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Meeting the Challenges of a 24/7 Globalized Learning Culture

Bob Little 

February 16, 2018

In the first of two blogs, I’ll be exploring the challenges faced by L&D professionals, and their learners, in a 24/7 globalized learning culture.

One of technology’s achievements has been to facilitate business globalization.

While this allows businesses to offer their goods and services to more customers than ever, it also encourages them to expand their operations. They can establish new outlets in different countries and continents, for example, or outsource functions, such as call centers, to partners around the world.

It used to be that only the largest and most expansionist organizations would contemplate “going global.” But today’s technology opens up worldwide opportunities for even relatively small businesses.

As a result, more and more L&D professionals are faced with developing and leading a learning culture in an ethnically diverse corporate environment, against a background of 24/7 business operations and constant customer demands.

No one (not even a superhuman L&D professional!) can be everywhere at once, so there must be other, cost-efficient, ways to meet the needs of a globalized, multicultural, 24/7 workforce. Here are five suggestions:

1. Cater for Preferences and Variables

People in different locations and from different cultures will likely have very different opportunities to learn. Also, they will have different learning preferences, delivery mechanisms, and potential language barriers, among many other things. You need to consider all these variables when developing a learning strategy.

As Kim Edwards, talent and leadership development manager at Getty Images, says, “We employ people around the world, so while we present a globally consistent onboarding message, we also build in local variables to these programs, notably to cater for cultural variations.”

2. Respect Learners’ Lives

Businesses can operate globally, 24/7, but their people cannot. The human body is a complex machine, but it has performance limits which should be respected.

Think about what you’re asking your learners to do. Consider their work patterns, rest schedules, workplace conditions, and cultural or family obligations.

Whoever they are and wherever they are in the world, your people shouldn’t be expected to “just make the time” to undertake learning.

3. Get Help with Delivery and Administration

Technology helped to bring about globalization, and technology can help you to deliver learning effectively. You can make learning materials available online, and accessible from a range of devices, 24/7, for example. Also, you can use a learning management system (LMS) to manage and monitor the global process.

Using an LMS to manage and deliver a comprehensive learning project across a global organization can reap real rewards. For example, when Align Technology, a medical device company based in the U.S., but with operations worldwide, needed to roll out a diploma program to its European staff, it set up an LMS to do so.

It was a major project involving 45 courses available in English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish. Rob MacDonald, Align’s clinical sales trainer, said, “Our 450 or so employees throughout the U.K., France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Eastern Europe, and the Nordic countries now have access to these up-to-date, interactive, online learning materials.

“They can access the learning materials via any delivery device – from a mobile phone to a desktop computer – and their results are seamlessly uploaded to the company’s main LMS for recording and analysis.” MacDonald added that since moving these materials online, the company found that 100 percent of its learners were accessing the material, and course pass rates had soared.

4. Invest in the Skills That You Need

Another key part of developing a corporate learning culture that fits a global organization is for L&D professionals to change their approach to learning delivery, and to make the necessary changes to their own skills.

Traditional L&D professionals’ skills – such as knowing things, and knowing how to tell these things to others in the most effective way – are giving way to new curation skills.

You should be asking, “Who’s going to want learning materials, what do they want, why do they want it, and when? And what experience are we offering?”

This involves considering which platforms and infrastructures are most effective and efficient at delivering the most appropriate learning materials.

L&D professionals must also determine how to create “experts,” and then decide how best to scale those experts’ knowledge.

As I wrote previously, James Mitchell, vice president of global talent management at Rackspace Cloud University in Texas, U.S., said, “For L&D professionals, the key isn’t delivering learning. It’s about curating learning and allowing learners to access the materials they need. The key to success for L&D professionals is resources, not courses.”

5. Build a Seamless Continuous Learning Structure

Running a successful 24/7 business requires a commitment to developing a continuous operations culture. So, for example, the organization runs in the same way on a Sunday night as it does on a Thursday afternoon. The same should be true for running a successful 24/7 learning operation.

This is challenging, but learning support must be equally available for all shifts around the globe, around the clock – because people could be learning, and in need of support, at any time of the day or night. Effective L&D today requires building a unified, globalized approach, where standards and policies are uniformly applied at all hours, on every day of the week.

This should help to retain and develop a skilled and flexible workforce, with individuals who can keep learning wherever they are in the world, and whenever they need to.

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