L&D: Disrupt or be disrupted

This month, the CIPD have been reporting on some latest research with 7,500 L&D professionals and how many feel overwhelmed by a disruptive tsunami of change in the way people engage with learning.  Their internal customers were also surveyed and felt L&D were maximising potential opportunities that new technologies offer.  The research found that where new methods had be adopted, adapted and absorbed into the organisation, they could expect 14% increase in productivity, 28% improved capability to deal with change and 11% higher revenue.

So, how are the trailblazing development professionals meeting the challenge?  Reflecting on my own experience in this environment, I’d suggest a few key challenges to ways of working around professional development have been:

  1. To do your internal market research – segment the workforce by their learning styles, preferences and needs to understand whether a three day face-to-face course is needed or whether people want a quick five minute ‘good practice’ briefing before taking swift action on their issue at hand?  Design of programmes of learning that aides timeliness, pace and a range of learning methods should be informed by this research.
  2. Always question the need for content creation – do we really need to create content? There is so much accessible learning content in our expanding digital world, that sometimes that which is already created is good enough.  Our job is to signpost people to that content and then to develop people’s active learning to the organisation’s context or problem.
  3. Take time to evaluate new technology – one thing I value most when networking is understanding the technologies that other organisations are using.  Why are people raving about Slack or Trello – what are they?  YouTube is full to the brim of real users tips on these products in addition to the sales videos.  Ten minutes gives me a reasonable time to brief myself on whether the functionality of these systems meets our current or potential needs.
  4. Engagement of learners.  More than ever, I find I focused on competing for time in the diaries of employees. Encouraging them to keep their professional development as a priority for their time is the greatest single challenge I face in my work.  This requires some ‘nudge’ marketing: stories of what peers have been doing, regular recognition of their progress, data about the loss or gains of doing or not doing something, and a realistic sense of skills relative to peers.  An active internal marketing campaign.
  5. Help solve the business’ issues.  People want more just-in-time learning that addresses a specific problem in their day.  Hence the rapid growth of team coaching, action learning and facilitation over the last few years at all levels of the organisation to help people reflect on the specific issues at hand. To stay ‘business relevant’, it isn’t enough to have a ‘learning organisation’, this learning needs to help address the specific hurdles the business faces.  This requires speaking the language of that organisation’s strategy, capabilities, content, organisation development and market differentiation.

It really has been a disruptive rollercoaster ride for development professionals over the last twenty years.  I’m strapped in for the thrill of the ride for what the next twenty years will bring….