Four Questions...

…For Josh Bersin, President and CEO of Bersin & Associates

According to Josh Bersin, president and CEO of Bersin & Associates, the two biggest challenges to businesses are globalization and speed. Here’s what he told Elearning! magazine:

>> What are the biggest challenges facing businesses?

The economic opportunities in the world have moved into emerging economies, so the bigger organizations are trying to build products and services that meet the need of faster growing economies. That impacts HR in many, many ways.

Companies are concerned about speed. Companies are reorganizing, they’re trying to flatten their teams, they’re trying to implement social tools, and they’re trying to drive deeper levels of engagement, primarily to get more speed and customer-centric activity out of their people.

Organizations are beginning to realize that informal learning is not the end. It is just one more tool, like e-learning. The real solution is a continuous learning environment that consists of formal training, informal learning, coaching, mentoring, development planning, performance support, all that stuff integrated together with a very strong understanding of the capability needs of the individual in that job.

The CLO of MasterCard said, “I feel like all I’m doing is change management. We are changing so fast, I’m constantly revisiting what the learning and development requirements need to be.”

>> What kinds of questions do clients ask you about these changes?

Lots of people have lots of problems with their infrastructure right now. Most of the learning management systems that have been purchased over the last ten years are dated. They don’t have the collaboration capabilities. They don’t have community capabilities built in. They may or may not have the right integration with talent management practices, so they may not be integrated with development planning.

There are also a lot of problems in content management. It’s really easy to generate content. You can pick up your iPhone and record somebody, create a 5 MB file, and stick it on some server. Then what do you do with it? Where does it go? Who edits it? How do you tag it? Multiply that by thousands and thousands of things being collected in a big corporation … it’s a big problem.

We’re in a stage now where formalized content development is not that hard. In fact, it’s almost too easy. Now the problem is creating context, managing the content, putting it a learning environment, creating a culture around it, and then measuring all this stuff, figuring out what is getting used, what’s happening as a result.

>> What kind of innovations are you seeing?

Innovation is all over the place. Mobile tools are really hot right now, so are gaming tools. Also, there are video capture tools and video editing tools that allow people to pick up their iPhone and capture something, throw it back into the server, and tag it, make it easy to find.

All the LMS vendors are either buying or partnering with companies that have social tools so that you have a presence in the LMS, you can collaborate, discuss, and share information with other people, and you can be tagged as an expert, so that if somebody needs to find an answer to a question they can find you instead of going elsewhere.

Then there’s content management. I think training departments are going to be buying industrial-strength content management tools.

>> How has the economic downturn impacted the need for innovation?

When people say, “You don’t have any more money, figure out how to do it with the money you have,” then people get really creative. Training people are creative people. They like to try new things and they are interested in technology.

Many of the most effective learning programs we’ve studied have focused on change management, culture, employee communications, storytelling, mentoring, and CEO involvement. Those things have a huge impact.

Successful programs will still be in place [when the economy recovers]. When something works well, people keep doing it. Those really high value programs, when they take off, nobody is going to stop them.

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