The 2020 Workforce and the LMS Disconnect

By Jeffrey Katzman

We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jeanne Meister for Xyleme Voices. Based on insights from her book, the podcast looks at trends and predictions about what the workforce will look like in 2020. Jeanne packs a tremendous amount of valuable information into a 19 minute podcast, so it’s worth a full listen, but here is a small glimpse:

  • In 2020, there will be five generations in the workplace. 50% will be Millennials and Gen 2020 will just be entering the workforce. This means that over half an organization’s workforce will have been hyper-connected since birth.
  • By 2020, the workplace will be highly personalized and social. Social networks will be the first point of contact between companies and their future employees and internal social networks will be the primary way that workers communicate, connect and collaborate.
  • Smart phones and tablets will replace personal computers as the internet connection devices of choice. The mobile device will become an office, a classroom and a concierge.
  • Employee engagement will be a key driver in helping workers more efficiently find information and increase productivity.

However, before Jeanne’s hopeful predictions of the highly agile and fluid 2020 workforce connected by mobile social networks can come to fruition, the dependence on the enterprise LMS and the old modes of training delivery needs to be broken.

In the 90's and 0's, the LMS became the entrenched learning channel in the organization and the gateway to learning content. The content tended to be monolithic eLearning courses delivered to desktop or laptop computers. Even now, 20 years later, new LMS companies are emerging on a regular basis and entrenching themselves in the organization. They pitch themselves as the gateway to learning content, but in today’s world they feel more like a bottleneck.

Jeanne argues that in the 2020 workplace employees will want to engage and learn in the same way and with the same ease as they do outside work. That being said, I’ve never heard the process of connecting to the content in an LMS described as “easy”. And it’s highly suspect that outside work, people browse catalogs, register for content, launch systems to play that content then root through a plethora of mostly irrelevant information to find information they need in their personal lives.

Let’s take this a step further. In her podcast, Jeanne cites an IDC report that states that workers, on average, spend two hours per day trying to find relevant information to help them do their job. However, much of the effort in creating learning products has been misdirected, placing a higher value on production values rather than solving the problem of supporting learners in their moment of need.

In order to hold learners’ attention, today’s courses are dressed up with high gloss production values. But, are employees that are truly motivated to learn a new skill because they are on the hook to perform it really care about the production value of learning?  I contend it is less important that the content looks cool, than being able to quickly connect to relevant content and experts at the moment a learner needs it.  The Millennials and 2020 employees will shun the old model and place a premium on the ability to connect with most relevant content and experts, wherever they are, on the device they have at the moment and at the moment it they need it.

There will always be a need to have an LMS for certain modalities of learning, compliance being cited most often, but a lot of what is currently handled via the LMS has be decoupled from it and moved into the social mobile realm.  For Millennial and 2020 employees, smart mobile devices are appendages and social networking is second nature. It is a totally different means to collaborate and our concept of training and learning need to adapt to the rhythm of these workers.

In most organizations, the need for training happens on the job, at a moment of need. Much of what used to be rolled up into training can, and should be, relegated to Performance Support. But we’re talking Performance Support 2020 which is Mobile, Personalized and Social.

  • It is mobile in that you will be able to access the knowledge base from your mobile device where ever you are, at exactly the moment you need it.
  • It will be personalized in that the features of the device, such as GPS and barcode scanners, can help set a context for where you are and what you are doing and assist in connecting you to the content and experts you need.
  • It will be social in that you will be able to comment and rate the content and use the comments ratings of others to help you decide what content is best for you.

In the 2020 workforce, every learner is a teacher and every teacher is a learner. If you find that content doesn’t quite hit the mark or doesn’t yet exist, you will use your mobile device to create user-generated video, photos, or voice recordings. If your content is highly rated by your peers, you will be an expert on this subject, and be an accessible mentor to others.

The future does look bright, and the 2020 workforce can be quicker and more agile if we can harness the mobile social networks. We just need to pry the content out of the eLearning and free it from the LMS.