Like air and drinking water, being digital will be noticed only by its absence, not its presence.” So said Nicholas Negroponte, the Greek American architect, founder and chairman emeritus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, and he said it almost 20 years ago, when the digital revolution was scarcely underway.

And he was right – digital is ubiquitous now. As consumers, we have embraced digital to the extent that it has become an integral part of the fabric of our society, both at work and at play. And that’s across the globe, even in the poorest countries. In Africa for example, mobile phones are more common that access to electricity.

However, there are some areas where digital lags behind, one of them being organisational learning. Sometimes that’s because of L&D and its continued emphasis on face to face learning (55% of all formal learning is still conducted face to face, according to data from the L&D research and analyst organisation Towards Maturity). Sometimes it’s because organisations are still getting to grips with digital learning. But, more often that not, it’s because learners themselves are resistant to digital learning.

Despite the fact that most people are very comfortable using digital tools outside of work to consume learning – YouTube to access DIY tutorials for example – a significant proportion of people shy away from digital learning in the workplace. They are so used to experiencing workplace learning in a certain way – such as face to face or reading reports – that this is their default perception of learning. They want more of what they already know and trust.

According to many L&D professionals, this perception is hindering the adoption of digital learning. Fear of the unknown is getting in the way. L&D needs to work on overcoming these entrenched views. It needs to showcase what digital learning offers the learner and the diversity of different tools available.

Sometimes it’s simply a matter of changing perceptions because the reality is that most people are learning digitally all the time, without realising it. Sharing insights and challenges on the collaborative tool Slack – that’s digital learning. Downloading a work-related video clip – that’s digital learning. Going online to find information and resources – that’s digital learning. A lot of us do that without even thinking about it, just as we shop online or go on Netflix.

For many of us, the leap to digital learning is actually a small one. All that is required is a change of mindset and an open mind, which is just as well because the reality is that digital learning is not a nice to have. It’s a business necessity. Change is happening all the time and no organisation or industry is immune to the forces of disruption. Research by Deloitte Insights shows that the vast majority of CEOs (90%) think digital technologies will bring about disruptive change to their organisation, with 70% saying the skills to adapt don’t exist in their workforce.

Employees have to keep learning, updating their skills and knowledge all the time, if they are to remain employable. And they know this – 67% of employees believe that they have to keep upskilling in order to stay in their career, according to another piece of Deloitte research.

What’s the quickest, simplest and often the most effective way to upskill and keep abreast of change? Digital learning. It’s up to L&D to help the unconverted learners find their feet with digital learning in the workplace.

 

Previous posts in our digital transformation series:

 ‘What exactly is digital transformation?’

‘Learning & Development’s role in transformation’

‘What does digital learning look like?’