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Build new Learning and Development skills for the digital age

by Susan Dumas - June 4, 2018

Learning and Development teams have been asked to provide better services and make a bigger impact on their businesses for the best part of 10 years now. Away from work, we have easy and (usually) free access to high quality digital content on the internet and from our smartphones. This ease of access isn't filtering into most workplaces however. Most organisations in 2018 still rely on classroom training and poor quality elearning content. This has to stop.  

eLearning is part of the learning and development skills challenge

The frustrating thing is that while eLearning was seen as a way of the future, for the most part it has just replaced classroom training like-for-like, without improving or providing richer learning options for staff. At best, it has reduced costs and provided a bit more flexibility for where and when training can take place. But – the big learning and development shake-up still hasn’t happened, and the impetus for business to transform digitally across all its functions is putting more and more pressure on learning and development teams. 

Jane Hart’s annual workplace learning survey for 2018, validates our observations: 

  • Classroom training and eLearning are the least valued methods of learning in the workplace
  • Google searches, day-to-day working, sharing with colleagues and learning from professional networks rank higher

Preparing for digital transformation infographic

New learning and development skills to embrace the messiness of learning

Learning is a messy business. As adults, we all know that and we’re happy to learn in a messy, unstructured way outside the workplace. But once inside the workplace, learning and development teams still want to put learning in a box. This isn’t working for staff and it isn’t working for learning and development teams in their efforts to make an impact on the business. We don’t have time to build a formal learning programme for everything our staff need to learn in the workplace.

The current state of learning and development skills

The Towards Maturity Annual Benchmark report (2017) recognises the need for change in learning and development. The top priority for companies in this era of constant change and disruption are: 

  • Improving organisational performance (98%)
  • Increasing productivity (97%)
  • Increasing learning access and flexibility (97%)
  • Increasing self-directed learning (96%)


"The new role of learning and development will be to become a trusted advisor to the business There’s also important work to be done in helping to establish a strong knowledge sharing culture in teams, groups and across the organisation.  

Jane Hart, 2018 workplace learning survey


Self-directed learning is an interesting new term for the workplace. The pace of change in business nowadays is so fast that we need our staff to take charge of their own learning. But we must meet them halfway. learning and development teams should move from providing highly structured formal learning experiences to looking at learning across the whole organisation. What’s needed is a set of flexible learning resources, different opportunities for learning and different methods of learning. 

What’s stopping learning and development from improving their capability?

The typical barriers to success are: (Towards Maturity Benchmark 2017)

- Lack of skills among employees to manage their own learning (65%)
- Reluctance by line managers to encourage new ways of learning (58%)
- Lack of skills among L&D staff to implement and manage technology enabled learning (53%)
- Unreliable ICT infrastructure (52%)



"It isn’t just learning and development who need to develop new skills – it’s the entire business."

Managers need help to think about new ways of learning and staff need help with self-directed learning skills. Learning and development can work throughout the business to develop everyone. The business should support learning and development teams and assist in people development and leadership development by investing in the ICT infrastructure and other learning tools. This is what the top organisations do.

But one of the biggest challenges for learning and development is their lack of understanding of what motivates staff to learn:

69% of staff undertake learning to further their career, but only
20% of L&D teams support staff’s career development or personal job goals

The five most important skills that learning and development need now

Looking at the research organisations who frequently report on the state of learning and development, including Towards Maturity, CIPD and The Learning and Performance Institute – and from talking to our clients, here are the top five skills we think learning and development need to focus on.

1. Business strategy and business acumen

 How to develop it: Find a coach or mentor. And - if you’re a senior leader in your business, offer to support your learning and development team!

2. Technology and learning solution know-how

The technology we use for sharing information, communicating and learning in the workplace is changing all the time. It is an exciting time businesses you are going through digital transformation - but only if everyone can make best use of the new new tech.

How to develop this skill:

3. Learn about learning!

The science of learning  and behavioural psychology are popular topics among leaders and business owners.  There are lots of free online courses and practical books on this subject. Google is your friend! Some recommendations: 

4. Coaching and mentoring skills

To help build capabilities in your managers and staff, coaching and mentoring skills are invaluable.

5. Data-led decision making

The modern digital organisation is data-led in all its critical business decisions, and learning and development should be no different.

How to develop: Most new learning platforms include detailed analytics, so it’s up to training and development to start using those analytics regularly.

Digital transformation for learning and development

The time is right for training and development to welcome the new skills of the messy, fast-paced, disruptive world of business. There are opportunities to embrace new ways of working, but only if L&D can help their staff and managers to embrace new ways of learning.  Percipio, our new intelligent learning platform, is built to help L&D meet many of the needs outline here in this blog. Contact us today to talk about your organisation needs.

Or if you would like to know how you can be more successful in your role and make a bigger impact in your organisation - read our corporate guide to digital learning.   

Preparing for digital transformation infographic


Ultimate guide to elearning


101 ideas to supercharge digital learning

101 ideas to supercharge digital learning

The business case for digital learning


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