Digital learning is the future – and that means revamping L&D

Leaders must use online tools to engage their teams in new ways, learning professionals tell CIPD annual conference

The future of learning and development is online, but for it to be effective employers must rethink the way they train their staff, an expert panel told the CIPD’s annual conference in Manchester.

Discussing the next generation of workplace learning, Andy Lancaster, head of L&D at the CIPD, said that digital learning is a non-negotiable product of the modern workplace. It has become increasingly important as organisations embrace greater use of flexible working and grow their global operations, he explained.

Currently, however, there is a fundamental lack of confidence around online training in most organisations. “Many people who are confident in a face to face environment find digital learning very threatening or very difficult, and only 34 per cent of people currently feel comfortable delivering learning in an online space,” said Lancaster.

To embrace digital L&D, employers must not only develop a knowledge of the online tools available, but drastically rethink the ways in which traditional L&D is offered, delegates heard. Traditional in-house training models will not only fail to translate to an online platform, many are already failing to engage employees.

“People are bored. And it’s not a lack of understanding of technology that stops people from engaging,” said Julian Stodd, founder of SeaSalt Learning. “It’s because we are not offering things worthy of engagement.”

To engage employees with future learning tools, L&D professional Sukhvinder Pabial said that businesses must be willing to invest both time and money into digital learning; creating bite-sized valuable content that employees can consume with a degree of flexibility.

He said that L&D needs to enable peer based learning platforms that allow employees to engage with it of their own accord, as this will be more successful than traditional in-house training.

“We mustn’t tell people how and when they can learn,” Pabial said. “We need to recognise the ways in which users want to learn, and capitalise on that.”

But panellists warned that digital learning is not simply a question of moving in-house training to a webinar platform. Pabial explained that employers must be willing to invest in original, compelling content, and allow their teams to learn skills in alignment with the increasingly flexible working environments of today.

“We need to become digital learning role models,” Lancaster added. “We cannot take our organisations or our teams forward unless we personally embrace modern learning standards.”