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Learning in 2020: personalised, customised and on the work floor


24 March 2020

Of the almost thirty subsidiaries of Conclusion, there are two which are exclusively active on the cusp between technology and Learning & Development (L&D). Eefje Albers (director of Bright Alley) and Celine van Hulst (director of Conclusion Learning Centers) explain how they support their customers’ employees and their own colleagues when taking over and managing individual training needs. “We focus on ensuring that the learning methods match what happens on the work floor as much as possible.”

“The future of organisations is changing quicker and more significantly than ever. Carrying on doing things how you used to do them just isn’t good enough. As curious experts, we help to identify the limits of the new way of working and translate these into concrete (learning) interventions on the work floor.”

The text on Bright Alley’s website clearly sets out the core business of this Conclusion subsidiary: enabling organisations to perform better by ensuring employees are capable of taking on the challenges of tomorrow. In so doing, the organisation uses a mix of (technological) tools which it has developed in-house, such as didactic apps with micro-learnings, gamification and serious games, e-learning solutions, learning environments, and virtual and augmented reality solutions. 

“Our team includes 40 experts in didactics, design, user experience and learning technology who collectively focus on a specific learning demand or behavioural issue”, says Eefje Albers. “In this context, we focus on several areas of expertise, including Compliance and Information Security. We are also regularly asked to carry out tasks in relation to the topic of Onboarding, i.e. effectively introducing employees to the workplace, including knowledge about a specific way of working. We are constantly developing learning solutions which cover the entire Employee Journey.”

Bright Alley works closely with Conclusion Learning Centers, which particularly focuses on developing solutions that give the employee greater authority with respect to where, when and how they gain this new expertise and these new skills. As an example, Celine van Hulst talks about her own learning-management system Class, which has been implemented by the national government at various ministries, as well as at several municipalities. “This type of Learning Management System provides for all of the learning needs within an organisation, from complete training to learning tools (online or otherwise), classic courses and so on. We take care of everything for the customer while the employee is offered a range that is customised to his personal needs.”

Taking on the role of a hacker
The development of employees within Conclusion, an NPM Capital portfolio company, is very important. This is clearly demonstrated by ‘The Connection’, a programme focusing on the development of talent within the Conclusion ecosystem, in which employees from various subsidiaries take part each year. Van Hulst: “Colleagues develop a business plan in teams which generates new initiatives and new business. A bit like the Dragons’ Den format. It allows for synergy between the various subsidiaries to be taken to a higher level.” 

Both Albers and Van Hulst have no doubts about the quickest and most effective learning method: on the work floor. “Within Conclusion, learning on the job is the standard approach”, says Albers. “There are mentor programmes for new employees but even experienced developers learn new things every day by accumulating expertise through work, for example through online instruction videos. In terms of our customers, we focus on ensuring that the learning methods match what happens on the work floor as much as possible. We not only concentrate on what employees have to be able to do right now, but also on what they should be able to do effectively over time. That is the starting point from which we develop all our solutions.”

As an example, Albers mentions a Bright Alley VR game which was developed by the company for a Dutch provincial authority. She goes on: “Their question was: how can we make our employees more aware of the hazards of inadequate information security? Because even if you have all the technology in place, people remain the weakest link. That is why we developed a VR solution which allows employees to take on the role of a hacker. With information that is hidden within the game, you can access the province’s systems and skim off money for yourself. This approach allows the people on the work floor to actually experience where the weak points are located. We can then use a micro-learning app and e-learning to help them display the right behaviours.”

21st century skills
When it comes to the question about whether specific attention is paid to developing 21st century skills, Van Hulst says: “You could say that as digitalisation increases, soft skills will become more important because, as a person, you can genuinely make a difference. These soft skills, such as communication skills, personal effectiveness and collaboration, form an important part of our training. This goes for us too: Conclusion focuses on improving organisations using technology but this also involves working effectively with new techniques. It’s not a case of ‘Hello, we’re Conclusion and we’d like to roll out a new system’ and that’s that. You have to include the people so that they have the right mindset and skills to deal with it.”

Many customers wonder how they should deal with the young generation of ‘digital natives’, who are used to doing everything digitally and find it completely normal to obtain personalised information which also looks great with one click of the button, explains Albers. “This makes things even more urgent when it comes to examining learning methods and developing approaches which match needs. That is why we employ smart developers as well as people who can bridge the gap to the customer and assess precisely what is required. Developments in this context move incredibly fast. It’s great to be able to support organisations in this way.”

Five important L&D trends according to Eefje Albers and Celine van Hulst

1. Personalised learning
There is a clear shift from the ‘one size fits all’ approach to an individualised and ‘on demand’ approach. Employees are increasingly seen as ‘learning consumers’ who are critical about what they need to learn and who benefit from a learning project which matches their own learning preferences and working situation. 

2. Self-management
On the basis of a personalised approach, the management of the learning process increasingly lies with the employee him/herself. He or she can decide which objectives he/she wishes to achieve and how, instead of this being decided for him/her. This makes the learning programme more effective but also more enjoyable for the employee.

3. Gaining insights into talents and acting on this basis
Programmes for developing talent are becoming more advanced. This type of programme enables managers to identify talented individuals without just concentrating on performance, but by looking at their potential as well. 

4. Letting learning connect into working practices
According to research by LinkedIn (2018), a lack of time is the main challenge when it comes to learning. Employees often indicate an ambition to learn but frequently add that this rarely happens due to working pressure. The solution, according to the same research, is to: ‘reduce the friction of learning’ by making learning relevant and offering it as and when the expertise is required. For example via material that is short, to-the-point and accessible via a mobile device.

5. Capitalising on intrinsic motivation
Capitalising on intrinsic motivation in order to stimulate behaviour is becoming increasingly popular. Gamification, i.e. the use of gaming elements in a non-gaming setting, is a great example of this. New behaviour is learned by ‘playing’. 

Photos: Conclusion
Also read ‘Twenty-first century training and education - one size fits one’