Why Future-Focused Learning Matters For Your Business

With big external shocks, multiple crises, and significant transformations, it’s a turbulent time for businesses. There has been an emphasis on the role of leadership. And learning and development have become ever-more critical. To build a business that can not only weather the current storms but is fit for the future, organisations have found a need to adapt to new realities and define a new way of working. Integral to that has been the identification and development of the evolving proficiencies that leaders need to effectively manage upskilling and reskilling initiatives in order to fill the skills gaps. Further underscoring the importance of learning and development across all parts of business. 

And to do that, you have to start with designing learning journeys and experiences with a future-first lens.

Understanding the principles of future first learning and development

Social and collaborative learning

Social and collaborative learning is not a new topic, and its value is well researched and understood. But it’s an area that is increasing in importance, partly due to the pandemic and the shift to remote and hybrid work which has reduced social interaction and the potential for peer-to-peer learning. It’s also related to the recent growth of asynchronous learning. Provided by multiple platforms, independent and asynchronous learning has undeniable advantages, but it’s been shown to be far more effective when it is supported by social and collaborative learning. Leading to increased learning speed, retention, and engagement. Finding ways to integrate the two within your business’ learning journey hasn’t always been simple. But, again thanks to Covid, there are a lot of new platforms and initiatives devised to help facilitate social learning in a remote context.

Hybrid learning

Even if we haven’t quite mastered it yet, hybrid learning is set to become the mainstay of L&D. Combining remote and asynchronous learning with social and traditional educator-led learning experiences, hybrid learning and leadership training can be used to deliver a fully rounded experience. But it needs to be seamless, with complete integration between all elements of L&D. 

So, why hybrid? In the last decade, much of L&D moved online. It provided flexibility and affordability. But it’s not easy to customise fixed digital content to the needs of individual employees. And because of that, we saw engagement in many areas falling. And the development of the softer skills, so integral to successful leadership, diminish. 

The development of hybrid learning ensures that no one is left behind. Individuals’ needs can be catered for and unique leadership experiences created. Allowing you to curate a learning experience that is more engaging – and has been proven to be more effective – than either 100% virtual or 100% face-to-face training.

The challenge facing businesses is how to facilitate that careful balance. How to leverage technology, apps, platforms, and people to deliver the best collaborative approach to L&D. 

Building customisation and personalisation into L&D

Of course, one of the best ways to ensure engagement with L&D is relevance. If you can make your training content relevant to both your business and your learners, you’re more likely to see results. And one of the most important trends we’ve seen emerge in the last few years is customisation. A recent piece of research by the Financial Times and Unicon (the consortium for university-based executive education) concluded that there has been a marked shift in the priorities of the CLOs. When CLOs were asked to rank the most important qualities in designing learning programmes, customisation was the top-ranked priority according to 46% of them. 

Why? Because L&D needs to focus on what really matters for the specific challenges that the team, company, or organisation is facing. While generic content is better than no content, if L&D fails to address the specific questions of the clients, it loses relevance. Making the experience unrewarding (lacklustre) and difficult to connect with. 

When you customise on a company or team level you will have more successful outcomes. When you then add in customisation on an individual level, each team member gains the most they possibly can from the experience. Right now, there are a few ways of creating increased personalisation in learning. Some of the approaches you can take, include individual coaching programmes. This is resource-intensive, but it does deliver results. New developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning are also powerful to create adaptive learning journeys, well suited for L&D at scale. 

Deploying emerging technologies

As well as AI, the gamification of L&D is another development that has become an established practice, and it still holds enormous potential within the sphere. Right now, it’s being used in the form of leader boards and points systems, challenges and competitions. But we’ve been working with serious games in a virtual reality context to create L&D virtual experiences. Using VR gaming to focus on developing skills in managing in an uncertain world. And that’s what the eduverse – or metaverse for education – is all about. Providing learners with a digital landscape to build their own virtual immersive learning environments.  

This allows for the creation of a fully digitised L&D model that still delivers the personalised face-to-face experience. And while this is an area still under development, with the use of avatars, virtual environments, and breakout rooms, there’s a lot of scope within the L&D arena. 

Learning and development are integral to the future of leadership. We all know that what we do now will shape the business leaders who will eventually replace us. And at a time when turbulence has become the norm, it’s more important than ever before for today’s leaders to create comprehensive learning journeys for the teams they manage. 

About the author: Gustaf Nordbäck is the CEO of Headspring Executive, with 12 years of experience in the learning and development sector.

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