The way people learn has evolved, thanks to technology. That fact has impacted daily life, and in his role as director of talent management at MFS Investment Management, Michael Bragg is incredibly interested in how new methods of learning can impact human resources, employee growth, and business performance.
“Probably the part (of the job) I’m most passionate about is learning,” Bragg said. “I look at that from two perspectives: From my perspective – What makes the job and the work interesting for me? – and what makes learning useful from a talent perspective for employees who work here. “I couldn’t do this if there wasn’t the opportunity to think about things this way things this way.”
Rethinking employee learning
In everyday life, people have access to information like never before, and they are taking advantage of it.
“We live in this amazing time where, short of brain surgery, you can literally teach yourself almost anything. You can spend a couple of minutes online, on YouTube, on whatever, and get access to knowledge and information,” Bragg said. “It’s all so immediate now.”
For talent management professionals, this new model of learning poses an exciting question: How can employee learning be adapted to be more appealing, engaging and impactful?
“The most interesting thing is to be able to think about how we align the way people learn in their everyday lives to that extent. Nobody even thinks about it that way, as learning, they think there’s information let me find it,” Bragg said. “That’s one of the big things that I’m practical about right now: bringing that constant learning that we do in our everyday lives to the workplace and making it the same there.
“This is just a new way of learning and it’s happening constantly.”
A practical approach to employee training
Under the old model of employee learning, employees were brought in for a seminar or meeting, lectured at and given a questionnaire to see what they retained. While companies have incorporated technology to do computer-based learning or remote training sessions to reach a larger audience, the same learning model has largely remained in place, Bragg said.
“We’re ultimately still following the presentation, taking a test, answering a few questions to see what they’ve learned,” Bragg explained.
In his role, Bragg’s goal has been to shake up the traditional learning model to provide a more valuable experience for the employee that will, in turn, provide more value to the company.
Bragg and his colleagues have halted the existing leadership training program to try a new approach. The goal of the new program is to provide employees with the knowledge they need, rather than what management thinks they should be learning. As part of the training, a simulated training experience was created to allow employees to practice new skills and implement new knowledge in simulated real-world situations.
“We introduced a new executive development program that was very much based on those components of a group coming together and hearing from experts, but it was really anchored around how do we make this an experience,” Bragg said. “You could actually try stuff and have a little bit of hands-on, and that led into a bit of translating that to actual work that benefits the firm. That’s what we’re working on now.”
As Bragg and his coworkers have shaped these new trainings, he said the focus has been as much on bringing together the right groups of people as it has been on the content.
“People have said that the big value from a lot of the training is certainly the content but more importantly the fact that they’ve built relationships with other leaders that they can leverage,” Bragg said.
The impacts of employee learning
When employee learning is well utilized, it can have big impacts for an organization, Bragg said. Great talent management can give employees the tools and the avenues they need to grow their careers within the company. It also helps deliver business outcomes to reach corporate goals.
For those who head talent management, that means using analytics and research to test the impact of employee learning so they can better shape learning to align with outcomes.
“That’s a big part of this next frontier,” Bragg said. “We’re trying to move from just collecting data to doing a better job of understanding what it’s telling us.”
In short, talent management professionals have to look at the ways they use data to learn about employee behavior, satisfaction, and training so they can better understand what learning tools their employees find valuable. When talent management embraces technology and advances in learning, they can shape the employee experience and business outcomes, as well as find better ways to learn about the tools they can use and the impacts they can have.