The Future of Organizational Learning

Organizations today are faced with overwhelming, rapid change, which can impact every aspect of business. Along with this, there are up to four generations of people working side-by-side, making today’s organizations more diverse. In order to survive in the current business atmosphere organizations must be more innovative regarding workforce learning. In 2015, the Association for Talent Development (ATD) and the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) released a report on how organizations are equipped for the future of learning. Among the 405 learning professionals surveyed, 59 percent agreed that learning in the near future would take place in ways that cannot be imagined today. Slightly more than one-third of respondents (38%) believed their current organizational learning functions would be ready to meet learners’ needs by 2020, and approximately the same proportion (37%) reported their organizations were making any preparations for changes to be faced. Replacing the learning practices of the Machine Age with models reflective of the 21st Century is an important initiative for the future of organizational learning. Efficient use of time and money for learning is essential with the pace of technological change, smaller staffs, and decreased budgets. This leads many to wonder what can be done? The older models of workforce education relied upon redundancy, which modern organizational learning seeks to exclude. Today, teams expect to be educated in specific tasks and skills that are required to demonstrate competency in what teams are actually expected to do. As Patty Woolcock, the executive director of California Strategic HR Partnership (CSHRP) says, “The future of learning is three ‘justs’: just enough, just-in-time, and just for me.” Effective learning modalities for the modern era include:
  • Blended approaches that meld limited classroom experiences enhanced by online learning
  • Experiential learning in the form of simulations
  • Microlearning (learning consumed in bursts).
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” –Alvin Toffler
Learning in today’s work environment is continuous due to the increased data flow and changes affecting the workplace. Staying on top of required skills and knowledge is all about learning, unlearning, and relearning. By integrating performance support tools in the workplace, organizations can support the “learn, unlearn, and relearn process” in addition to using webinars, and attending conferences and professional organization presentations.[1] This shift in how to maintain an educated professional workforce requires more flexibility on the part of the organization as well as staff. Recently, a group of human resource executives gathered at several workshops sponsored by the Agile Talent Collaborative. The attendees were asked about the composition of the workforce in 5 to 10 years. “In their judgment, full-time permanent employees will account for only 50% of their staff.“[2] This translates into using more part-time, project-based freelancers to support full-time internal staff. Educating the new worker who is not a permanent employee will also bring further changes to how organizations educate the workforce.
“To survive, to avert what we have termed future shock, the individual must become infinitely more adaptable and capable than ever before. We must search out totally new ways to anchor ourselves…It is no longer resources that limit decisions; it is the decision that makes the resources.” – Alvin Toffler, Future Shock
Is your organization prepared for the challenges brought on by data availability, technology, and the diverse workforce? If you are wondering how to proceed, here are a few recommendations to help face these challenges:
  • Explore Mobile – Mobile has changed the way organizations work, interact, and collaborate. In order to compete in this new world, leveraging mobile for performance improvement and learning can “improve adoption, expand global reach, and engage users better.”[3]
  • Understand Social-Even though the use of social media is mainstream at this point, most organizations “lack the knowledge and insight around how to use these tools.” [3] A good use of social media is to produce micro-blogs to educate workers and drive business outcomes.
  • Consider Adaptive Learning-Adaptive learning is an educational method, which uses computers as interactive teaching devices to orchestrate the allocation of human and mediated resources according to the unique needs of each learner. Computers adapt the presentation of educational material to an individual student based on the student’s responses to questions, tasks, and experiences. The technology encompasses aspects derived from various fields of study including computer science, education, psychology, and brain science.[4] Learners learn at their own pace according to their own learning needs.
  • Align Learning with Business Objectives-When organizations align learning strategy with business objectives, revenue improves.
  • Measure Effectiveness-In the past, learning functions were separate from business functions. Often the metrics used to measure learning were not tied into the metrics for business success. Learning strategy should drive business outcomes. Metrics must be identified in advance to determine the correlation between business outcomes and learning.[5]
As competition increases and budgets are more constrained, organizations must rethink how to educate their workforce in order to remain competitive. Nearly two decades into the 21st century every organization must review and determine how to reshape their learning strategy for the workforce of the future. How long has it been since you reviewed your workforce learning strategy? [1] Why Continued Organizational Learning is Critical to Your Performance and Culture, [2] How Learning and Development are Becoming More Agile, [3] Training Magazine, [4] [5] Training Magazine,


CATMEDIA is an award-winning Inc. 500 company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1997, the company specializes in advertising, creative services, media production, program management, training, and human resource management. As a Women Owned Small Business (WOSB), CATMEDIA provides world-class customer service and innovative solutions to government and commercial clients. Current CATMEDIA clients include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

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About Kay Wood

Kay Wood is an instructional designer at CATMEDIA as well as an Instructional Manager. She has a Masters of Education in Instructional Design and Development. She has spoken at numerous conferences on effective elearning, blended learning and the use of social media in training and performance improvement.

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