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Adaptive learning organisations, an ace up L&Ds’ sleeve

Adaptive learning, key to L&Ds success?

Dear L&D professionals, we admire your work. 

Working in the learning industry has brought us closer to the work of learning & development specialists and we think it’s a tough journey, constantly exposed to changes, always calling for adaptation, persistently facing challenges.

From constantly working with employees across the company to support their development to designing training programs that overcome certain skill gaps and fostering a learning culture within the organization, we define your work as an activity that requires permanent attention to the ever changing business environment, as Josh Bersin stated in his research report called Adaptive Learning Organization

The current pandemic is obvious in its disruptiveness and impact on learning, however change is always occurring, whether it’s an economic recession, technology upheaval, or climate change, the ability to adapt is now a key requirement for businesses and the learning function.

adaptive learning
adaptive learning

What's adaptive learning?

Whether we’re talking about the Covid-19 pandemic or about any other change, of any nature, that might impact the learning environment, you must be able to respond quickly and effectively. And what means do you have to do this? One of the answers is adopting adaptive learning, which is “any training design that tailors a learning experience to the understanding, skills, and interests of each individual” (source).

This is an effective way to respond to change, to stay ahead and maintain a competitive advantage, to avoid the stress of creating ineffective learning programs, by making sure every employee received the training he or she needs and so on. If you need any more reasons, there are many research reports that focus on the advantages of such an approach, and Josh Bersin states some of them: 

Highly adaptive companies are 53% more likely to have experienced growth during the last year, they have 14% higher reported career opportunities, their senior leaders are rated 15% higher by their employees, and their overall Glassdoor ratings are 13% higher.

Now that we’ve introduced the concept and stated some of its benefits, let’s see how you can turn a company into an Adaptive Learning Organization and what steps must be taken to become an organization that has “the capability to sense market changes and flex learning structures, operating models, planning, and resources to serve the learning needs of the business quickly, efficiently, and effectively” (source). 

The adaptive learning organization model

There are three main actions driving adaptive learning that foster a dynamic and efficient learning environment: sensing, deciding and evolving. In other words, you first need to forecast future needs, based on internal and external factors, next you have to make decisions based on the data you previously collected, and last you need to evolve, fostering innovation and testing new practices and technologies.

adaptive learning 2

Sensing involves the ability to collect and draw insights from a variety of sources to come up with a broad perspective, at both an internal and external level. Fortunately for you and the learning departments, data gathering has evolved, being no longer a manual activity, but rather an automated process, as Josh Bersin states: 

Real time data flows are now available from the LMS, LXP, LRS, HRMS, Financial, Sales, and Operations platforms, to name a few, to build a picture of how learning can, and does, create value for the business and enhance the performance of learners.

This step of the adaptive learning is followed by the process of decision making, which means that you have to make decisions quickly and effectively, being aware that the plan you set up now, based on the data you have, can change anytime and you need to be prepared for this.

This covid-19 pandemic, for example, showed us that the Adaptive Learning Organizations were more prepared to the drastic changes imposed by the new context, whereas non-adaptive companies, reluctant to change, faced extreme challenges, hard to overcome with their usual approach. 

The evolution step is centered around continuously seeking innovation and testing new methods, practices and tools, and in order to do this, “ALOs build highly efficient, agile, and scalable operating models that anticipate and enable shifts in priorities and learning needs” (source). 

To sum it up, it’s your hard and challenging work, as learning and development specialists to lead change within your organization, to implement approaches and methodologies that keeps it going when non-adaptive companies stay still, unable to respond to changes. 

Some (final) thoughts

“When done right, learning and development not only supports the company, but deeply supports the human”, Massella Dukuly said, who’s a coach, facilitator, and strategist for LifeLabs Learning. Your work, as L&D specialists, matters and it impacts everyone in the organization.

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