Technology as Enabler of 2016 HR Trends: Personalized Learning and Transparency

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Recently, I published an article on some of the major disruptions happening in the workplace and the role that technology has played (is playing) in enabling or inspiring innovative HR programs. This article serves as an extension (or “Part Two”) to that piece: Technology: The Enabling Force Awakening HR as a Strategic Partner In 2016. After publishing that post, a healthy conversation ensued on Twitter about whether I was advocating that technology is what will enable HR to become more strategic. While I could see how one might come away with that interpretation, I want to make it clear that I see technology always as an “enabler,” never the answer to a solution or problem.

Let’s take continuous feedback as an example. Continuous feedback is feedback given to an employee by his/her manager (or peers) on their performance on a regular, and frequent basis. This feedback is used to provide continuous coaching and development of employees rather than waiting until the end of the year. Now let’s say a manager has 12 direct reports one can easily imagine that providing real-time, meaningful feedback to each of those reports could become quite difficult and time-consuming without the aid of technology.

The point I was trying to make was that innovations in HR technology have “enabled” these processes to exist that might never have been possible through manual intervention and definitely NOT with the rigid HR systems so many organizations have been saddled with for far too long.

Here are the remaining two concepts/trends in HR I believe HR technology will have a considerable hand in supporting in 2016: personalized learning and development, transparency as the new norm.

Personalized learning and development

Personalization is fast becoming a must-have in today’s workplace. No longer can employers afford to roll out cookie-cutter programs to meet the needs of every generation or type of employee. From creating benefits programs that are flexible providing employees with choices, to career development and learning, personalization is the name of the game.

We’ve all heard about the needs of today’s learners. They want a learning experience that fits their personal needs, learning speed, preferred learning style and, most importantly, their learning pathway – learning personalized for them. But what most people don’t know is that this approach to learning is not new. In fact, noted adult learning theorist, Eduard Lindeman, laid out five key assumptions about adult learners that may sound very familiar to many of us (excerpted from Lindeman’s 1926 book, The Meaning of Education):

  1. Adults are motivated to learn as the experience needs and interests that learning will satisfy
  2. Adults orientation to learning is life centered
  3. Experience is the richest source for adults learning
  4. Adults have a deep need to be self-directing
  5. Individual differences among people increase with age – therefore, provision should be made for differences in style, time, place, and pace of learning.

As adults, we have always craved a different style of learning. In fact, learning theories have existed for quite some time now that classify learning into two approaches: pedagogical and andragogical. Pedagogy is the discipline that study and practice of how best to teach. Andragogy, on the other hand, is the method and practice of teaching adult learners. Andragogy works best in practice when learning is adapted to fit the uniqueness of the learners and the learning situation. Somehow modern day trainers and training departments have either forgotten this or never been made aware that as adults we have a different style of learning that requires different approaches.

Learning has moved beyond the classroom, and experience – one of the three components of the 70:20:10 model – should no longer be seen simply as what occurs within the four walls of the traditional workspace. Learning is social and is the result of interactions with others and also with content. That content may be formally generated by the organization and disseminated to employees; it can be employee generated and shared through peer networks or it may be content that an employee interacts with online and off hours. The point being we are all in a continuous state of learning and traditional learning management systems (at least not yet) are not capable of capturing the multitude of learning experiences that each and every employee encounters on a weekly or even daily basis.

This is where vendors like Degreed have stepped up to the plate. Capitalizing on xAPI, Degreed’s platform can capture meaningful information relating to a wide range of learning experiences and behaviors. This type of technology plays an important part in creating a more personalized learning environment; empowering learners to achieve their goals and creating self-awareness of the micro-learning moments that might otherwise go unnoticed (think meta-cognitive).

Transparency as the New Norm

We have entered a millennium where workplaces are filled with four generations of workers (or five if you ask Bill Kutik). We live in a global environment where businesses continually have to adjust to keep up with the accelerating pace of change that is fueled by technology. Technology is considered by many to be one of the primary drivers behind the globalization of economies, and its power to accelerate change of all kinds cannot be ignored. Social, mobile, video and self-service capabilities provide opportunities for greater visibility into the behavior of individuals or groups making how work gets done more transparent to the masses.

Goal planning

Openly communicating goals within an organization is a step in the direction of driving efficiencies through information transparency. A benefit of transparent goals and the linkage between them within an organization is to drive collaboration between employees directly, and not exclusively through direct managers. Another potential benefit from this is to drive efficiency through reducing redundant work efforts that might not otherwise be known. With greater transparency, individual performance and contributions to the organization become more evident. Transparent goals are critical for an employee to understand how his or her goals and performance relate to those of other employees. Here are a few vendors making goal transparency possible:

  • iDoneThis – productivity software that allows employees to stop and reflect at the end of each day on what they have accomplished. The next morning, an email digest is distributed showing everyone’s accomplishments from the previous day and employees can share thanks and celebrate the achievements, helping create a culture of openness (transparency) and gratitude.
  • Betterworks – enterprise goal software platform that utilizes OKRs to create and align goals beyond the traditional horizontal approach seen in most MBO and other goal management approaches. Their software facilitates the collaboration of goal creation and goal tracking across the enterprise and encourages open, frequent monitoring and cross-functional alignment of goals.
  • Atiim – (pronounced A-team) – a goal (OKR) and team performance management platform offers a continuous, real-time and closed-loop feedback process to improve alignment and transparency for managers and their teams.

Enterprise social networks (ESNs)

Transparency also means encouraging open communication across the organization, and soliciting feedback from and involving employees (and even customers) in making decisions. Being transparent in communications builds trust ‒ an essential component in building a strong culture. But even more importantly, transparency requires trust. Trust is the foundation for building a strong culture—trust in leadership, trust in teams and trust in individuals.

Being transparent in communications builds trust, which influences both employee support and acceptance of change, and also provides a sense of safety for employees to allow creativity and innovation to be stimulated, accepted and promoted.

Blogs delivered on enterprise social networks (ESNs) are a natural way for leaders to openly communicate with their followers and are a great forum for leaders to share their thinking around business decisions, as well as a means to build trust.

Platforms like Jive, Tibbr and Facebook at Work, whose aim is to create a connected workplace that is more productive, are prime examples of ESNs that can be used to encourage leaders and employees to share ideas, collaborate on projects and create opportunities for greater visibility across the enterprise.

[Clarification, xAPI, is not the primary method by which the Degreed platform captures data. Currently, it is designed explicitly to drive progress and build expertise over time with plans to capture more of the experiences and accomplishments too.]

Additional Resources:

Cross, R., Borgatti, S. P., & Parker, A. (2002). Making invisible work visible: Using social network analysis to support strategic collaboration. California management review, 44(2), 25-46. Chicago

Knowles, M. S., Holton III, E. F., & Swanson, R. A. (2014). The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development. Routledge.

Photo Credit: loyale99 via Compfight cc

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Michael Moon

Michael Moon

Ms. Michael M. Moon, PhD, is a highly sought speaker on the topics of HR analytics, social media use in organizations, and employee engagement and is most passionate about helping organizations understand how to harness the connective power of technology in the workplace.Follow Michael on Twitter @mikemmoon or visit her website at www.michaelmoonhcm.com to learn more about Michael's current projects.
  • Extremely insightful
    article, Ms. Moon. I would like to know what is the difference between the
    transparency maintained by technology with hiring process and manual hiring?
    Will recruiters hire without gut-feel and intuition, based on analytic and
    facts?

    • Michael Moon

      Mayurakshi,
      First, my deepest apologies for the delayed response. Second, that is a really great and insightful question. The recruiting and hiring process will never be replaced by technology (meaning analytics driven by assessments and other technology-based tools). What the these tools are meant to do is help provide a more effective way of hiring that goes above and beyond the “gut feel”.
      However, other research shows that a well structured behaviorally-based interview still has a higher correlation to job performance than most job other forms of job assessments. But be mindful because many of those interviews are developed based on the job description. Check out this latest research from Dr. Todd Rose from Harvard University who says job descriptions may be undermining our hiring process:: http://www.fastcompany.com/3055044/why-job-descriptions-are-hurting-your-companys-recruiting
      Feel free to reach out if you have anymore questions or would like to engage in further dialogue on this or any topic.
      Michael

      • Tim Ruijters

        Hi Michael, I agree that in the nearby future technology will support the recruiter. On the other hand, on Part-up (www.part-up.com) there is no recruiter. People find work by browsing through the ‘projects’. The development team is also working on a recommendation engine that suggests projects that you may like or you have the right skills for. Tim

      • Thank you Michael for your reply. I understand that an amalgamation of both is the key solution of relevant hiring. Artificial Intelligence without emotional intelligence is only one side of the coin.
        Mayurakshi

  • Tim Ruijters

    Hi Michael, just a few months ago, I discovered Part-up (www.part-up.com). I think this platform is really good for learning-by-doing.

    • Michael Moon

      Thanks, I will definitely check it out!