According to research conducted by Marvis Meyers, vice president of training and development at AAIM Employers’ Association, 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day. And while some are delaying their retirement, the majority are beginning to leave the workforce. While the economic downturn has slowed this exodus somewhat, it is inevitable that boomers will soon begin to retire at a faster and faster rate.
The problem? There are 10 million fewer Gen-Xers than baby boomers. The equation is simple and frightening. Ten million fewer people, plus slowing college graduation rates, equal a very wide talent gap. Businesses are now faced with the challenge of finding the talent they need in a competitive workplace, coupled with preparing younger employees for leadership positions before they have had an opportunity to gain the knowledge, skills and experience necessary for effective leadership. Informal learning is one of the key strategies organizations can use to facilitate the transfer of knowledge from talented, experienced employees before they walk out the door.
According to Josh Bersin of Bersin & Associates, a leading research and advisory firm, the corporate training industry is undergoing some major changes regarding the move to collaborative informal learning. Since 2009, they have been involved in many discussions with organizations about the tremendous needs to build, manage and formalize their social and collaborative learning programs. This is being driven by many factors: the economy, the “always-connected” nature of the workforce, and the explosion of social software tools and platforms now available.
People are calling it social learning, informal learning and collaborative learning. Bersin’s research shows that informal learning is actually a whole set of new approaches, which include learning on demand and embedded learning, as well as social learning: we-learning. The point is that it is an opportunity to build leadership skills at a time when knowledge transfer is critical. What to expect?
- We-learning will shift some focus away from traditional training and create a need to learn new disciplines. We-learning embraces the simple and profound concept that any organization has a collection of knowledge and experience that should be shared. It respects the fact that the training department may, at most, have five to ten percent of the knowledge needed and used within the company. And organizational learning is taking place on a real-time basis — always changing and becoming more valuable.
- E-learning did not kill traditional training and education, despite predictions. Nor will we-learning totally replace carefully-designed training programs. Traditional training is not going away. Organizations still need formal training and certification to build a base level of knowledge and skills in many roles. But we now respect that 80 percent or more of individual learning will take place through others: coaches, experts, managers and peers.
- We-learning will create markets for many new tools and platforms. Just as e-learning spawned the modern LMS (learning management system), a wide variety of development tools, and huge amounts of investment in content management, we-learning will spawn and support a tremendous number of new tools and systems to manage, track and facilitate people working together online.
- We-learning will change the behavior in corporate training. Just as e-learning freed us from the classroom, we-learning is going to free us from the computer. More and more collaborative learning will take place on cell phones and other mobile devices.
- We-learning will demand a change in culture and leadership. Does your organization have a culture of knowledge sharing? Are experts rewarded for sharing their best practices? More importantly, do you have incentives and career models which tell experts that “we expect you to contribute to the collective knowledge of the organization?” Bersin’s research shows that the single biggest driver of success in today’s learning and development world is culture. No matter how well you design the programs, systems and experiences, they only “stick” when the company itself values a continuous focus on learning. More and more top executives are thinking, “How can I get people in this organization to more rapidly share information, talk to customers and learn faster?” These types of conversations lead to a discussion about the organization’s learning culture — one of the biggest drivers of success in this new era. iBi