Future leaders NEED a blended learning path, and this more robust approach to learning is Asia’s greatest opportunity to steal a march on the West.
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The Changing & Culturally Diverse Workforce
The changing workforce and the different generations can be seen throughout Asia.
- India, for example, has one of the youngest workforce among the world’s largest economies with a median age among the population of 25 (as compared to 34 in China) (Source: Morgan Stanley).
- On the other hand, there are other countries facing significant demographic crises in terms of an ageing workforce and population.
- In Japan, for example, over 26% of the population are over 65 where it’s no surprise that a more traditional approach to business is prevalent.
A 2008 UBS report, using United Nations data, found that four of the world’s 10 fastest ageing populations are in Asia with Japan number two followed by Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong.
Clearly, in Asia, there are significant demographic disparities between countries which plays well to blended learning and its flexibility to deliver training which meets the needs of all employees – no matter what generation. Older generations might tend to be more comfortable with face-to-face training, whereas younger generations might be more willing to embrace more technology-based learning. These changing demographics fit well with the ‘no one size fits all’ approach of blended learning where its flexibility and ability to incorporate all forms of learning is crucial in facilitating the productive co-existence and development of a multi-generational workforce.
The growth in smart phones and tablet computers such as the iPad, combined with a faster and cheaper telecoms infrastructure, is set to have a significant impact on how Asians live their lives, and how they work and learn over the next few years. This is filtering through into blended learning programs as such programs continue to adapt to the needs of the business
and the individual learner.
The increased adoption of technologies but, at the same time, potential for the future is clearly seen in Asia and their internet usage rates according to Internet World Stats. One of the greatest changes is the use of social media tools and technology. The key difference in Asia is that these technologies have been most widely used in a more social, fun or gaming context – perhaps as they were intended! It is only in the last two years or so that these technologies are more accepted in the workplace, and applied to areas like group collaboration, learning and development and more. The pace of change will continue to grow and, as technology is employed more in workplace learning, it is the blended approach, which offers a more gradual implementation, that is more powerful in its output and yet more selective in how technology is utilised, that will support the learning most appropriately.
The World Economic Outlook
While Asia has not suffered to the same extent as Europe and the United States, the prolonged crisis in the Eurozone has resulted in reduced growth in Asia. In January 2012, for example, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) downgraded the predicted growth of the ASEAN countries of the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore to 5.2% during 2012 (still healthy numbers compared to Europe!). The reduced growth has provided a prime opportunity to re-evaluate training programs and explore some of the more flexible and cost-efficient training tools on the market today, such as e-learning and blended learning.
The Move East and the Ongoing Skills Shortage
All the figures show that Asia is continuing to face significant talent and skills shortages, particularly in high-growth markets, such as China and India. A recent PWC global survey, for example, found that around 40% of CEOs report difficulty forecasting talent availability in these regions.
Talent is more fluid in Asia, leading to greater levels of Human Capital turnover in parts, and a constant challenge to find the correct recruitment and retention strategies – as much as increasing the rate of pay being offered. What is interesting is how Asian multinationals will in future attract talent not just locally, but from their multinational counterparts in the West. We could be at the start of a mass ‘Talent Migration’ and no one is really prepared for the implications of this.
As this happens, the protection of talent becomes critical, and Learning and Development strategies have a key role to play in growing this talent into the Asian context, and supporting other retention strategies. We can easily imagine Blended Learning Paths – rather than one-off traditional events – mapping out the ongoing development of an individual for years rather than weeks. This may also indicate an end to traditional one-off training events, as learning becomes a constant state, guiding an individual through their growth and development for years and inextricably linked to talent management and succession planning.