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HR & EDUCATION | Contributed Content, Singapore
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Karen Cariss

Why learning is going viral in the digital age

BY KAREN CARISS

There’s a revolution taking place in Singapore. It’s not one that’s being screamed from rooftops, but it’s catching like wildfire throughout businesses everywhere, cutting costs, increasing productivity and driving employee engagement.

I’m talking about learning and development (L&D). Yes, that pillar of your organisation that aims to arm your employees with the skills and knowledge they need to develop and grow. Inspired by the Singapore government’s focus and initiatives on lifelong learning, organisations have been ramping up their efforts to up skill and train their staff.

It’s estimated that companies spend $130 billion on L&D programs each year globally. But despite the huge investment, only one third report getting desired results.

This number doesn’t surprise me. In a modern world, L&D professionals are still trying to put a traditional lens on learning. Lengthy internal courses, time consuming presentations and training programs decided on and set by leaders. Let me explain why this alone just won’t work.

A modern workforce

By 2020, Millennials will make up half the global workforce. They are more qualified, tech savvy and ambitious than their predecessors. However, their attention spans are shorter (8.25 seconds) and they are exposed to 5 times more content (100,000 words a day) than those 30 years ago. How much of that 3-hour workshop you spent considerable time and money implementing are they actually going to soak up?

The modern workforce are masters of their own time. They expect flexibility in all aspects of their work life and look to set their own career journey agenda including what they learn and when they learn it. You’re probably starting to understand why your formal and structured approach to L&D is not resonating. Unless your L&D strategies are social, spontaneous and able to be tapped into whenever and wherever, they just aren’t going to work.

One great thing about the modern workforce is – money and job security aren’t their main motivators. They place a lot more importance on learning and development opportunities and businesses that can offer an accelerated path to growth stand to reap the benefits.

Make learning viral

Here is what we know about the way we learn. Our attention is highly selective about what we retain and what we choose to discard. Small chunks of information work. Large slabs presented at once make our brains skip off for a time out sipping cocktails by the beach in Barbados. We are also influenced by our peers and look to each other to learn and grow. The trick for L&D professionals is presenting employees with the right information, in the right way, at the right time. Easy peasy right?

Now the new digital landscape might have turned our L&D strategies on their heads, but lucky for us, it has also presented us with innovative technology and software to make this ‘right time, right way’ challenge achievable. Mobile and app-driven solutions give employees the freedom to learn on-demand while cloud-based learning management systems allow people access from any device, anywhere in the world. Even on that beach in Barbados.

Singapore’s SkillsFuture initiative also helps to makes things easier by offering flexibility through modular bite-sized online courses. Incentives are also put in place to award employers who leverage these benefits for their staff.

Gamification learning strategies are trending upwards, incentivizing staff with leaderboards and badges and allowing people to share their achievements via social media.

Most importantly, modern learning technology is putting employees in the driver’s seat of their own learning agenda, creating a social learning culture within the organisation that’s highly contagious. Now employees can identify what content does and doesn’t work for them, access it wherever they are, share it with their peers, and add it to their development plans for managers to view.

And this is the key to making learning go viral. Make the experience snackable, easy to absorb, social, fun, accessible and empowering – and watch it spread through the office with a buzz.

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Karen Cariss

Karen Cariss

Karen Cariss is the CEO and Co-founder of global talent management Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company, PageUp, and Co-author of the book: Cliffhanger: HR on the Precipice in the Future of Work.

She remains the driving force behind the success of PageUp since its humble beginnings in 1997, and is based in Singapore. Karen is responsible for setting the strategic direction of the company as well as ensuring alignment across all divisions.

Her extreme passion for the company is evident in her work and entrepreneurial attitude, which has been publicly acknowledged by several publications and awards. Karen was named one of BRW’s Top 50 Female Entrepreneurs in June 2006, and won the Ernst and Young ‘Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award' in 2008, as well as the 'Victorian Telstra Women's Business Award' in 2009.

Karen has also used her experience in business to assist the judging of the 2006 Telstra Business Awards and 2005 AIMIA iAwards and is formally qualified with a Bachelor of Applied Science and Honours in Science and is currently a member of the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI).

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