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Is agile learning development the answer to growing skill shortages?

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For learning and design professionals, one of the biggest challenges of creating employee training is keeping up with constant skill shortages in each industry. Technology, processes and procedures can change overnight, causing L&D to scramble to correct learning content. But agile learning development has become the norm for many companies, as they adopt the same principles that software developers have successfully used for years.
Companies face skill shortages and learning industry changes

The Deloitte 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report reveals the current state of corporate learning. Over 10,000 leaders representing 140 countries were surveyed, and it was determined:

  • The second most important trend facing organizations is improving and transforming corporate learning (up from the fifth spot in 2016);
  • 45% of executives surveyed cited the upheaval in learning and careers as urgent or very important;
  • 90% of all CEOs believe that their organizations are facing disruptive change that is primarily driven by digital tech, and 70% say they don’t have the skills to adapt well;
  • The average software engineer must upgrade his or her skills every 12 months to 18 months, and other skilled pros report similar demands.

It makes perfect sense that companies would turn to a tried-and-true way of managing development using more agile approaches.
Basics of agile learning development

Agile learning development involves a highly collaborative style of content creation and delivery that adapts to the always-changing learning needs of organizations. Instead of viewing content as one long sequence of progressive steps, each concept or module can stand alone. Also known as SCRUM, it’s become the standard of corporate learning management systems that can parse and move content where it needs to be. Using the agile methodology, this content can be quickly accessed, changed or replaced at any time.

Some advantages and challenges of agile learning development include:

  • The need for learning and design professionals to work continuously with subject matter experts;
  • Ongoing updates and changes made to learning content, which requires frequent communication and approvals;
  • Project sponsors and stakeholders must work at a steady pace on all projects to ensure learning content is sustainable;
  • Learning management systems must be robust and expandable to maintain large content directories;
  • Standards and methods of learning design must be established early in the process to ensure high-quality delivery;
  • The needs of employees must be evaluated on a regular basis, along with accessibility requirements.

Agile learning development consists of quite a few moving parts. However, in order to maintain skills that each company requires to remain competitive, organizations must accept it as part of their standard strategy. But this is just the foundation for corporate training.

Kee Meng Yeo, Amway’s VP of Enterprise Development, said in a press release, “A major industry challenge is harnessing talent development to foster an energized corporate culture focused on organizational objectives and founded on an agile approach to learning.” Yeo added, “A results-driven culture facilitates continuous performance improvement, and the technology can simplify learning content delivery in an agile environment.”
How can companies create compelling learning content that addresses skill shortages, but at the same time interests employees?

It’s one thing to create learning content using agile approaches; it’s another to make this learning interesting and relevant to employees so they will participate in their own skill development. How can this be achieved in a natural way?
Give employees what they want

Perhaps the simplest answer is to find out what employees want to learn as it applies to their jobs and deliver this to them. Conduct a survey at least once every quarter to find out, then get it on the content delivery map.
Embrace always-on technology

It can be hard for employees to find structured time to devote to learning efforts. Instead, create mini-modules of impactful learning that they can access on demand.
Make learning social

Create learning communities using available resources, such as social media. Not only has social learning been shown to provide high ROI for companies, when learners feel like they are part of an exclusive community, they find accountability and support to reach their learning goals.
Seek learner input

As long as learning is developed in an agile fashion, invite employees to make suggestions for improvement and share insight into what they’ve gotten out of this experience. They can submit ideas and feedback directly into the project management system or LMS.

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