The People Matters L&D Conference (#PMLnD), which concluded on 23d October, was the perfect amalgamation of L&D leaders and leading service providers, thought leadership and friendship (of rekindling some old ones and making a few new), of meeting and of greeting. There was nothing to not love about it, especially its sheer energy!

I was fortunate to be a part of this mammoth event that saw over 700 L&D professionals across India and overseas descend upon Grand Hyatt, Mumbai to spend a day soaking knowledge through high-fives and high-teas. While hosting and chatting with all delegates about their training requirements and challenges at our booth G5 was enriching, it was the Fireside Chat that I was a part of along with Ishan Gupta, MD – Udacity, India, Chandana G C, Lead HR Technology – IDFC Bank, and Dr. Selvan Dorairaj, VP L&D – Capgemini, India that gave me ample opportunities to broaden my thinking on the topic ‘Culture of Learning at Scale’. It is this topic, in particular, I want to reflect upon and share some of my learnings – in light of some nuggets of wisdom shared by learning leaders (à la Kimo Kippen, Former CLO, Hilton).

Understanding the Gig Economy

Gig Economy is no longer a fanciful term or a buzzword. It’s the reality of the corporate world today and will be a part of our workplaces sooner than we know! This economy comprising part timers, short timers, freelancers and the flexible/ mobile/distributed workers are everywhere and being embedded into the very fabric of our businesses at all levels and grades. As per Wikipedia, India is the second largest country with freelancers after the US with over 15 million people working independently (some media reports claim that India could have well up to 20 million freelancers!). In India, while start-ups were the early adopters, multinational companies, consulting firms and large enterprises are now embracing the concept at break-neck speed. And this story is not secluded to India alone. It’s a tune that’s catching on across the globe! Which is why it’s critical than ever before to begin a dialogue of ‘continuous learning’ and ‘culture-building’ of the same.

The Learning Culture Vulture

(Learning) culture means different things to different people. Whether it’s believed to be a collection of organizational conventions, values, practices and processes or the way a group of people within an organization tend to learn and pass on information, at the essence, it’s based on 3 key foundations of Knowledge, Competency and Performance, and interconnections between these. It’s a shift from approaching training as a “task” to administer to making it an “experience” to cultivate, from being a means to an end to a mechanism for employee fulfillment and organizational success. It’s a shift in the mindset – of learners, enablers, L&D leaders alike.

So how can this diverse set of people on both (sometimes more than two too!) sides of the table work toward building a shared culture that encourages and rewards learning? This is where learn-tech comes to the rescue.

Role of Technology in building (and sustaining) a Learning Culture in the Gig Economy

The first thing to understand is that just focusing on competence building will not cut it in the Gig Economy, simply because the Competence will go away with the learner (when s/he leaves the company). It’s the knowledge that needs to remain and reside in the organization. Which is why it’s important to integrate Knowledge, Competency and Performance. And technology will play a key role here by enabling the creation of an ecosystem to do this. Below are some ways:

    • Invest in Pull Learning

In the Gig Economy, learning leaders will need to cultivate, inculcate and preserve the culture of seeking learning (Pull learning vs. Push learning). Why? Because the gig workers may find it difficult to adhere to fixed learning schedules and may look for more flexibility in terms of device compatibility, time preference, amongst other factors.

Tech to the rescue: Tech can enable this via anytime/anywhere and any mode/device. The benefit of Mobile LMSs (especially ones that enable No-Internet access, like UpsideMOVE) in such scenarios is that it not only gives the workforce the required device flexibility but also provides the necessary ‘just-in-time’ performance support. Check out 4 Reasons why Performance Support and mLearning are a great duo.

    • Encourage Collaboration

In addition to easy information access, enabling an interactive network of the learners, coaches, mentors, experts, peers and learning leaders is a critical piece to making the learning culture cohesive and seamless.

Tech to the rescue: Learning Management Systems with Social Learning and Knowledge Collaboration tools can be utilized to create an informal setting wherein all in-office and out-of-office employees can network, share, collaborate, and exchange ideas and knowledge, and solve problems. Such setting also helps in pulling-down the boundaries created by designations, roles, and hierarchical training programs and provides a level playing ground for all.

To create stickiness and keep learners hooked-on, learning has to be personalized greatly. One-size-fits-all needs to be done away with and curated learner-specific learning needs to take the center stage.

Tech to the rescue: Technology in the form of Deep Learning, Adaptive Learning, Big Data, AI etc. can tailor the learning experience as per the learning preferences and the specific interests of different learners. It can also adapt to the individual pace of learning and can consistently offer more complex tasks to accelerate learning.

    • Embed Learning within Work

Learning can no longer be an isolated activity pre-defined by a time or place parameter. It needs to be a part of the employee’s work. The gig economy makes it critical for L&D to identify people’s rhythms, routines and interactions so that learning opportunities are created to fit into “their” social system and work stream.

Tech to the rescue: A very good example of tech enabling this is xAPI, which helps in recording learning in every activity outside of the “formal” learning too.

    • Make Communication happen. Openly!

In an organization where a significant part of workforce is not physically present (in the same space), communication (or the lack of it!) can emerge as one of the barriers to creating an all-encompassing learning culture.

Tech to the rescue: Tools for collaboration catering to different time zones/cultures/work groups works wonders in building an open, two-way communication whether your team is distributed across several offices or works from home.

    • Reflect on Reflections!

Learning works best when every learner is encouraged to reflect (on his/ her successes and failures alike) regularly.

Tech to the rescue: Tech tools in the form of a Blog/ Discussion Forum can make it simple and time-efficient for learners to reflect upon their work; by documenting their experiences/ learnings/ best practices. More importantly, these tools make it easy for others to learn from other’s reflection as well.

In an output-driven and an agile environment, competitiveness is a great motivator for all employees to learn continuously.

Tech to the rescue: Embedding Gamification in the learning systems would be a great idea to put this idea into practice.

In conclusion, bringing people together, creating open channels of communication and enabling quick, easy access to learning and other learners is how the culture of learning can thrive in the Gig Economy.

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