Look beyond the traditional to enable learning with technology

Posted by Elizabeth Barisick, Dani Johnson, and Jason Magill on June 5, 2018.

Look beyond the traditional to enable learning with technology
Understanding the learning technology marketplace can be daunting. The ever-changing landscape of new vendors, new solutions, and new problems that organizations are looking to technology to help solve can be difficult to keep up with. Until now, many of the organizations we talk to use technology to help them make old practices more efficient (think e-learning instead of instructor-led). Some also use it to make the learner experience more engaging. But some of the most high-performing companies are going even further and thinking about the role of technology in learning completely differently.

Here are four ways some organizations are using technology differently for learning.

1 – Using technology to incorporate learning into the work itself.

One of the main themes to emerge from Bersin™, Deloitte Consulting LLP learning organization research is that work and learning are converging.1 As organizations make quicker pivots to react to the marketplace, they have less time to pull employees out of the workplace to do traditional types of learning. Instead, they are looking for development opportunities that are inherent in the work itself, and more often than not, this development is enabled with technology.

Higher-performing companies tend to think about technology as “always on” and are using it to continuously enable development. For example, these organizations implement technologies that facilitate immediate access to information when and where it is needed, enabling better decisions more quickly.

Additionally, more traditional types of experiential learning, such as job rotations, apprenticeships, and even mentoring, are being augmented by technology at a higher rate in higher-performing organizations.

2 – Technology augments development opportunities intrinsic in the work.
Some companies are integrating development into work itself or the systems that are already being used to complete work.2 For example, some manufacturing companies are using augmented reality to offer point-of-need training while employees are on the plant floor. Others are using artificial intelligence and bots to give employees information when they need it.

Even more advanced organizations are combining “learning” technologies with more traditional business technologies to do radically new things. For example, we have seen solutions that leverage calendar and email data to personalize information and learning that individuals receive.

3 – Technology helps organizations anticipate needs.
Technology offers organizations an abundance of data to understand how the company is performing and, ultimately, make better decisions. According to the Bersin research, 3higher-performing organizations monitor a variety of sources of data. For example, these organizations may monitor feedback from customers, managers, and employees themselves on a more frequent basis. These organizations were also more likely to use sensing mechanisms, such as passive data collection (e.g., metadata or “digital exhaust” associated with tasks), to monitor employee performance and identify learning gaps.

4 – Technology can help us adapt to the changing nature of work.

Embracing technology that supports employees’ ability to gain skills that align with the needs of the business can help both individuals and organizations adapt, and survive, in the face of a changing marketplace. Many companies have embraced learning experience platforms and career development portals to do just that. These platforms can allow individuals to assess their current skills, see how these align with positions throughout the organization (and, in some cases, the industry beyond their organization for that role), and connect them with learning opportunities to help them gain the skills or experiences to keep learning and, ultimately, progress in their careers.

Getting started
There are a number of steps, big and small, that you can take to start thinking differently about the role of learning technology within your organization and ultimately navigate and operate in an ever-evolving digital world by optimizing learning technologies.

Do a self-audit.
This involves looking at not just the current learning and HR technologies that you have or are planning to implement, but other technologies that are not explicitly “purposed for development” where information is being accessed and shared. Beyond technologies it involves examining your organization’s capabilities around complementary disciplines like employee experience and informal learning that will help guide your optimization of learning technology.

Prioritize and act.
High-performing organizations consistently demonstrate a willingness to experiment with technology to enable their employees.4 It is important to plot out a road map of the technology-related initiatives that will help your organization achieve its learning vision, and then start taking steps to get there. This requires a certain degree of agility—both for adding new technologies and launching new ways of using existing technology. Much like a “test screening” for a new film, often this is achieved through targeted “pilots”—typically for populations with emerging or the most fluid development needs.

Stay vigilant.

Work and the technologies that enable it are evolving rapidly and will continue to do so. Even organizations with a mature set of integrated learning technologies should continuously examine opportunities to streamline work and learning with technology. This requires creating a governance model and decision framework for learning technology and tapping into a broader culture of innovation within your organization (or nurturing it within learning!).

Elizabeth Barisick is a former senior research analyst at Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Dani Johnson is a former vice president of learning and career research at Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Jason Magill is a senior manager in the Human Capital practice of Deloitte Consulting LLP and leads the Learning Technology practice.


1 High-Impact Learning Organization: Maturity Model and Top Findings, Deloitte Consulting LLP / Dani Johnson, 2017.

2 http://blog.bersin.com/prediction-5-the-integration-between-work-and-learning-will-need-to-be-seamless/

3 High-Impact Learning Organization: Maturity Model and Top Findings, Deloitte Consulting LLP / Dani Johnson, 2017.

4 Ibid.

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