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Learn, Unlearn and Relearn: hottest digital learning trend 2021

Ray Brown asserts the biggest learning trend of 2021 is set to be embedding the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn.

HR Grapevine claims that, “Learning is becoming the adaptability accelerator.” Ray Brown from KnowledgePoint gives his view on what is the biggest learning trend in 2021. And what the past maybe able to tell us about the future.

The trend

I don’t think we need to elaborate too much on the fact that that the last year has changed the world of work irreversibly. What I do want to address however is a shift that is starting to happen in the workplace where people will become much more technologically enabled, more technologically supported, and even technologically replaced.

For this to happen those folks are going to have to become more technologically savvy; the generations that are leaving school and university now have grown up with technology – they have an innate intuition for using and making the most of technology. But for older generations there needs to be a willingness to learn and adapt quickly to the new technology we will encounter in 2021 and beyond.

This brings me to the graph below, that shows technology adoption rates. My first year in secondary school was also the first that computer studies were taught in the UK (which just shows how long ago that was!) As you can see the adoption of technology has increased at an exponential pace, and will continue to do so; just in 2020 we saw tools like Zoom going from an unknown piece of software to an era-defining platform. This rate of adoption seems set to continue to increase so we, as employers and directors, must be ready to adopt and adapt, and importantly be willing to take our businesses and our colleagues with us on the journey.

Adoption of Technology USA

The rising speed of technology adoption

My point here is that 2020 simply accelerated the adoption of technology in the workplace. Although (if pushed) we all believed that home working would become the norm, it was generally felt that we were at least 10 years away from this. 2020 forced an increase in the adoption of technology as lockdown measures caused many businesses to change their position (and in some cases their culture) almost overnight.

As a result, many businesses leapt towards remote working and adopted video calling and online workspaces almost overnight. Learning and training (as an industry) was significantly affected by this shift from meeting room to predominantly online platforms, but adoption isn’t enough, the mindset is needed to not only adopt but also to adapt. Learn, unlearn, and relearn will come to define the mindset of learning in this new age of technology.

The Growth Mindset; the learning trend

In my view the critical thing to remember is that technology is really just an enabler. Technology will allow businesses to increase efficiency and even increase consistency, but the key to utilising technology when we consider the workforce of the future is adaptability; which brings us back to the growth mindset.

A growth mindset is one that is inquisitive and willing to learn, unlearn and relearn. As children we are curious – we are inquisitive about the environment around us; over time this is somehow lost and we find it ever harder to learn new skills. Of course, everyone’s experience of 2020 has been different, but I believe that in some ways it has disrupted all of our routines and changed all of our lives.

Since lockdown I have observed the return of curiosity; after months inside people are engaging with new hobbies, activities, sports or just enjoying time outside. This comes from a willingness for positive change in individual’s lives; after a time of hardship people want new experiences. As a result individuals are learning new skills and adapting to the many and continual changes in the world. I may be an optimist but I do believe the desire to learn is returning.

Whilst this curiosity may not always start out as work-related, I am convinced that this mindset is able to transfer. If an individual is curious and open to views, they will do so across every circumstance, and it is our duty as employers to foster that curiosity within our company culture.

Some things that I believe are critical:

  1. The key to encouraging and supporting a curious mindset comes in two parts: firstly; what’s in it for the business, and secondly; what’s in it for the individual?
  2. A benefits and rewards focused approach does not necessarily need to be financially based – but understanding those “benefits” and “rewards” (whether it’s satisfaction, performance, confidence or progression) will engage individuals in the rationale behind the learning, helping them to focus on the positives for them as individuals.
  3. Fostering this “culture of curiosity” will enable the mindset to become much more adaptable and agile
  4. So, it stands to reason that the technology is secondary to the culture, as it is the culture which encourages the curiosity, which in turn produces the results, not the technology, which is simply an enabler
  5. Once a growth mindset is embedded within a business culture it’s imperative to support it – if you neglect it, the culture of curiosity within your team will fade and die

Unfortunately, many businesses find that simply buying and adopting technology is easier and faster than the culture change that’s needed to support this shift in mindset, which is why it’s important to get senior buy-in.  Clearly changing the culture and mindset of a business is a complex and lengthy task, but one that is fundamental to change – and some might argue, success! It’s also worth observing that this last year has shown us that swift change can be achieved.

Businesses with a growth mindset culture will be the successful business in the future because of their people!!

To the future

So, my view is that technology isn’t the answer; of course, it is a big part of the picture, but the fundamental element is the growth mindset, which is enabled by a curious culture, and in turn this is driven by a business that understands the value of its people.

There is a wholesale shift in the learning industry away from training (showing people how to do something) and towards learning (enabling people to understand what, why and how to do something). There is also a shift away from input-based learning towards outcome-based learning. Asking the question, what is it we want to achieve?

By viewing learning in this way, it allows success to genuinely be quantified. What did the individual set out to learn; are they better equipped as a result? If not, why not and what do we need to do to enable this? By viewing learning in this way, it allows the learners to go on a journey, which by the way is highly unlikely to be straight line!

I am also convinced that there will be a seismic shift towards learning being driven by insights from data analytics – effectively helping us to understand what works and what doesn’t work, what adds value to the bottom line and what doesn’t? These insights will help us understand what training we’re doing for what purpose; and in doing so that will help us shift towards the things that increase service capability or increased sales or increase efficiency or reduce errors. We will have a deeper understanding how to do these things because we’ll be outcome focused.  So, learning has already gone a big journey, but it’s got an even bigger one to go on.

The learning trend for 2021 will be to have a growth mindset, to be inquisitive and curious to everything that is front of you. In this way we can grow as individuals and of course as businesses. But my belief is that this trend will not only apply to this year but for the future of work. Implementing a growth mindset will take time and resources but will surely provide businesses with an invaluable result.

Ray Brown, Sales and Marketing Director at KnowledgePoint

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