The fourth industrial revolution has completely changed the way human effort factors into the modern-day workplace. Technological changes have improved business efficiency, cut costs, and given companies a sharper competitive edge than before. But more than anything, it has defined “a golden age for modern day L&D organizations in supporting the digital workforce transformation that is increasingly widespread today”

Quite an interesting fact from the Digital Adoption Show put forward by our guest, Steven Rath Morgan, former Head of Global Learning & Talent Development at Xerox and a thought leader who uniquely envisions a new age of L&D to help make the workforce more effective and efficient.

Steven has had quite an incredible career journey, starting off as the Manager of Worldwide Training and Information Development, to later become the Director of Global Learning Innovation, and most recently served as the Head of Global Learning and Talent Development at Xerox.

In this episode of the Digital Adoption Show with Steven, we’ve discussed how he has seen L&D organizations evolving over the past few decades and how he envisions digital adoption practices in the future for corporate L&D.

Check out our Podcast to hear the story of how modern L&D is experimenting with  digital adoption and strategies to make it work!

How the Modern Day Learning Experience is Shaping Digital Workforce Transformation

Here’s a summary with the key takeaways from the podcast:

  1. Steven’s incredible journey of 20 years in corporate L&D
  2. The workings of modern-day L&D in large organizations
  3. Digital adoption experiments and success
  4. Key challenges in a rapidly transforming L&D environment
  5. Integrating ‘Learning in the flow of work’ for your employees
  6. What will the learning experience be like in 20 years from now!

Excerpts from the Podcast

Here are selected excerpts from our conversation.

What was that drive that kept you going on your L&D journey? And how has the journey been so far?

I’ve kept a major focus on innovation and leveraging technology to transform the learning and development process and practice. However, the word transformation isn’t quite right to describe what’s going on in the L&D space. It isn’t L&D revolution, either. It’s more like a relentless evolution at a rapidly accelerating pace.

So driving this ongoing evolution of Learning Experience and Performance support is what’s so interesting and inspiring about the L&D journey. Because first, we all know that working within an L&D, it’s critical to understand the needs of the business you’re supporting, to make sure that the learning experience is aligned with the evolving needs of the business, aligned to the expectations of senior business leaders, and calibrated stakeholders, but also attractive to learners in terms of bringing real value to their professional and personal lives.

It’s been really amazing to watch and participate in the accelerating technology that we’re using in the learning space. It’s really the digital transformation of  L&D itself, particularly in support of businesses that are going through digital transformations simultaneously.

“Modern L&D organizations are entering a new age for supporting the digital workforce transformation”

And I think we’re all seeing here, modern L&D organizations are entering a new age for supporting digital workforce transformation. It wasn’t all that long ago that we were transitioning from doing training, face to face in a classroom, and moving on to VHS tapes, and printed workbooks. And at the time, this was a revolution.

Then, very quickly, we started delivering learning content using web tools like Flash, to create interactive multimedia training that was delivered on CD-ROM, and which had static assessments in an online testing center. Again, all of this was revolutionary not that long ago, but completely antiquated today. So when we compare that to the cognitive elearning platforms in use today, like Amplifire that leverage brain science, to help our people learn faster and retain knowledge better, we’ve really made some amazing strides in a very short period of time. Going forward, as well progressive  L&D organizations are using virtual reality, not just like a solo video game, but where learners are collaborating in a virtual space, interacting with virtual products in a real time environment with colleagues around the world that are peering over their shoulder within that virtual environment. And then, more broadly, as an industry, we’re just getting started with the possibilities for AI, artificial intelligence, for chatbots.

And with Digital Assistants, it will once again transform and help evolve our notion of performance support, and real time access to information where we have content in context. And that’s going to forever change how we think about learning.

Everyone knows, it’s not just about what you know, it’s about knowing how to gain access to the insights you need, and then have the new skills to apply that information at point of need. So to fuel all of this, we have to also talk about learning analytics in a corporate L&D space.

We’re really getting to the point where you can start to truly integrate learning with work, because we’re rapidly expanding our foundation for these data driven decisions that drive business outcomes. This is what is inspiring, to stop and ponder, what is the learning experience going to be like 20 years from now?

How will our concept of knowledge skills and abilities evolve when each of us in the workforce has a digital assistant chatting away in our ear, and while we’re looking through the lens of an augmented reality?

We also need to talk about the challenges and the mistakes that we learn from. What were the top 3 challenges that you faced and resolved in your career so far?

Let’s talk about people, process and technology in this context of a digital learning, transformation and adoption, and those opportunities associated with each of them.

First, in terms of the people, at the end of the day, it is really all about the learners, and whether L&D is really supporting their needs. That said, however, there’s still going to be learners and stakeholders who have preconceived notions about where and how learning should take place.

A lot of L&D orgs often have stakeholders who believe that whatever the business problem is, the best answer is to pull people together into a physical classroom. Certainly, there are times when that is the case, but there are also times when it’s not the best approach to round people up in a classroom. In the end, people have their preferences for whatever approach to learning is most familiar to them. And we have to face it, there’s been hundreds, arguably thousands of years of reinforcement about the learning process occurring face to face occurring in a classroom. So it becomes all about driving an agenda for adoption and change management when introducing these new learning technologies, and associated technology driven processes.

Second, let’s talk about the learning process.

How do people learn?

What learning and knowledge sharing processes should L&D actually be responsible for? Traditionally, it’s been formal programs. But increasingly, that’s alongside informal learning.

“The learning process is evolving. Learners are active fact checkers and part of a global asynchronous dialogue, rather than just remaining passive consumers of learning content.”

Today, we are using video-based knowledge sharing platforms, where anyone can upload their own content to share on a global enterprise scale. This is just one example where the learning process is evolving, where  the learners are becoming active fact checkers and part of this global asynchronous dialogue, rather than just passive consumers of learning content.

The third is technology .

The challenge here is keeping pace. Aligning the expectations about tools that people have in place in their personal lives, and then aligning that to what’s available at work. It’s a constant chase for L&D, but also it feels like somehow the gap is closing in the digital divide and in digital transformation. In short you have to have an L&D strategy for alignment around the people, the process, and technology. Keeping these as a constant focus and working through all of these types of challenges.


 What were your experiments with transforming the traditional L&D practices and your ideas on Digital Adoption practices that work ?


Let’s use an example. Imagine a learning offering, where you typically have people travel in to a physical classroom, and a computer lab environment for software and technical solution training. This is where learners would sit around a PC to learn software, and how to use it to control the large electromechanical device and the controller there.

Then you have an instructor who guides each person through their exercises, and then the learners can interact with each other to ask questions back and forth.

To transform this type of learning experience, my team over at Xerox built a Virtual Hands-on lab environment. The idea here is building a remote lab for learning about software that’s very hands on regardless of where you sit, it’s a way to move away from the classroom by using a VMware based hybrid cloud environment, where learners login remotely to access this software, and to tunnel in through the firewall to these device controllers. But then there is an instructor who has six different monitors to watch all the different learners completing their exercises, interacting with them interacting with each other. It’s a fantastic way to learn remotely. Initially people are nervous about this. So, we’ve had to have people try it out. And it turns out, people love it, in part because it has so much flexibility.

So, while it’s great to be able to complete your learning activities, wearing your fuzzy slippers from home, it’s offer the ability to go back and review and practice in a live environment, when you need it, at point of need. It’s another way to integrate learning with work versus pulling people out of work, sending them off to a classroom for a specific duration of time, then putting them back in the field. This is more agile in terms of supporting the ongoing needs of the learners of the workforce.

“The online learning experience is fundamentally changing. It’s increasingly about engagement and relevant, timely learning.”

In our conversation prior to the Podcast, you had mentioned a few specific interest areas. I’d love your thoughts and ideas on them

1. Integrating Learning In The Workflow Of Employees

Integrating learning with work is key. I think we’re establishing here and we know that the online learning experience is fundamentally changing. It’s increasingly about engagement and relevant, and timely learning. With most elearning, especially in the days of 20, 30, 40 minute learning modules, it’s very hard to keep people focussed. Some have been reacting to this by creating more microlearning based content, where learning occurs at the point of need, when people are trying to answer a question or solve a business problem.

Whatfix can embed contextual help and provide a personalized experience. It’s really changing how we think about learning at point of need, and integrating learning with work

They’re locating information and then applying the content that they need in the context of the real work. This is critical. This is an ongoing change. And one example of trying to make the transition for integrating learning into the flow of work that employees are doing. And this is an example where, tools like Whatfix can then embed contextual help and provide that personalized experience. It’s really changing how we think about learning a point of need, and integrating learning with work.

2. Enabling Employees For User Generated Content (UGC) To Make It Self-Serving

The idea here is that for fostering the creation of user generated content, L&D should be responsible for building the scaffolding, building that framework that allows peer to peer knowledge sharing, providing the tools and the process, and then turning the content generation over to your learners.

So, putting in something like a video-based platform for user generated content to provide that knowledge sharing capability, you can create a dialogue.

In past experience, we’ve done work to share that information on a global scale, and allow people to take a leadership role in their own professional development, and share that with their colleagues and others.

This is the kind of work that L&D should be doing to help support digital adoption and transformation. It’s not just about the content coming from L&D. It’s about L&D enabling that to occur naturally and organically through the workforce. This isn’t a creative and new idea, it’s just that we’re continuing to evolve that capability through the new technologies that we’re implementing.

What is the one book or blog that you would recommend to all the listeners

There’s a great book I’ve been reading called The Art of Possibility, which is all about transforming professional and personal life. It’s by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander. It’s a very inspiring book.

You are an influencer and I am sure there are many influencers that you are inspired by as well. Who would be on the top of the list?

Professionals like Josh Bersin have very obvious influence on the learning space. He’s always on the pulse of things, so I follow him very closely. Also, many people know Elliot Masie, who really likes to mix it up. I’ve always had an appreciation for Elliot’s ability to ask good questions, and tease out really good insights from learning thought leaders. In the practice of learning, I’ve had a lot of respect for Kimo Kippen.

Kimo is the former chief learning officer for Hilton, and has since founded Aloha Learning Advisors. And finally, I can’t miss this opportunity to highlight two key influencers for me, former managers that I’ve reported to over the years, who have had such impact – John Leutner and Joann Halle. These are two wonderful learning leaders, I’m always going to have on speed dial.

What is that one word or phrase that comes to your mind about – Digital Transformation and Adoption?

How about – Deliciously painful!

This is an exciting time for L&D, and I’m really looking forward to what the next twenty years is going to look like.  Let me know what you think. Find me on LinkedIn – Steven Rath Morgan.

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