December 11, 2015

Are you managers making the most of digital learning?

Employers urgently need to rethink and modernise the digital learning available to managers. While virtually all organisations now offer management digital learning techniques and solutions, they are doing it in a half-hearted way. As a result, organisations and managers are not realising the huge potential that good quality digital learning offers and there is a real risk that L&D managers will switch off from using technology to learn new workplace skills.

So says a new Chartered Management Institute (CMI) survey of 1,184 UK managers. The report, ‘Learning to Lead: The Digital Potential’, found that 97% of UK managers spend at least one day a year on digital learning, but 37% say the learning is not aligned with organisational objectives. A further 79% say their organisation is not realising the digital learning potential of smartphones and tablet web-enabled apps.

According to the CMI, it’s a real problem that organisations need to address: “Many employees need to rethink how they go about helping their managers learn new skills,” it says. “Just dumping textbooks onto smartphones is a dumb way to upskill managers. Managers want personalized bite-size content, to share knowledge and learn from connected peer networks, to ask questions and get feedback in real time. Why? Because it’s now part of how we work and live.”

Many managers think employers are not approaching digital learning in the right way. Seven in 10 (69%) claim employers choose digital learning for cost-cutting reasons. Only two in 10 (20%) think it is used to improve the quality of teaching.

Three quarters of managers want digital learning to become much more personalized through the use of adaptive learning technologies. They say the content and approach should be tailored to the personal learning style and progression of the user. As peer learning becomes ever more important and widespread, 58% of younger managers polled in the survey would like to see better networks become part of their learning. And they want learning to be accredited, but right now, just 20% said the digital learning they have undertaken so far has been accredited.

One surprising finding of the report is that younger managers are more likely to opt for face-to-face training. The CMI suggests that rather than this being because they don’t like digital learning, it is much more likely that they simply don’t like the digital learning currently on offer at their organisation. This is a generation that is accustomed to high-quality smartphone apps, so the e-learning materials provided at work fall well short of what they experience outside of work.

Those younger managers would like to see a lot more advanced digital training approaches offered, such as gamification. Those under the age of 35 are more than twice as likely (41%) to find games and apps useful than those aged over 55 (16%).

It is not a problem that is confined to managers either. There is plenty of research that shows that organisations and L&D departments are not leveraging technology properly for the workforce as a whole. The latest CIPD learning and development survey found that while three-quarters of organisations use learning technologies, only one in four (24%) were confident or very confident in their ability to use technology to increase L&D effectiveness.

It’s an issue that L&D really needs to get to grips with, for the sake of managers, employees and the business.