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The Future Of Learning


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As we increasingly find ourselves working with Gen Y,
it’s easy to make lots of assumptions about how they
like to learn. What we wanted to do with this project
is create conversations with a representative sample
from this group to help us gain more insight into their
relationship with learning and their expectations of it in
an organisational context. Soon, they will make up over
half the working population so they are very much a
part of the landscape for the future of learning.
It’s important we listen to them and plan accordingly.
This report is the result of those conversations.

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The Future Of Learning

  2. 2. WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF LEARNING?In 2012, consultants from Blue Phoenix Intrigued by this, “The Future of Learning”and thetrainingstudio collaborated to host research groups were designed to get newa number of research groups looking into and honest information from the frontthe learning habits and aspirations of line – the Gen Y learners themselves.Generation Y. Delegates were gathered from a broadBetween them, they work with some of the spectrum of industries and volunteeredbiggest organisations in the UK and Europe, their time to get involved. Whilst the identitiesproviding training & consultancy advice of the delegates remain confidential,on a range of business and people issues. the topics discussed, and their honestIncreasingly in the past few years, clients and frank responses, are recordedare talking more about the challenges that in this report.Generation Y bring to the work place.David Liversage and Liz Jones discuss their objectives for the project below: DAVID LIVERSAGE LIZ JONES Blue Phoenix thetrainingstudio“As we increasingly find ourselves working with Gen Y, “thetrainingstudio was founded in 2010 specificallyit’s easy to make lots of assumptions about how they to help businesses attract, develop & retain theirlike to learn. What we wanted to do with this project Generation Y talent, so I jumped at the chanceis create conversations with a representative sample to be involved in this research. The majority offrom this group to help us gain more insight into their available research paints Gen Y in a negative lightrelationship with learning and their expectations of it in (lazy, unwilling to make long term commitments toan organisational context. Soon, they will make up over employers, etc.) and I was keen to use this projecthalf the working population so they are very much a to gather some new data, direct from the Gen Y-erspart of the landscape for the future of learning. themselves. The result has been some thoroughlyIt’s important we listen to them and plan accordingly. interesting insights that, if heeded, will make aThis report is the result of those conversations. real impact in the organisations that listen.”Enjoy reading and please let us know what you think.” 1
  3. 3. WHAT WE DID...We gathered qualitative feedback from clients about the issues they were seeing emerging withGeneration Y and their relationship with learning. We also studied recent reports frominstitutions like Ashridge Business School, the CIPD and the CMI, as well as reading thelatest books from leaders in this field (see Bibliography at the end of the report).We then gathered a collection of Gen Y delegates to discuss and debate to try to get to thebottom of one simple question: what is the future of learning? WHO ARE GEN Y?Within the next six years, over half of the working population will be made up of Generation Y.Born between 1980 and the early 1990’s, this generation are (in the most part) children of theBaby Boomers. Their size dwarfs that of Generation X (born 1965 – 80) and the significance oftheir ‘coming of age’ cannot be ignored by businesses. Often labelled as lazy, unwilling to make commitments to employers and wanting the top job on day one, this generation is already making an impact on organisations both big and small. They are the first truly ‘global’ generation, who will most likely never retire and are instantly connected to millions of people through the rapid rise in social media and online networking. Whilst the implications of this generation’s work ethic, global mobility and approach to work is far reaching, this project was designed to look specifically at the impact they are having (or want to have) on the L&D function within the organisations in which they work/want to work in the future. So what sort of an impact does this generation have? And what do they want to get from the organisations in which they work? 2
  4. 4. OUTCOME CATEGORIESWe have split the outcomes into five chapters to help navigate the research: 21 3 all about all about broad themes accountability about content W ways to learn H W for learning OW H H O AT 4 5 the importance of ideal time frames W W the learning & flexible learning environment H H EN ER E This symbol indicates a question that was posed to the group for stimulus 3
  5. 5. 1. WHO What if all learning was done individually and the responsibility for it was with each individual? What do you think about tailored vs off-the-shelf L&D Programmes? How often (if ever) are you asked for your opinion on training that you get? Do other people hinder/help your development (e.g. other delegates in sessions)?The delegates discussed the programmes Camaraderie is important. Delegates likedoffered to them by the L&D function going to training sessions where they workedof their organisations. All agreed that with different members of the organisationprogrammes should be regularly reviewed and got a chance to network (internally) as(taking into consideration feedback well as learn.received) to ensure that training on offerwas relevant, of value and up to date(in terms of learning objectives).None of the delegates involved in the studyhad ever been asked about what, or how,they wanted to learn within theircurrent organisation.There was some frustration around the use offeedback – mainly around the lack of changeseen after feedback is collected. There was agreement that being in sessions with managers/senior figures hindered the learning experience and that FOR EXAMPLE they felt they were being “judged” rather than encouraged to explore/develop. I put that I don’t like PPT learning on a feedback form – The delegates were asked if they would be that was six months prepared to write a business case for their ago and I am still learning – the majority said that they would be asked to go to willing to put together a case for new learning sessions using PPT. options, if (a big ‘if’) they knew that the company would take the process seriously. 4
  6. 6. { Speakers (internal or external) need to be personable, energetic & ‘know their stuff’. How important is the facilitator to the success of the session, and why? It was unanimous that the use of external speakers/’experts’ was exciting and these sessions were always well attended.They also like to hear from internalpeople who have had success withinthe organisation (i.e. business role models),but that it was important to them that It was agreed that it was good whenthese schemes are taken seriously by the facilitators know a bit about the delegates,organisation (e.g. delegates given enough the culture and the business before a sessiontime to go, and the speaker given enough time to help them make it feel bespoke. Credit wasto prepare something interesting). given to L&D teams who strive to achieve this. KEY LEARNINGSGen Y want to be treated as individuals It is tough for L&D teams – trying to juggle(which contrasts to their often noted ‘pack’ a varied training programme with thementality in the workplace). In terms of increasing flow of young talent in and out oflearning, L&D professionals should always their organisations. As the migration of talentkeep the user journey/experience in mind continues, it will be the teams who are able(understandably a challenge when budgets to be flexible, put outcomes over expenseare stretched). and see all learning as important, that will win the favour of the Gen Y population in their organisations. “In many organisations there is a disconnect between what learners want and what the company needs them to learn. In a time-poor society, every session counts and both businesses & the individual learners must be satisfied. Trust on both sides is important – trust that Gen Y talent are worth listening to and do know what’s useful for them to learn, and trust that the L&D programme is being designed with them in mind. In more cases than not, it is clear communication around training that is key to programme success.” 5
  7. 7. 2. HOW { Just because we are Gen Y doesn’t mean everything has to be done on a computer. What if all learning was done via technology? A strong and unanimous view was that if all learning was computer based they’d “hate it”. It would be too impersonal and “wouldn’t allow you to actually absorb and engage in a deeper understanding”.One participant told us a story about a recent They weren’t keen on the idea of takinge-learning experience: “I went through the work/learning home. We asked them if theyquestions but didn’t learn anything” he said. would consider using social media, such asHe was more concerned about passing the Facebook, as a pre/post session platform forquiz at the end than actually learning and so discussions, and there was a unanimous “No”found ways to ‘cheat’ the system - learning to when it came to using Facebook.pass rather than learning to develop.Technology is important but it needs to beused effectively. For example, YouTube clipsas stimulus, websites as a visual aid or usingiPads for interactive voting were seen as goodideas. An online library of resources wasseen as a good use of technology or using apost-session app (e.g. ‘10 things to rememberwhen you are doing a PDR’). They were, however, happy to use professional sites, such as LinkedIn, forA blended approach was by far the most discussions and forums on work-relateddesired, such as using actors in role plays, topics. Only one delegate had been to agroup discussion, coaching, interesting and session that involved Twitter and everyonerelevant tasks and on the job learning, all agreed that they would be interested in usingsupported and enhanced by online forums this medium more (both during and leading& technology. up to/after sessions). { Facebook is for me outside of work – I don’t want to mix the two. 6
  8. 8. The use of hypothetical learning scenarios Flexibility is key to Gen Y. If something iswas an area for debate. A couple of people compulsory they needed to understand whyliked the opportunity to practice before being – the WIIFM (‘what’s in it for me’) factor.let go on ‘real’ projects, whereas the majority They would like to have choice in selectingfelt that university was their chance to modules according to their specific needs.practice and they were frustrated by not beingallowed to work on ‘real’ projects now that An important theme that arose throughout thethey were in work. They strongly felt that they discussion was around the “communicationwanted training that is grown up, engaging of learning”; a real need/desire to beand useful - not patronising or too gimmicky. informed about what’s on offer and what the sessions are about. KEY LEARNINGSA clear message to anyone planning training Just because this generation are very techprogrammes for young talent – savvy, it doesn’t mean that they want to losedon’t automatically think that digital is the the human interaction that they valueanswer. The most well received programmes so highly. Gen Y want to be treated likeare those that blend in the new technologies grown-ups. Where possible, allow them to getwith the more traditional training stuck into real world projects and learn fromtechniques used in colleagues, rather than incubating them onface-to-face sessions. hypothetical projects that makes them feel NEW TECH like “we’re still at Uni”. AL ITION TRAD TECH “We know the value people put on face-time with colleagues; giving them the opportunity to share views and knowledge. Using technology to help with this as a means to an end rather than the end itself is key. Avoiding falling into the trap of doing everything online with the latest gadgetry is important; think about the role of support materials and talk to people about what they might want to use. How about a ‘top ten tips app’ for an iPhone or access to an e-library for learning? It will vary by culture and project so think about the relevance and how they might use what you are offering them.” “I am regularly asked by clients to add a ‘Social’ element in to my workshops to engage the young people. I steer them away from Facebook as so many of my Gen Y contacts tell me they want to keep things separate. I’m a big fan of Twitter and think organisations should be using it much more to promote training and to get people talking about good sessions/ interesting content/further reading etc. Clients with their own internal intranet also need to really think about how best to use this platform, both for efficiency & engagement. These are both highly under-utilised forums for communication.” 7
  9. 9. 3. WHAT { One size fits all doesn’t work with Gen Y - we can tell if the L&D programme is the same year in, year out. What will an annual training programme look like for Gen Y in the future? What is your favourite type of learning? What would you do if you could control your own L&D budget?Gen Y do share some views but the delegates I don’t just want towere keen to point out that they don’t allthink the same and want to be thought of as get better skills forindividuals (like any other defined groups). my current job - IWith time and pace being such a challenge, want to gain skillsthey really need to understand the benefit ofwhat they will learn and how it can help them for my future careerin their jobs. With this in mind, we didn’t – whether that’s withattempt to analyse desired content at a micro my current employerlevel but instead we probed into broader areasto seek any common or interesting themes. or not.100% agreed that the most attractive types One thing that seemed to be absent is clarityof training were those that gave them skills around career vision and direction. It was feltthey could see as useful in their long-term having open forums with senior managerscareers, as opposed to skills that just made would help with this (giving insights into theirthem better at their current job. career, etc). Mentoring and coaching from direct line managers is important too. Would you like to receive rewards/qualifications in return for your training? When talking about qualifications, they agreed that they wanted to receive recognition for the training they attended, but internal qualifications were thought of as ‘gimmicky’ – they’d rather have an industry recognised or external qualification. 8
  10. 10. If you were given £5,000 to spend on your own development, what would you spend it on? 15% 10% Something I wouldn’t If global company, would go abroad normally do, even if it & learn from counterparts there means no promotion 5% 30% Job Secondment 20% Something that would help in the future - Multi-skill courses, not just with e.g. data systems & today’s job, e.g. presentations skills further studies Things you don’t get taught and get 20% thrown into, e.g. how to be a managerAll delegates said in the first instance they would spend the money on something that would beuseful throughout life (e.g. a Masters degree). They all liked the idea of having more controlover how training budgets were spent on their behalf. Responses included, using the moneyto travel to other offices within the company to see how they do things, completing an MA, andhaving more ‘off-site’ sessions in ‘cool’ locations.There was a discussion around the challenges One theme they all agreed on was thatfaced by L&D teams regarding people signing there had been a significant decline recentlyup for sessions and then not attending. in the time/effort spent on team building andTwo comments were noted: maintaining effective working teams. They’d like to see more emphasis placed on1. Managers should be told in advance team building, more reward/recognition forwhich courses their team are attending so high performing teams and on-going trainingthat they can plan their time accordingly programmes designed to keep teams working well together.2. If someone cancels, they should have tofind someone to take their place and it should Collaborative learning experiences werebe noted in a record somewhere seen as essential – working with people from different parts of the business on real projects where there is a clear benefit. All delegates were interested in the idea of internal job-swapping/apprenticeships with senior managers and secondments. 9
  11. 11. KEY LEARNINGSWhen deciding what does and doesn’t get The most interesting trend was a desire forincluded in annual training programmes, ‘life learning’ (transferable skills) ratherL&D professionals face a huge challenge to than just ‘job learning’. Engagement levelsplease everyone involved. The Gen Y delegates on programmes giving a skill for life werewere really keen to be more involved in the much higher than on those that are onlyplanning of training programmes, giving them beneficial in the short-term. The cost ofan opportunity to ensure that what they are training gave rise to some very interestinglearning is relevant and useful to their role discussions – with very few delegates having(and beyond). any idea at all the financial commitment that their organisations are making to their development through training. “Training Needs Analysis can be limiting. People tend to ask for what they think is on offer (usual suspects like presentation skills) and often have a blind spot to what could be made available to them, e.g. career coaching, professional qualifications, etc. We recommend a bottom-up and top-down approach in defining real learning needs. Managers need to talk more with individuals, find out where the skills gaps are and what support they need to develop behaviour, skills and attitudes to enable them to be more motivated and become high performers. As Gen Y make up a large group with specific needs to address, how about setting up your own Gen Y consultative panel?” 10
  12. 12. LOCAT 4. WHERE I ON LOCAT ION TION LOCA Often when a training notification comes around, I check where it is. If it is in a certain room, I instantly say no, without even looking at what the session is about. The room is just horrible. What if learning was taken out of the traditional environment? When it came to the ‘where training was run’, everyone agreed that training offsite was more inspiring, engaging and motivating than onsite. One delegate stated, “When I’m training offsite, I’m instantly in the zone”.Offsite venues don’t need to be expensive or It helps if the learning environment reflectsglamorous – just a light space somewhere what the session is about (e.g. how aboutdifferent brings a different energy to the presentation training in a TV studio?).session; even just going to the park for a If sessions are run onsite, it was felt thatsession seemed to get their interest. more effort could be put into using stimuliOnsite sessions are invariably prone to create the right learning distractions e.g. checking emails at break As someone put it, “we’ve spent too muchtimes, often don’t start on time, and are time in uni lecture theatres so we need theeasy for “managers to drag me away from”. work learning environment to be different”. KEY LEARNINGSThe learning environment is very often overlooked by organisations – sweating the smallthings like refreshments, lighting, temperature etc., can make a real impact on the successof a session. The high speed/high pressure nature of today’s office environment make ita real challenge for learners to ‘switch off and zone in’ if sessions are held onsite.Inspirational, relevant training spaces don’t have to cost a lot – why not challengethe learners themselves to think of some low-cost ‘cool’ venues? “Environment is such an important ingredient in making workshops successful. The brain needs stimulation and inspiration – you don’t need to spend a fortune but try and be creative when you plan sessions. Ideally, to get participants’ attention and focus – offsite locations are much more effective than onsite. If there is no budget for this, consider internal options and think about what you can do to create a better learning environment.” 11
  13. 13. 5. WHEN { { I want my manager to know when I am due to be away from my desk for training – that way they can manage my workload and plan for me not being around. How do you rate the volume of training within your organisation? What’s your view on the duration of training sessions and when they take place?The general consensus was that one-day, Time of day is important to get right – 100%or two half-days, per quarter felt about agreed that they prefer morning sessions,right and that most of this should be as that’s when they are most awake (!).self-nominated. An important element for Gen Y is to knowHalf-day blocks were very popular, as they that the company takes training seriously –don’t mean too much time out of the office. and one way to do that is not to move trainingTime is key so any short cuts or bite-sized (e.g. if something more ‘important’ turns up).learning is essential, though they realise thatsome topics need longer time dedicated The delegates wanted their learningto them. to be viewed as importantly as their client work/day job – and having dedicatedIn terms of prep work, the majority seemed ‘learning times’ could be the answer.happy to do some short prep work before asession (e.g. listening to a podcast on the wayin to work) providing it was engagingand brief. If the learning was to make the jobeasier or quicker, they would welcome it. 12
  14. 14. { I’d leave an organisation if the training was rubbish. I want to be working for a company that takes training and development seriously.A theme that ran throughout thediscussions was that of the relevance “Reed College at that time offered perhapsof training. Delegates knew there were the best calligraphy instruction in the country.core skills that they needed, but also Throughout the campus, every poster, everywanted L&D teams to be able to provide a label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out [of Reedflexible programme that allowed them to pick after the first six months] and didn’t have to takeup other skills throughout the year (“I was put the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphyon a new team with a new remit, looked at the class to learn how to do this. I learned about seriftraining schedule and saw that I’d have to wait and san serif typefaces, about varying the amountover six months for the session I needed”). of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle inAllowing talent to enhance skills that a way that science can’t capture, and I found itaren’t seen as currently business critical fascinating.sparked interesting discussions.Interestingly, our pre-group research None of this had even a hope of any practicalhad uncovered the following story application in my life. But ten years later, whenfrom Steve Jobs: we were designing the first Mac computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.”The Gen Y talent in organisations are looking to the programme designers/L&D team to beable to look at the bigger picture and develop them in multiple areas (not just the obvious) tohelp unleash their potential. 13
  15. 15. KEY LEARNINGSThe timeliness of training needs to be L&D teams should be encouraged to look attaken seriously by an organisation (from the new and innovative ways to deliver training,top down). Managers need to know what for example, set a target that at least 25% oftraining their Gen Y talent are meant to the next annual spend on training will be onattend, when they should be attending it and developing/exploring ‘non-traditional’ skillwhat objectives there are for the session. sets.Not only will this mean that young talent areencouraged to attend sessions, but that theirmanagers should be able to challenge themto use their new skills back in everyday life. “Short, bite-sized sessions are a great way to keep Gen Y engaged. I do a number of ‘boomerang’ courses, which are two two-hour sessions with three or four weeks in between sessions, allowing delegates to learn something, test it in reality, and then reflect with their learning group at the second session. Any time dedicated to training is great – just make sure that the whole organisation is aligned on the importance of training, so that it’s not just seen to be a ‘nice to have’, but an essential business, and people, development tool. 14
  16. 16. BARRIERS TO LEARNINGWe asked the participants two questions:1. What would stop you going to a 2. What are the main things that attract training session? you to learning? MAIN BARRIERS AND ATTRACTIONS • Locality/Environment • Good communication of • People attending what’s on offer (i.e. don’t like training • Having ‘training for me’ – with my manager) recognising individuality • Overly long & intense • Having ownership • Overly formal structure • Job relevant training • No relevant learning outcomes • Training for career – training • Lack of authority on topic for life not just current role (inexperienced trainers who • Having influence in a proper lifecycle were unfamiliar with their to influence direction training working environment) takes (pre/train/feedback/ • Compulsory vs personal choice train/feedback) • Course content • Training being valued by the organisation and having • Not contributing to their work ‘permission to go’ • Gimmicky titles • Learning as a shared experience • Uninspiring • Branded learning (e.g. if a programme • Lack of understanding has a logo/folder it shows more regarding WIIFM care than just old handouts stapled together) • Practical learning that can be applied • Inspiration – speakers/trainers • Bite-sized 15
  17. 17. SO WHAT CAN YOU DO?Gen Y share some common traits, demands and preferences but they are all individuals.Like any other demographic, the important thing is on-going dialogue and gettingan understanding of their specific needs.Whilst we don’t suggest that every desire can be catered for, there are some things you cando to ensure that the Gen Y talent in your organisations feel that they have a voice and that,most importantly, training is valued in your organisation. Create learner profiles Bridge the gap between What can your leadership when people join – what different groups of team do to create a is their natural learning learners e.g. what can culture of learning that profile and what’s your Gen Y learn from allows people to flourish important to individuals? your Gen X talent and & demonstrates the value Add this as part of the visa versa? that your organisation induction process. places on it? Create a coaching & Provide opportunities for Create learning mentoring culture to help people to work together programmes that with career direction. on projects from different empower the individual At a minimum, ensure line areas of the organisation. to create their own managers meet with those They’ll learn from each other development plan (in they manage solely to talk & it’ll break down barriers, consultation with line about training needs. leading to more effective managers). working teams. Keep end user journey Look at everything with a Talk to us! Both of in mind when planning Gen Y eye – are you being our organisations programmes – of course gimmicky? Are you using are passionate about finances, business objectives technology for the sake of it? learning, and about young etc. are important, but always If possible, set up an internal talent – so do get in touch return to the same question – Gen Y panel to sense check if you’d like to explore any what will the learners get out everything (from course name of these findings further. of this training? to branding and content). 16
  18. 18. CONTACT US DAVID LIVERSAGE LIZ JONES Founder Founder Blue Phoenix thetrainingstudioE: E: lizj@thetrainingstudio.netM: 07968 720303 M: 07769 www.thetrainingstudio.netDavid is the Founder of Blue Phoenix People, Liz is the founder and lead consultant ata company offering cutting edge people thetrainingstudio, a training and consultancy companydevelopment solutions. Our goal is to ‘Breathe Life specialising in the engagement and development ofinto Work’ which is reflected in our engaging, practical Generation Y in the work place.and down-to-earth approach. We are collaborativeand flexible and work with you as a learning partner thetrainingstudio works in many different industriesto develop solutions that are right for your business. helping organisations attract, develop and retainWe draw on our network of over 20 expert associates their young talent. From training graduates how toto deliver according to your needs, whether it be be professional, to consulting HR teams on their‘How To Deliver The Winning Pitch’, developing a recruitment strategies, thetrainingstudio works withculture of learning within your organisation, companies to engage talent at all levels and produceor a programme of management essentials. effective cross-generational teams.Whatever the project, we focus on leaving a lastingimpact that represents value to the organisation andhelps your people and business to thrive. 17
  19. 19. FURTHER READINGIf you are interested in reading more about Gen Y, here are some of the resources that we usedas stimulus for The Future of Learning research groups: Generation Y: Inside Out (an Ashridge Business School white paper) Great Expectations (an Ashridge Business School & the Institute of Leadership & Management report) Not Everyone Gets a Trophy (Bruce Tulgan) ) Socialnomics (Eric Qualman The World According to Y (Rebecca Huntley) Born Digital (John Palfrey & Urs Gasser) The ‘New’ Rules of Engagement (Michael McQueen) The Shift: The Future of work is already here (Lynda Gratton)The content of this report remains the property of Blue Phoenix & thetrainingstudioand should not be reproduced in any format without prior consent by a representative fromeither company. 18