Workplace education has made a significant shift towards technology-enabled learning solutions in recent years. Indeed, McKinsey expects the mobile education market to reach USD$70 billion by 2020.

The instructor-led, classroom-based approach that was once the norm is being challenged by a more on-demand approach to accessing relevant content without restraints on location or time. As a result, professionals are increasingly expected to know where to get the answers they need, when and how they need them.

Online learning is an extremely effective way for employees across nearly every department to keep up-to-date with changes in their field and the multitude of applications and systems they now need to know in order to do their jobs. This is especially true for the IT sector where, arguably, the only constant is change.

How IT professionals want to learn

The rise of millennials in the workforce has been a significant driver behind these changes in learning behaviour. After all, a generation that has grown up on YouTube and Twitter expects to absorb their workplace knowledge in similar, bite-size ways.

In fact, a survey of 2,000 global Pluralsight users conducted by CEB towards the end of 2015 found that 88% of IT employees prefer always-available, online training to classroom-based training.

Online learning is especially well suited to the kind of as-needed and on-demand information delivery IT professionals require, and reflects how they prefer to learn at work:

Continuously

Access to a constant flow of information is preferable to static content available during a specific timeframe.

At varying lengths

Some professionals learn best through short pieces of content. Others prefer to watch an entire training session in one sitting. And others tend to re-watch a handful of helpful clips over and over.

Anywhere, anytime

Learning now happens on any device, inside and outside of the workplace. Pluralsight’s recent survey revealed that 88% of IT professionals access online courses outside of work hours.

The benefit to your business
Of course what all CEOs must ask themselves when evaluating any new employee training option is: Will this have a positive impact on skillsets or retention? When it comes to online learning for IT professionals, the answer is a resounding yes.

Our survey showed that 83% of subscribers believe modular online learning has improved the quality of their work. In addition, 55% are able to apply their new skills within the first week, and 23% within 2-4 weeks. A full 85% of employees report a strong link between the investment in their careers and loyalty to their employer.

Findings like these are extremely encouraging at a time when we are facing not only a global IT skills gap, but also greater challenges acquiring and retaining talent. Whether you lead a multi-national enterprise or a local SMB, demonstrating your company’s commitment to staying on the front foot of technology and to providing your employees the tools for doing so, can put you in great stead for attracting and keeping staff that will deliver added value to your business.

Making sure your platform measures up

It is worth noting that not all online learning is created equal, nor is every credible online learning platform the right choice for your organisation.

Although self-directed courses are much more flexible than those in traditional learning environments, they can still be assessed against the same standards or competencies that any workshop, seminar or lecture would be. So it is important to ensure the platform you choose not only offers quality content by subject matter experts, but also comprehensive assessment tools.

Leadership’s role

Changes to workplace learning behaviours offer CEOs a valuable opportunity to re-evaluate the way their organisation approaches training for its IT employees. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Recognise that learning has evolved to include much more than conferences and traditional classroom courses;
  • make it clear to your CIO or IT Managers that you are committed to supporting IT employees’ upskilling and ensuring that they have access to the resources they need;
  • conduct half-yearly business impact studies to ensure your employees’ online training is delivering what they and your business needs;
  • encourage employees to get on board by offering incentives for those who make efforts towards upskilling.