According to Bersin’s most recent “Corporate Learning Factbook: Benchmarks, Trends and Analysis of the U.S. Training Market,” published in August 2015, corporate learning investments have been increasing by 10 percent or more each year since 2010. Learning is now a board-level priority as organizations prepare their workforces for the digital future; leaders see learning as key to employee success and satisfaction in an increasingly competitive talent market.
Mike Ettling, president of SAP SuccessFactors, and David Osborne, senior vice president and general manager of global education at SAP, share their views on the importance of employee learning to business transformation and changing employee expectations for learning.
All organizations today are in the midst of transformation. How does learning play into that?
Mike Ettling: We’re experiencing fundamental change in business, and it’s impacting everything from business processes to business models to how people work. Preparing people with the right skills and mind-set to embrace change is one of the biggest challenges we talk to customers about regularly. Leaders have to map goals to what organizations need in terms of talent, and they need to think eight quarters out, and develop people with the knowledge and experience they’ll need to be successful.
People will need new sets of skills and knowledge to thrive in the digital economy. Futurist Thomas Frey estimates that as many as half of the jobs worldwide as we know them today will disappear by 2030. With that scale of transformation, organizations have to get ready.
David Osborne: Learning is at the center of business transformation, from building new skills for current talent, adapting the workforce to a new business model, to developing the next generation of leaders. Companies are beginning to realize that a piecemeal approach to learning, with only point-in-time training programs, will not result in transformation at speed and scale. Instead, we need to look at learning more holistically; clearly align learning investments with business vision, continually adapt learning programs to learner and organization needs, and assess the impact of learning on business outcomes.
How are employee expectations changing for learning?
Ettling: Workplace dynamics are very different today. Teams are highly diverse, with multiple generations working together, and mirroring the rise of business and personal networks. People prefer a flexible and collaborative culture for learning. There is also a rise in contingent workers, who need support to quickly come on board with the right skills and knowledge.
Another issue is that the majority of people find technology at work to be backward to what they are accustomed to outside the workplace. We must make it simple, intuitive and enjoyable for people to engage with their work and teams through technology. Learning is at the heart of motivating people, and helping them align with and contribute to business goals. It’s going to grow in importance as we continue on our path to digital business. We have to be prepared to be lifelong learners and not be afraid of change.
How are organizations adapting their learning programs to meet employee expectations and prepare them for future skills?
Osborne: Organizations are looking to provide personalized and relevant learning programs with bite-sized content that employees can work with at their own pace. For example, a key part of SAP’s learning strategy is to make content available to employees anytime and on any device. The SAP Learning Hub is our cloud-based learning solution with not just the 4,000-plus education courses on SAP products, but third-party content on a variety of business topics as well, including e-books on everything from leadership and strategy to marketing and finance. All of this content is available to individual users on a subscription basis to access from anywhere.
Ettling: Knowledge-sharing needs to become simpler and faster within a business, where internal and external experts can easily create and share new learning resources. We have built features into our solutions that allow anyone in an organization to create short, instructional programs with videos and pictures to share with others. The idea is to help create a learning community where people can get the resources and support to make an impact in their work.
How are organizations benefiting from cloud-based learning content and services?
Osborne: Technology enables us to create that collaborative learning culture Mike mentioned. On SAP Learning Hub, for instance, we have spaces where people from the same organization, or people from multiple organizations in the public cloud edition, can engage with each other and subject matter experts as part of their learning.
Ettling: There is an incredible shared learning aspect for organizations in the cloud. As technologies and trends such as analytics and mobile evolve and become mainstream in learning, we are able to quickly deliver the latest and greatest innovations to customers with updates every year. We are currently building intelligent services for the SAP SuccessFactors HCM Suite that will automate key HR workflows using machine learning. This will impact education and training as well. For example, organizations will be able to learn from each other’s machine learning configurations to make recommendations of educational material to employees based on their profiles, roles and performance. Cloud spurs faster innovation, and all of this innovation and capability is available to organizations of all sizes.
How can learning strategy help businesses meet the challenges of digital transformation?
Ettling: Learning is integral to engage people, prepare them for growth in their careers, and create an all-in vibe where people feel committed and empowered to deliver business outcomes. This is even more important as companies are reimagining and building new business processes and ways of working. Companies need a holistic view of how learning aligns with their business goals and the tools to deliver learning in ways that directly benefits business outcomes.
Osborne: A learning platform for the digital business, tools to create relevant and engaging content, the capability to assess effectiveness at the individual level, and assess the impact of learning on business goals, this integrated approach makes it possible for organizations to see the full impact from their learning investments, and implement programs that are relevant to learners.
Kelly Rider is senior director of enterprisewide content strategy, curriculum and learner experience at SAP. To comment, email editor@CLOmedia.com.