Ann Johnston, Chief Learning Officer at GE Digital, outlined the relationship between preparing for disintermediation and transforming employee learning.
Johnston began her keynote presentation at the 2017 CHRO Leadership Forum: Redefining HR as the Business Partner, held on November 30 in San Francisco, by stating she’s always been fascinated by systems and making sense of things. “We’re the generation of leaders who must interpret what becoming more digital means for ourselves, our teams, our function, our businesses, and our customers. We’ll be talking about the process of sense-making related to the technological transformation of our workplaces as well as our approach to our work as HR professionals,” she stated.
Briefly, sense-making involves three steps:
• What’s going on?
• What do I do next?
• What don’t I know and need to learn?
Johnston’s recent efforts at GE have involved transforming its globally recognized center for leadership development excellence, called Crotonville. “This organization has been stuck in a model of classroom-based training,” she said. “When I took this role, I was asked to move the digital business into a new space and look at other methods of delivery in how people learn. Also, I was tasked with helping the Crotonville organization start to discern and consider how they’d think about learning differently as well. This was all about making sense of new ways of how people learn,” she explained.
“Digital-industrial is a process that’s moved from analogue to digitized to digitalized—i.e., increasingly sophisticated methods to store and access data. Digitalization involves changing business models and behavior patterns based on big data and analytics,” she stated.
“What is disintermediation?” Johnston asked the audience. Responses ranged from ‘cutting out the middleman’ to ‘going direct to whoever you need to go to’ to ‘saving money and cutting out cash’ to ‘a minimal viable number of people.’
“So we’re going from cutting budgets to cutting people,” she stated. “When disintermediation is a surprise, that’s when we get into trouble. Disintermediation means we, as learning professionals, are becoming irrelevant. People want to go right to the source to learn. We, as HR professionals, need to be prepared to be disintermediated by making sense of what our employees are asking of us and where we’re creating roadblocks. This is a notion of sense-making that we need to step into.”
Johnston then described the movement of GE’s teaching environment from Generation 1 to Generation 3.
Generation 1 (analog, 1955-2015):
• a classroom/instructing delivery method
• a mindset of expert/teacher
• units of data: enrollments/completions/perception of impact
• individualized to specific course/job/geography
• a synchronous, formal classroom with limited online and on-the-job training (OTJT)
Generation 2 (digitized, 2016-2019):
• consumer experience as the learning method
• an assets delivery method
• a mindset of curator
• units of data: skill assessments, activity volume/behavioral tracking, machine learning
• cross-enterprise capabilities and enterprise social networks
• 24/7 asynchronous and OTJT augmented by synchronous options
The characteristics of Generation 3 (digitalized, 2020 going forward):
• the customer experience is one of an organization ecosystem
• a threads delivery method
• a co-creator mindset
• units of data: preponderance of evidence (for business outcomes)
• extended enterprise learning communities (i.e., customers, partners, etc.)
• ability for subject-matter experts to create user-generated content at scale
“By 2020, we’ll have changed behavior in how people learn at GE. One thing this means is user-generated content that we’re co-creating with subject-matter experts. The initial goal is to have 30 people creating assets,” she stated.
“For example, most people won’t watch a YouTube video that’s longer than six to eight minutes, so why would they want to sit in a classroom and listen to someone drone on for an hour? We’re trying to create this micro-learning environment in which the cumulative impact of enough assets—of enough bits of information—becomes credentials. No longer can we focus only on the credential or the class-sized portion. We need to allow learners to figure out which pieces they need to put together. It’s messy, but our early ROI data is very encouraging—80% of learners self-report a higher level of mastery in using content. In addition, in the last six months, we’ve had more than 30% of our population move into the space of learning as a consumer experience.”
“We’re trying to create this micro-learning environment in which the cumulative impact of enough assets—of enough bits of information—becomes credentials. No longer can we focus only on the credential or the class-sized portion. We need to allow learners to figure out which pieces they need to put together.”
ABOUT ANN JOHNSTON:
Ann Marie Johnston is the Digital Learning Transformation Leader (CLO) for GE Digital. She’s the Executive learning business partner responsible for the development, planning, and execution of multi-year technical and leadership learning strategies for the ~30K Digital employees across the nine GE businesses, Digital Technology Hubs, Customer Foundries, and Corporate entities.
Prior to her role at GE Digital, Ann was the Global Business Learning Leader at GE Aviation. She partnered with business, functional, and HR leaders on the implementation of key cultural enablement initiatives, organizational change, and transformation efforts—as well as senior executive development processes for the business.
Ann joined GE six years ago from Optimal Development Partners, where she was the Founder and President of the organization’s development firm. She provided impactful learning approaches that leveraged over 15 years of subject-matter expertise in leadership.
Ann holds a PhD in Human and Organizational Systems from the Fielding Graduate University and two Masters degrees—one in Human and Organizational Systems from Fielding Graduate University and the other in Religious Leadership from United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. She achieved the designation of Professional Certified Coach (PCC) through the International Coach Federation and earned her executive coaching credential from the Hudson Institute of Coaching. She’s the co-author of several books on the topic of mentoring.