Tap into technology to motivate more workplace learning

Andrew Barnes

Technology is pervasive. Whether we’re checking our phones, or getting our updates from TV news, we’re constantly connected. It’s incredible to think that even radio is a relatively recent technology, having become mainstream in just the last 100 years!


This lust for technology can be used to motivate more workplace learning but you have to be careful. Meaningless tech gimmicks quickly fizzle, and bad implementation of technology in learning can be truly off-putting

Unfortunately, the history of people trying to leverage technology to educate has often fallen into one of these extremes. Compliance training was transformed from workplace stand-up meetings to checklist-driven death-by-PowerPoint sessions. Gamification was meant to motivate legions of staff, but in many cases superficial ‘badges’ were found to be patronising by the very people they were designed to engage.

Using technology in the right way

It doesn’t need to be all doom and gloom. We just need to think through the detail of the implementation and understand the reasons behind any use of technology.

One of the major opportunities is fairly obvious: our mobile devices now allow us to engage on the go. But we should pause and think what is going to work best for the medium.

I’ve often seen mobile learning feature un-optimised SCORM files or videos with captions that are nearly impossible to read. When people are engaging via a mobile device, the content, experience and purpose of the training must be designed with mobile in mind.

For instance, it’s particularly suited to bite-sized, on-demand training. Allowing people to quickly look up material or engage with short snippets is much more likely to be effective.

It’s also possible to make mobile learning location aware, intelligently surfacing site inductions or training for specific locations based on where the user is.

Making learning part of routine

Another opportunity for tech-driven workplace learning is to take the “work” out of it. I have a personal mantra that you shouldn’t need to learn how to learn. There are great ways technology can make learning anybody’s habit.

Developing a chatbot for your staff is a great way to deliver learning and training options into your internal communication tools (it can work on Slack, HipChat and Skype). Staff can ask the chatbot to look up certain information or to find guides or courses on specific topics.

(There’s a learning chatbot Walmart wishes it’s staff hadn’t heard of: read our article.)

Making learning content easy to access is beneficial, but making this happen in a communication and collaboration tool is even better. Most of the skills and information we acquire at work comes from informal learning, and chat systems are fantastic tools that mirror this style.

As systems understand more about the capabilities of each staff member, learning can be delivered at the right level to help plug gaps and extend skills. This is already a common feature for many education apps geared towards the school market, and I don’t think it will be long before it’s common in workplace training.

Personalised learning, chatbots and mobile-optimized bite-sized-learning may all sound futuristic, but the reality of what works in education is largely the same with and without technology. Understanding that is the key to making learning tech truly engaging.

This article was originally published by HR Magazine

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