The Digital Transformation of Learning & Development

by Brandon Carson


Brandon_CarsonOver the last two decades, digital technology has firmly integrated itself into the workplace and fundamentally altered traditional work methods. The digital business transformation has brought about a massive shift encompassing business activities, processes, and competencies affecting every aspect of how we connect, communicate, and get work done. The pace at which the business integrates digital technology now formulates its competitive advantage; leveraging digital technologies to drive productivity, efficiency, and innovation has become the number one business imperative. To compete more effectively in the digital world, companies are determining how to innovate digitally from three perspectives: culture, talent, and technology. Driving and supporting new capabilities in each of these areas is where the modern learning organization can excel, but to do this, the learning organization needs to transform itself.




To what extent does the digital business transformation affect company culture? First, technological etiquette is critical. How we communicate digitally and interact with intelligent machines, robots, and other humans is just beginning to unfold. The speed at which we are integrating new work methods is causing new and interesting challenges in the workplace. One of the biggest will be unlearning old practices and processes as the workplace becomes more automated. One thing is certain: from now on workers at all levels will interact with technology to get their job done. Everyone is now a knowledge worker.


Second, as workers formulate new methods around the digital ecosystem, they need more autonomy, are required to deal with more complexity, and need to harness more creativity to get the work done. Culture plays a critical role in fostering these methods, and the learning organization has a unique role in helping to bring the culture alive. By delivering learning experiences that encourage people to interact with each other, to understand what the overall business objectives are, and to ensure that everyone understands the value of their contribution, the learning organization can encourage community and foster a deeper connection to company values.


Key in this shift is to remember the fundamentals. Until recently, a VCR was considered the latest educational technology — as overhead projectors, film projectors, audio- tape, and even chalk boards before that. New technologies constantly replace older technologies. The learning organization should capitalize on new technologies to advance learning, but should never compromise the core values on which the organization operates. Any learning strategy, regardless of its methods, should always support and advance the company culture. Your challenge is to identify the new technologies that help solve problems and/or meet challenges while preserving the company’s values. Since technology is constantly evolving, the range of options is also constantly evolving. Culture, though, is constant. You must integrate technology appropriately to support the culture, yet not let technology cannibalize the culture.





The heart of the digital business transformation extends beyond platforms, intelligent machines, and connected devices to focus squarely on talent. For your organization to be competitive, every level of talent must be digitally literate. To support the business appropriately, the learning organization needs a wholesale inventory of its capabilities in two key areas:

  1. Balance established capabilities with new, innovative skills. It’s time to rethink every aspect of the learning organization’s operation, including learning leadership Leaders are at the forefront of driving new capabilities, and they need to have the skills to provide digital mentoring and guidance to their teams.
  2. Foster deeper collaboration and critical thinking through environmental design. To thrive in these times, it’s important to re-think the work environment. Embrace a holistic look at the workplace: the office configuration, desks, lighting… all the physical aspects of the place in which the work gets done. Consider how to build stronger connections between people physically and virtually to drive deeper collaboration. By investing only in new technology tools and not in the environment in which people use the tools, you miss an opportunity to maximize the overall impact of technology-driven work models.




Information-technology investments continue to increase, as business leaders seek competitive advantage based upon the realization that digitization of the business is more and more a contributing factor. Employees want business systems that provide ease of access to information, real-time collaboration, and multi-device access. The rapid rise of the cloud has altered the traditional corporate IT model. The cloud has been the single largest disruptor in how content is distributed since the rise of the Internet; it represents the most significant migration in the history of the IT industry.


The tools workers use in five years will be drastically different from the ones they’re using today. This can also be said for your learning team. Collaboration and communication tools are now the standard for both physical and virtual work teams. As everything moves to the cloud, digital collaboration drives efficiency and productivity. The basic thrust is to build workflow linkages: connect people to people, devices to devices, and machines to machines, and all of them to each other.


Finally, the learning organization must add expertise in traditionally non-learning domains, such as engineering, analytics, systems integration, design thinking, and user experience. For established learning organizations, balancing the demands of the digital workplace with the process of designing and delivering training means strengthening core competencies and fostering new capabilities.


What sets the digitally literate modern learning organization apart? Successfully navigating the shift to digital is one of the most significant challenges facing learning leaders today. Many see digital technologies providing increased efficiency, productivity, and more innovation and creativity. The digital transformation is fundamentally affecting how we should be designing, developing, and delivering learning experiences. Much of what has happened over the past few years is a precursor to what will happen over the next thirty. Learning leaders have a unique imperative to support the emerging digital workforce with the capabilities it needs to execute on the business demands.


Are you and your team ready?



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