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Out of the classroom and into the business: embracing digital to futureproof learning and development

Pam Bateson, chief executive and founder of Thrive Partners, shares her vision of bringing digital with insight to the tired world of workplace learning by turning coaching and mentoring upside down

In recent years, corporate learning and development (L&D) functions have been besieged by challenges on all fronts. Increasingly, they’re struggling to justify training courses that people don’t have the time or inclination to attend, which deliver little benefit to the business. And while executive coaching is now commonplace, it’s slow moving, stodgy and expensive, with some top advisers coming with a premier league price tag of £10,000 for a 90-minute session.

It’s all got a little bit stuck.

There are two primary factors that should be keeping your L&D teams awake at night, which need touching on only briefly. Firstly, younger workers have new expectations for learning at work. Adept at searching for any knowledge that they need online, they want something different. To be more useful than half an hour of googling, L&D interventions must give them confidence that they’re making the right decision, in the context of their day-to-day work. What’s more, the all-pervasive on-demand mindset of many younger workers is as present at work as it is in other aspects of their lives. If learning doesn’t happen fast, it’s not useful.

Meanwhile, workplace automation provides the second big challenge. With machines doing more of the mundane work, skills that were once considered “soft”, such as collaborating, hiring, or thinking creatively, are becoming increasingly sought after. These skills are harder to nurture and need cultivating over time, with opportunities to try things out, fail and try again. In this context, academic learning doesn’t work. And top talent will no longer be the best technical practitioners, but the people most able to learn, adapt and respond to the new challenges of an automated workplace.

Digitisation of society underpins both of these shifts, but we believe that where digital disrupts, it also has a central role in rebuilding.

We recognised this potential when we set up Thrive Partners in 2015 and saw that an online, on-demand coaching and mentoring service would help L&D teams to fill the growing gap left where established interventions are failing.

Businesses with access to our desktop and app-based service can draw down facetime with our friendly, experienced network of business experts whenever they need it through our Skype-style app. Sessions are generally available within an hour on topics ranging from conflict resolution to presentation skills, in diary-friendly 30-minute chunks. It means the learning happens wherever and whenever it’s most needed, which in turn get better results. So far, 100 per cent of our community have put what they’ve learnt into practice within a month.

We put the learner back in control, enabling them to take the tailored support they need as and when they need it

But the benefits don’t end there. Digital also means there’s a new paradigm for the efficiency and effectiveness of corporate L&D. Through our platform, we’re seeing clients manage coaching and mentoring conversations with unprecedented ease.

What’s more, they’re getting data back about who’s used the learning, when and how it’s changed their perceptions of their employer. These analytics give the businesses we work with genuine insights about barriers to change, in real time, so decisions can be taken faster about the things that need to move or change to facilitate both individual and collective growth and progression.

However, we shouldn’t get preoccupied with digital. For us, it’s a way of making work more straightforward and more productive, and a way of futureproofing essential corporate functions.  Like many other digital businesses, the key to our success is that we’ve returned to a place that really puts people first. Where traditional L&D prioritises the teacher, we put the learner back in control, enabling them to take the tailored support they need as and when they need it.

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