The Three Characteristics Of Adaptive Learning Organizations

The last decade has brought significant changes in the business landscape and the way we work and learn. Digitalisation and evolving customer expectations have given rise to new business models. The past two years have only accelerated this change with the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses around the world found themselves in uncharted territory and even those organisations that were resistant to change abruptly took the plunge to embrace an increasingly digitalised future.

These converging trends have put the spotlight on learning which has become a focus area for every employee, manager, and leader. Now more than ever, organisations need responsive learning organisations that can adapt to changing needs, and the technology to enable a digitally fluent learning ecosystem. As organisations prepare for the future of work, talent, skills, and competencies are at the forefront with the need to elevate the learner experience in a future hybrid work environment. These trends are driving Learning and Development (L&D) organisations around the world to push the boundaries of innovation and focus on making learning more efficient, effective, engaging, and business aligned.

What are Adaptive Learning Organizations?
Adaptive Learning Organisations are high performing learning organisations that can respond to an ever evolving and disruptive business landscape with agility and a forward-thinking approach. In November 2020, NIIT released the Adaptive Learning Organisation Research Report in association with Josh Bersin Academy. The research involved in-depth conversations and surveys with more than 100 large, global companies and found that companies with adaptive learning teams spend 27 per cent less on L&D and deliver far greater business outcomes. In fact, highly adaptive companies are 53 per cent more likely to have experienced growth during the last year.

This is not all
Adaptive Learning Organisations have significantly better parameters on the overall human capital front. They have 14 per cent higher reported career opportunities, their senior leaders are rated 15 per cent higher by their employees, and their overall Glassdoor ratings are 13 per cent higher.

What makes these Adaptive Learning Organisations different?
The research found that Adaptive Learning Organisations lead in three critical areas the ability to sense and analyse external and internal market changes; decide and lead quickly on the right programmes, direction, and resources; and evolve and transform their ability to deliver advanced business centric and personalised learning solutions.

Sense - Forecast Future Needs
While the word, “Sense” may conjure up associations with pure instinct, the ability of Adaptive Learning Organizations to “sense” is actually data-driven and fact-based. These organisations have developed the ability to harvest, measure, analyze, and draw actionable insights from multiple data sources to create forward looking internal and external views. This characteristic allows them to predict the learning needs of a business or team, even before the business sees it coming. The ability to sense allows L&D to forecast future needs more quantitatively and in a way that makes it easier to build a business case and align stakeholders. In large global organisations, this often means working very closely with the business to design strategies for highly targeted programmes and envision learning needs based on the future of work. It means focusing on the learner to enhance learner experience with collaboration and personalisation to deliver learning in the flow of work. On an operational level, this translates into the ability to scale up or down rapidly based on fluctuating training volumes and demand.

Decide - from being Reactive to Proactive
The second characteristic of an Adaptive Learning Organization is the ability to make highly relevant decisions quickly and plan accordingly with the knowledge that initial plans can change over time.Having a continual flow of meaningful and insightful data at hand allows these learning organisations to make proactive decisions and escape being reactive. As a result, these organizations can make accurate short-term and long-term transformative decisions based onknown information, collaboration, and with built-in pivot points that allow for quick and efficient course correction. When the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly disrupted businesses, most organisations were caught off guard while Adaptive Learning Organisations were noticeably more prepared to adjust to the drastic changes required for learning during the initial phase of the pandemic.

Evolve - for a Sustainable Future
The key to long term success is an Adaptive Learning Organisation’s ability to evolve and sustainably transform its existing ecosystem. These organisations continually seek innovation and test new technologies and practices. To do this well, ALOs build highly efficient, agile, and scalable operating models that anticipate and enable shifts in priorities and learning needs. This characteristic is beautifully illustrated in how ALOs have adapted to the new and evolving work environment. Most employees of large, global organisations work in highly connected and digitally enabled environments with a heavy reliance on digital tools. The learning ecosystem of these organisations mirrors that work environment. Learning at ALOs is not confined to in person classroom settings. It is multi modal, blended and anytime, everywhere. It is connected to social platforms, mobile devices, and online tools that play a vital role in our daily jobs. It takes advantage of production platforms like Microsoft Teams, Google, and Workday which are becoming more content rich to engage audiences. Having an agile service delivery model enables ALOs to anticipate and transition more easily to these new ways of delivering learning.

The Way Forward
As Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”Regardless of what the future brings,history is witness to the fact that the external world will continue to change, and businesses will have to embrace those changes to survive. The current pandemic is obvious in its disruptiveness and impact on learning. However, change is constant, whether it’s an economic recession, technology upheaval, or climate change, and the ability to adapt is now a key requirement for businesses and the learning function. Agile has come to L&D and while it may not look exactly like it does in the IT field, the philosophy, concepts, and best practices have permeated L&D. While there is no crystal ball to predict the future having a forward-looking lens with these three important characteristics is the way to a sustainable future for learning organizations. In an increasingly digitally fluent world, businesses will continue to evolve, and learning must have the agility to spearhead that evolution.