple, social and spontaneous.
“We expect to see artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality play a significant role in the future of learning. The richer the learning experience, the greater will be its adoption and effectiveness,” she said.
Vorhauser-Smith said because Gen-Z are growing up with these advanced learning tools, organisations are being challenged to adapt to these expectations and add informal learning to their L&D mix.
“Those that don’t will struggle to remain relevant and drive engagement with learning that sticks,” she said.

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