Employers need to wake up to the opportunities of digital learning

08 December 2015 -


Current e-learning techniques are failing managers, but gamification and apps can provide the inspiration needed to engage young tech-savvy managers

Matt Scott

Employers are at risk of making tech-savvy managers ‘switch off’ from learning new skills with dated digital technologies, according to the latest research from CMI.

A survey of 1,184 UK managers found that 79% believe that their organisation is not realising the digital learning potential of smartphone and tablet web-enabled apps, despite nearly all (97%) of the managers surveyed saying they have used digital learning tools in the past 12 months.


CMI chief executive Ann Francke said: “Many employers need to rethink how they go about helping their managers learn new skills. Just dumping textbooks onto smartphones is a dumb way to upskill managers. Managers want personalised bite-size content, to share knowledge and learn from connected peer networks, to ask questions and get feedback in real time. Why? Because it’s now part of how we work and live.”

The report from CMI and Oxford Strategic Consulting, Learning to Lead: The Digital Potential, also found that, counterintuitively, younger managers are more likely to opt for face-to-face training, largely due to the shortcomings of the digital learning solutions on offer compared to high-quality smartphone apps.

But the potential for smartphone apps means that employers still have an opportunity to turn this around.


Personalisation of the learning experience is one way the survey respondents said the digital learning experience could be improved. Almost three quarters (73%) of managers said they want to see digital learning become more personalised by using adaptive learning technologies, with content and approach tailored to personal learning style and progression.

Access to a network of peers is also considered a must, with 58% of younger mangers wanting to see better networks become part of their learning.

Gamification is another way employers can improve the digital learning experience, with 41% of those under 35 saying they would find games and apps useful for digital learning – compared to just 16% for the over 55s.

Professor William Scott-Jackson from Oxford Strategic Consulting, the lead author of the report, said: “The control and content of leadership development is increasingly exercised by leaders themselves at all levels, bypassing L&D experts within their own organisations.

“Successful L&D professionals will respond by providing guidance for self-directed learning, ensuring that high-quality content is easily accessible, building new ways to help ‘do’ leadership as well as learning it and providing accreditation for a wide variety of journeys to leadership capability. This is a great opportunity for professionals who can adapt but suggests a career change for those who can’t!”

Worryingly, just 20% of managers said the digital learning they have completed has been accredited. Francke said that to create professionally run organisations, employers needed to wake up to the benefits of accredited training and deliver it in an engaging and useful way.

“If we want better managed and led organisations then we need accredited digital training that doesn’t make managers switch off,” she said. “There are plenty of examples of companies doing it right. Corporates like BP and PwC are using ‘real-world’ learning programmes. And CMI’s ManagementDirect gives managers the power to build their own learning experiences.”

Learning to Lead: The Digital Potential is available for download from www.managers.org.uk/digitallearning or get involved with the discussion on Twitter: @cmi_managers #MgtDigitalLearning