Smart digital tools: How machine learning can boost employee training

Updated: April 3, 2017 5:32 AM

Developing training programmes for a large group of sales or technical or services personnel is a challenging task as the programme is meant for a diverse group, and has to be engaging and meaningful for the participants.

training programmes, training programmes in companies, assessment strategy, digital era, L&D strategy, skills inventory, employee training, Smart digital toolsDeveloping training programmes for a large group of sales or technical or services personnel is a challenging task as the programme is meant for a diverse group, and has to be engaging and meaningful for the participants.

Developing training programmes for a large group of sales or technical or services personnel is a challenging task as the programme is meant for a diverse group, and has to be engaging and meaningful for the participants. The programmes are mostly delivered at multiple locations, they have to be updated from time to time and at times, also require to be culturally sensitive to remain relevant as well as contemporary. Effective assessment strategy is also important to ensure the programmes meet the stated business objectives.

In the digital era, there is a plethora of content available on the internet. A lot of it is free of cost via options such as MOOCs, Course Era, You Tube and others. These options could be explored to help build new content or augment the already available content. Thus, the challenge is not so much in finding content but contextualising the content. The question L&D managers face is how to contextualise the content and make the content personalised as well as adaptive and connect with the learners in a variety of scenarios in which the content will be consumed.

Several surveys on learning outcomes have highlighted the emerging characteristics of the new age learners who have low attention span, prefer just-in-time access to knowledge repository rather than proactive just-in-case training and content served up based on their respective specific needs. Therefore, content and not context is king and organisations have to fine-tune their L&D strategy to get the most out of their investments in human capital development.

The strategy for developing the contextualised learning approach has to begin by mapping the skills inventory of the teams and identifying the matching static and dynamic learning needs based on the competencies required to succeed in the roles defined. In view of the benefits of enabling employees access learning anywhere, anyplace, several organisations have invested in building e-learning modules or they subscribe to publishers of such content.

However, such content become dated in no time and is only partially relevant as the changing requirements of the business and of the learners are not possible to be addressed with such repositories. Therefore, L&D managers could devise methods and use smart digital tools to stitch together the content that is static with the content from various sources that could be dynamic and also provide access to experts and coaches as part of the learning continuum to nurture new learning by facilitating and capturing new knowledge and best practices.

Koens and others developed a model with three dimensions of context—physical, affective and cognitive. In the physical dimension of contextual learning, cues present in the learning environment are encoded in the memory of the learner and when these cues are presented again in the context of the content, the learner is likely to recall the content. Affective dimension focuses on the influence of context on the learner’s willingness to invest effort in the learning task. The cognitive dimension of context improves learning and retrieval via activation of prior knowledge, storage of retrieval cues and elaboration. Digital technologies aid the most in the cognitive dimension that enable in reducing the load of knowledge acquisition for the learners and help the L&D heads with contextual learning models that could enhance the speed of learning, recall and better application, leading to quantum improvement in outcomes.

Contextual learning is augmented and enriched by the learners contributing their insights too. For instance, IoT and machine learning can add significant value by proactively supporting the employees just in time at the time of selling or trouble shooting or after sales service with the help of insights gathered from previous transactions and thereby encouraging the employees to focus on specific dimensions of learning. Virtual reality or augmented reality are other examples of contextualising the learning and helping the learners to relate to the content with ease and more importantly, reduce the time and effort involved in implementing thereafter. Supported by deep analytics and chat bots, learner experience can become more meaningful and exciting.

For the L&D function to act as the strategic partner to the business, it is imperative for L&D heads to develop familiarity with the capabilities of digital platforms and the emerging smart digital tools that help in bringing forth values built around the business context. It is feasible to significantly reduce the overall cost of content creation and learning delivery through appropriate blend of pedagogy, community generated content processes and digital tools aimed at contextualisation.

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The design of the content and the contextualisation process, therefore, should be well researched based on the audience profile, the accuracy and relevance of content, the likelihood of access through multiple devices, the collaborative environment, the community of learners, the content co creation possibilities that could be supported and the preferred presentation format of content. All of these will impact the first time learner experience, the feedback and sharing of the experience with other users and the reusability of such content. In order to target a healthy ROI from the investment for human capital development, HR managers will have to think of business goals, audience, context, content, training in that order.

The writer is CEO, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions company

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