There is a moment of opportunity for learning & development professionals this year. A moment when the profession moves past crisis and confidently states its value to the organisation.
The moment of opportunity for Learning & Development
It has been six years now since Donald Taylor spoke about the “training ghetto” - a crisis for learning & development teams where they risk isolation or even extinction in the face of rapid change in their organisations. In a blog running in parallel to this, we take the view of the CEO and ask “What do CEOs really want from Learning & Development?”.
The Digital transformation happened, our personal and working lives have been fundamentally changed, however, learning development as an industry - as a discipline – has not responded to that change with the speed and agility of, let's say, marketing or even medicine.
So where are we now?
L&D has a real chance to create genuine value. Budgets are increasing, especially in the digital space, and Learning & Development has the support of executives. Now we are at a crossroads where we have real new opportunity and we need to decide what we're for. What L&D fundamentally is for.
A changing workforce look to Learning & Development
We see the pressure of expectation building for learning and development.
The nature of the workforce is changing. Employees are geographically dispersed and quick to move between roles and organisations - learning and development teams are tasked with onboarding higher volumes of staff often remotely and making that crucial time-to-competence shorter.
Knowledge is changing. A report by Dell Technologies states that due to rapid technological change and automation, 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 have yet to be invented. Deloitte research indicates the half-life of learned skills is now only 5 years - the courses and resources that L&D teams are developing today will not have the long term value they once did - they are less valuable assets, no matter how much work and time goes into creating them.
“The pace of change so rapid that the ability to gain new knowledge will be more valuable than the knowledge itself”
In the boardroom. The C suite is looking at the flip side of the employee problem and they see a talent crisis. Employees now stay on average 4.5 years in each organisation - employees will quickly move on if they do not find fulfilling learning opportunities in the workplace to progress their careers
77% of CEOs are concerned that key skill shortage is going to impair the growth of their company.
Yet only 33% of the same people think that the L&D function positively impacts business outcomes and fewer still consider the function to be relevant or timely in the way it works.
We see aspects of the same problem emerging for individuals and organisations. For individuals, they see the constant risk of irrelevance in the face of rapid change; to the C Suite, they see a skills shortage.
However, what is clear is that this is a talent development problem. And a problem is an opportunity.
The worker, driven by this environment of changing knowledge and new roles, is motivated to keep on learning - to look for career opportunities. 73% of adults, consider themselves to be lifelong learners. 63% of working adults, consider themselves to be professional learners. Workers look to their employer to support this; 94% of employees would stay with the company longer if invested in their career development. Talent, properly grown, will be retained.
In the C suite, the opportunity is clear also. 4% of CEO’s say that talent has become the number one priority at the company. 90% say that L&D is a necessary benefit to employees. Crucially, high performing learning organisations are seeing a 24% increase in productivity and performance as a result of learning done well.
These expectations show the value that L&D can deliver. At the coalface, workers expect to learn what they need to help them perform at the time and in the place that they need it. They expect autonomy in how they master their roles. In the boardroom, C-Suite executives expect agility and strategic acumen from learning leaders. Talent development is vital in attracting and retaining great staff and driving business performance. Learners and employers are looking to Learning & Development for an answer.
Josh Bersin sums this up very well. Josh Bersin gets quoted a lot but he should; he’s a smart guy!
“The demand for easy to use digital learning programs is one of the biggest issues on the minds of employees and employers today”
Limited resource and limited time
Many L&D teams are limited in their ability to respond to this challenge and to take advantage of this very real opportunity.
Smaller organisations with smaller teams have limited resources and can only do so much. Inside larger organisations, there are often fast-paced operations departments, and the learning and development team can be stressed to meet their needs. On top of an existing expected bedrock of mandated programmes - generic skills and functional role training - new issues appear all the time on top of that mountain. New compliance requirements, a new policy, a training response to an audit finding.
Trying to meet this ever-increasing mountain of work is simply unsustainable. So we become selective and what tends to come out on top of this are compliance topics. The corporate needs of the organisation take priority over the learning needs of the individual. The needs of the learner for useful, short, relevant pieces of content that genuinely support their performance in the day-to-day of their work, drop off.
Not Policy and Audit
Workers, therefore, start to look elsewhere for useful content that is helpful to them. 70% of employees use search engines to support their performance daily. In itself, this should be celebrated. They are acting as self-directed learners and displaying genuine autonomy. Yet, over time, L&D teams risk appearing less relevant to the workers they support - less about learning and development and more about corporate policy, communications and managing audit risk.
The solution won't be found in traditional learning methods developed for the pre-Digital economy. L&D teams often still look to provide for every learning need in the business with in-house expertise and classroom solutions. These don't recognise the autonomy expected by modern learners and cannot be delivered at the scale and pace expected by the business. It is time for L&D leaders to let go of the responsibility to provide to every learning need personally.
Those who do not, risk appearing irrelevant to staff who will start looking elsewhere. They may also appear less valuable to business leaders who require a clear return on investment.
Not a call centre
What we need to do as an industry is to evolve from acting like a call centre - where we say yes to every problem and respond using a pre-generated script. To shift to where the routine day-to-day challenges of workers can be self-served at their point of need, and we can move on to tackling the bigger organisational problems.
This change is a shift from the traditional modes of providing training to managing a learning services portfolio that can rapidly flex to changing requirements. Flexibility is key – the learning & development leader needs services available to him or her that can be modified to meet changing needs, deployed very quickly and used in concert with each other to create coherent learning experiences. This service offering is delivered on digital platforms that are available at any time in any location to the learner. These platforms can help provide the meaningful dashboards to C suite executives demand.
The time and effort freed up by this switch afford you great opportunity to spend time thinking and acting strategically. To do what only you, the L&D leader embedded inside your organization with deep knowledge of that organisation can do and. That's close collaboration with your business leaders to craft learning strategies that drive performance.
What does a Services Portfolio look like?
A modern learning offering should service the needs of the worker and the manager. This means supporting self-directed learners with content directly relevant to their roles discovered easily and delivered to any device. For managers, this means toolkits to directly develop and curate content that supports their teams and access to data that gives actionable insights.
An example learning services portfolio might look like this:
Deploy a Learning Experience Platform, alongside your LMS, that is pre-loaded with a catalogue of high-quality content that is updated and maintained for you. Let your learners access what they decide they need in their flow of work
Empower experts in your business to rapidly develop learning content by giving them easy-to-use authoring tools so they can write and publish by themselves
Harness the specific abilities of your line managers – allow them to coach and mentor to facilitate learning at a local level
Deploy an adaptive questioning tool to give precise insights into skills gaps across the organisation
Use these tools to empower the business to resolve many talent development challenges without your direct intervention. Using methods like these, you can tailor your response to the business needs. And often that response is to supply them with off-the-shelf content so they can self-serve or with tools they can use to create content themselves.
Learning & development can then focus effort on targeted learning interventions that are unique to your organisation - learning that only you can deliver.
Let’s look at some sample scenarios...
These ideas can feel abstract and not grounded in real-world practice. Let’s look at two example scenarios where a common challenge is met with a modern approach.
Scenario 1 - sales enablement in a tech startup
In this scenario, the in-house L&D team produces digital content for the learning management system. In some cases, they do not have the bandwidth or product expertise to act as instructional designers; they are rapidly readying SME-generated content for publication online. In this very common scenario, we recommend that the team steps out of the process altogether and gives the product team the ability to author content directly into a learning experience platform (LXP) themselves.
Here, an application development team in a tech startup release new features every month. The L&D team has enabled them to author content explaining these features directly into the LXP. This is published to the sales & marketing teams as part of their monthly release.
Scenario 2 - closing a skills gap in a functional role
In a mature corporate structure, career frameworks, competency maps and functional roles are established. Often, the learning and development team are tasked with targeting a specific role to improve its performance. In this scenario, let us take Business Development as a broad example of such a role.
Typically this would start with a skills audit to understand where the performance gaps lie; usually a series of online surveys and interviews with senior staff. This informs the development of a learning programme to close these gaps. Unfortunately, the data is often dated by the time the programme is fully developed and the programme itself covers such a breadth of topics that it is no longer targeted to specific needs.
Here, we recommend that the learning & development team focus effort on ensuring that data is accurate and current, that managers are actively involved in developing their staff and that learners are given content that is specific to their needs. The model is designed to be self-sustaining; the L&D team can step away when managers and workers are confident in managing their own learning.
An adaptive questioning tool is deployed globally for six weeks to generate data. This is a micro-learning tool that rolls out to mobile devices across the business development teams. The data is rich and accurate showing clearly which performance gap currently exist in which team.
Using an existing catalogue of rich learning content, L&D work with local managers to quickly curate playlists that are specific to their needs. Workers are led through this targeted intervention made-up of self-directed content and active manager support. The questioning tool runs throughout the programme giving new insights so content is modified to current need.
An L&D consultant oversees the programme, working with managers to provide actionable dashboards and to curate relevant playlists. Virtual classrooms (VC’s) are delivered at regular intervals to keep momentum moving and allow a space for leaders to address learning gaps that are common across the full group.
This cycle - the questioning tool giving data to inform curated playlists and virtual classrooms - can continue to run without the active involvement of L&D.
In both scenarios, the role of L&D is to provide the tools to allow the business to support itself. Learn more about Logicearth’s product and service offering here.
Sit comfortably at the table
A strategic L&D leader gets a seat at the board table not by labouring over classroom attendance and proving value by happy sheets, but by confidently overseeing a portfolio of learning services and partnering with skilled vendors who are invested in your success to give capable digital workers control of their own growth.
Logicearth offers comprehensive learning services delivered with insight and care. We are partners with you on this transformative journey. Get in touch for an informal conversation about your needs.