Emerging learning tools are continuing to grow in popularity across Europe, but as a means of enhancing traditional classroom-based tools rather than replacing them, as the human touch remains more important in training than ever before. These were the key findings in our annual L&D survey, conducted between January and February this year, among 2,500 employees from small, medium and large companies in the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy.
Our L&D survey found that online distance learning is now used by 44 per cent of all trained employees (up from 42 per cent in last year's survey) and blended learning by 37 per cent of employees - up from 31 per cent. Examining the use of these tools by country, we found that the UK, Spain and Italy continue to lead the way in e-learning with more than half of trained employees using it. France still lags behind in both e-learning and blended learning, possibly the result of having a rather strict legislative-driven approach to training that doesn't always take into consideration learner needs.
Mobile Learning on the move
Both serious games and mobile learning have also seen a significant surge this year compared to 2010. Serious gaming has increased from 15 per cent to 24 per cent and mobile learning is up from 9 per cent to 21 per cent. Over half of those trained in Europe (59 per cent) have also used informal learning tools such as videoconferencing, wikis, blogs, forums and podcasts.
So what is driving this greater uptake of technology-led learning? The makeup of today's workforce is undergoing a seismic shift. We now have four different generations working side by side and in less than four years' time, nearly half of the workforce will be made up of the Millennials. In some companies they already constitute a majority.
Each demographic has different attitudes, preferences and expectations and it is clear to see from our survey that L&D is responding to these different needs by offering a greater choice of learning tools.
Of particular importance to the rise in emerging learning tools is the proliferation of smartphones as well as tablet computers such as the iPad. These platforms are beginning to open up the floodgates for cheaper and global access to information and learning on demand. With cost containment a key driver, L&D is seizing the opportunity to leverage these technologies to provide innovative low-cost, yet effective, learning tools.
Despite this rise in technology use, however, we must not lose sight of the human touch. Classroom training still remains the most widely used method across all countries surveyed with more than 90 per cent of trained employees experiencing it. Our survey shows that it is today's younger generation, who have grown up with technology, who are in fact amongst the keenest advocates of face-to-face learning, with the human touch being of prime importance to them.
The L&D survey also highlighted that the use of coaching has seen considerable growth, rising to 43 per cent from 35 per cent in last year's survey, with Germany seeing the biggest surge in the use of coaching.
Another interesting topic our survey covered was the differences in attitudes and expectations between trained and untrained employees. While it is encouraging that the proportion of untrained employees has fallen from last year's figure of 25 per cent to 21 per cent this year, there is a worrying increase in the difference in motivation levels between the trained and untrained.
This is highlighted by the fact that while 76 per cent of trained employees said they would be willing to train outside working hours, only 53 per cent of the untrained said they would be happy to do so, and only 38 per cent are willing to fund their own training (as opposed to 65 per cent of the trained). For the trained employees, these figures are up on last year, showing a greater level of commitment to training, but the gap is widening, with the figures for untrained employees down from last year's survey.
Also, it is worrying to see that nearly a quarter of untrained employees do not know why they have not had any training in the last three years and a staggering 89 per cent have not even asked for it! Are untrained employees feeling disenfranchised? And if so, what can we do as L&D professionals to address this imbalance? Investment in these untrained employees will undoubtedly result in a significant impact to their motivation and skills levels with a corresponding boost to productivity providing strong ROI to the company.
The future of learning
Clearly, the future of learning is evolving all the time and L&D must continually balance the needs of the changing demographic in the workplace. L&D has not stood still during the economic downturn. Instead, hard times have sparked innovation with a more widespread deployment of emerging learning tools. Traditional training is not being driven into extinction - these tools are enhancing rather than replacing traditional methods to give learners a more complete suite of tools which complement individual preferences and work practices. While L&D can celebrate some successes this year, we must take care not to leave behind any employees.