While work travel sometimes takes me away from my family, I relish the hours on a plane where I can read, write, and reflect uninterrupted. While many frequent travelers will grumble that wifi on flights can be spotty and unreliable, I purposely save documents, articles, and reports on my desktop to work on – I like to disconnect and focus my thoughts. On a recent cross country flight (noticing a theme here), I had the chance to read Accenture’s case study, Delivering High-Touch Learning with High Tech Tools, ATD’s Learners of the Future: Taking Action Today to Prevent Tomorrow’s Talent Crisis and an article in the Atlantic, Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? Perhaps it was kismet or perhaps it was my interest in the various topics, but the themes and major points of the articles all connected and gave me plenty of food for thought.
It comes as no surprise that all three articles pointed to the fact that technology has had, and continues to have, an incredible impact on learning, living, and socializing. I will admit two of the articles (the Atlantic and ATD’s) scared me as a parent – and as an employer – in that they point to dramatic shifts in young adult’s social behavior and learning styles. It seems we are not quite prepared for this shift as the “iGen” generation grow and become young adults entering the workforce. The case study ATD cited statistics such as less than 40% of employers are preparing for the changes in how employees learn and only 38% say their company’s learning functions are ready for 2020. The Atlantic article spoke to the lack of engagement and interest in defining life experiences such as getting your driver’s license (what???) and dating by the iGen generation. These factors, coupled with the large span of generations currently in – and those entering – the workforce, give me pause as a Learning & Development professional.
Fortunately, the Accenture article gave me hope. “Tech and touch are the yin and yang of the company’s learning and talent development strategy. We bring technology in purposefully, and then we take it out. Because technology enhances for all of the reasons we know, but we want to have this connectedness,” explains Rahul Varma, Accenture’s Chief Learning Officer. Accenture embraces the use of technology in their talent development process; however, as they say, “to serve human interaction, not to strangle it.” Perhaps it is my Generation X nature coupled with the fact that I work for a company that embraces this concept internally with our staff as well as how we approach the professional development we do for our clients, a balance between human interaction and technology is crucial.
Learning looks drastically different than it did ten years ago, even five years ago and it will look even more different five years from now, thus, the question organizations need to be asking themselves is ‘Are your learning and development functions ready to meet the needs of your learners in the future?’ and equally as important to this Generation Xer, ‘How are you using technology to serve human interaction to create a prepared workforce?’ At MCI, we are working with our clients to continuously assess their member’s professional development needs, ensuring efficiencies along the way and looking ahead to see what types of generational and technological changes are a bit further down the road.