How HR Technology Can Boost Learning

By Al Adamsen

When human resources software started to emerge, it was created simply to capture who was in the organization, when they joined, the role they played and how much they needed to get paid.

In essence, the software automated historically paper-based processes. The paper produced from such processes were placed in employees’ files and kept in drawers. Retrieving and looking at the contents of a file often felt as if it took an act of God or the removal of a sword from a stone.

Other information, like performance history, learning history and personality assessments were added, making the insight into an individual more valuable, as well as potentially more misleading. Incomplete information with imperfect data without much context often led to misinterpretation.

Even so, organizations are still compiling data on people without a clear approach to what they want and why they want it.

Right now, I will focus on a trend that’s very positive, exciting and that will certainly endure. Why? Because it’s focused on the employee’s self interest as well as that of the organization — something that has been grossly missing in the history of HR software.

HR software has been built in most cases to benefit the organization. After all, they’re the one purchasing it and using it to their advantage. Software is needed to make money or reduce costs by elevating productivity, quality, customer satisfaction or some other measurable benefit. While this still holds true, what’s now emerging also has a real and lasting benefit to the employee.

What I’m referring to is how software providers are now creating, publishing and recording learning activity over time. Historically, in-person training and online training required a lot of time. Content retention was frequently low, if not very low, and the immediate application by the employee in their day-to-day job even lower.

This has changed radically. It’s changed because millennials demand it, leading software providers provide the platform for it, and leaders understand the benefits.

What’s new is that information is now being sewn together into short video segments, with most under five minutes. The body of content is searchable. Employees can choose the learning modules that’ll help them do what they’re being asked to do.

They can also choose modules that will help them develop in ways they feel appropriate. In most cases, there is little incremental cost to the organization for the employees’ proactivity.

Employees can grow according to their own goals and ambitions, and on a timeline that suits them. This also provides a platform for ongoing tracking, which then provides a searchable database of what people within an organization have learned.

As important as anything, much of the learning happens in real time. The lessons are learned when they’re needed. It’s analogous to searching for a YouTube video to find out how to use your GoPro Camera or to tie a necktie.

Who has time to read a physical manual or even a website when a short video is faster and more visually appealing? This is what people have grown used to.

These videos can also be used by supervisors to help facilitate the development of direct reports. Hiring managers and recruiters, too, can search internally for staff with appropriate skills and behaviors — or at least those developing on a certain path.

Now a few points of caution, some you’ve likely already thought about: Who creates the content? Should it be done internally, externally or both? Is there such thing as too much content and choice? Shouldn’t employees be focused on their work as opposed to watching videos? What about performance measures when ascertaining who’s fit for a certain role?

A host of other questions could arise. Even so, the essence of the trend and its staying power is certain. It’s how curriculum is now being organized and supported from grade school through college. The employees of tomorrow, like the young professionals of today, will likely use this mode of learning.

Will there still be room for books, longer-term focus and collaborative projects? Absolutely. This doesn’t diminish the fact that the appetite for this mode of learning needs to be fed by employers, as it has now long been fed by the academic institutions that supply the talent.

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