By Chris Nekvinda, PhD, Director of Global Learning, Cannon Financial Institute
Training units within Financial Services have been historically slow in adopting innovative talent development technologies. Necessity, rather than innovation, is the historical driver of change to learning design. However, the confluence of several disruptors is forcing a change in the way Chief Learning Officers, Business Training Managers, Performance Consultants and Instructional Designers develop training and performance support for their learners.
These disruptors are representative of external pressures on the Financial Services industry, evolving research, and training and performance improvement technologies. There are six primary disruptors converging:
- Advancements in technology
- A shift to free and open content over the internet
- Focus on skill development
- Need for innovation
- Rapid changes in workforce demographics
- Improvements in productivity measurement (adapted from Shum and Ferguson, 2012)
Learning and development professionals should leverage each of these disruptors as a driver of change to bring innovative technologies to talent development units within Financial Services.
Rapid Technology Advancements
The most significant driver of change is the constant innovation in new technology capability, specifically in educational technology and related social tools. The prominence of web-based applications such as Google, Twitter, wikis, blogs, and optimized search engines are connecting people with terms, definitions, examples, and demonstrations at a pace faster than firms can respond. Advancements in mobile technology enable learners to access content from anywhere at any time, freeing them from the tethers of desktops or formal learning management systems. Learners will expect future solutions to allow even greater access to content when and where they need it the most.
This scenario amplifies the challenge that CLOs and Business Training Managers have accommodating different types of workers and multiple technologies required to help manage the content and needs of both the enterprise and the Line of Business. CLOs and Training Managers already know that “people learn from one another, via observation, imitation, and modeling” (Bandura, 1978). Now, the question lies in finding a way to create a scalable solution that is adaptive to ongoing change in a cost effective and compliant way.
Free and Open Content
The rapid advancements in technology have given rise to platforms of content freely available to learners. This disruptor manifests in a spectrum ranging from free Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and iTunes University that connect academics to learners from all over the world to the hyper-commoditization of knowledge through sites like Wikipedia, Investopedia, or other collaborative sites. Free knowledge and information present unique challenges in helping connect learners with the right information that will enable them to turn information into meaningful knowledge.
While eLearning offers a low-cost solution to some aspects of training, skills development still demands access to instructors. When learners have access to terms, definitions, and demonstrations at their fingertips, whether through search engines like Google or internal intranet sites, training provides less value in a classroom setting or eLearning module when used for the sole purpose of disseminating knowledge rather than skill development.
Self-paced eLearning came roaring on the scene with the promise of efficiency and wide dissemination of information through the fingertips of CLOs and Training Managers. This promise revealed to be both true and false: the wide dissemination of knowledge proved true, but its sufficiency and effectiveness to improve skill, false. eLearning provides a way to deliver information, but only as a one-way communication thread. Learners were left to contextualize information on their own. The ability to build skill versus simply transfer knowledge is a void in the eLearning environment.
There are now more low cost, efficient means of transferring information, while skill development still remains a challenge outside of the traditional classroom. These skills range from developing effective communication skills for executives, coaching skills in managers, and sales skills for front-line workers. In order to improve skill, learners need access to performance coaches who can evaluate skill quality and provide constructive feedback, not just answer knowledge-based questions.
The change in workforce demographics, like the previous three, is not isolated to the learning and talent development space. The Baby Boomer generation yields 10,000 retirees daily, while the Millennial generation simultaneously enters the workforce with significant differences in learning preferences, abilities and corporate expectations. Therefore, the vast divide created between competent young worker and wise veteran is a considerable risk to a company’s production standards. Solutions are needed that allow Millennials to learn from the wisdom of more experienced Baby Boomers and tenured Gen X’ers.
Distance and sprawling organizational footprints magnify the challenge to innovate, often keeping best practices hidden in pockets of the enterprise. The remedy is to create collaboration between workers from across the footprint allowing for new and innovative solutions to bubble up from the entire workforce. A by-product of this collaboration becomes connecting the wisdom and experience of the retiring workforce to the enthusiasm of the emerging Millennial. This takes a historical support group of “one to the many” and establishes a collaborative environment that connects the “many to the many.”
Constant Productivity Measurement
Coming out of the downturn, financial institutions revised the systems of measuring productivity in their workforce. Tighter margins and decreased education budgets necessitated business leaders measure their ROI on all training experiences. Specifically, leaders found themselves analyzing exactly how much it cost in lost productivity and lead generation when their advisors or sales teams were out the office for instructor-led sessions. The shift towards more distance-based learning, particularly that type of collaborative technology that allows workers to work and learn flexibly, present the greatest opportunity for increasing ROI.
This emphasis on measurement also challenges CLOs and Training Managers to consider new ways of reporting and measuring training results. As technology changes and we move beyond simple assessment scores and completion status, open APIs are allowing organizations to measure informal learning and object tools like open badges. In addition, engagement metrics are allowing training managers to look at data and present it in ways that are more meaningful.
The authenticity of these challenges is without question. The methods and tools that will allow training professionals to capitalize and exploit these drivers of change are found in a technology-enabled world.
That solution is Social Learning.
Keep an eye out for Chris’s next post for Mimeo on social learning for financial services!
Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory.
Shum, S. B., & Ferguson, R. (2012). Social Learning Analytics. Educational Technology & Society, 15(3), 3-26.