>Are L&D losing the battle?

>In a summary post earlier this week, I outlined the key points from the L&D2020 workshop with the Training Journal. Today I’d like to address some of the points raised from that meeting and voice my thoughts.

The future skill set

So the one over-riding feature about the day was it was all very present based. That’s to say, there was nothing about the future. There was lots about what L&D needs to do today in order to be successful. And I agree with most of the things there. L&D has to be business focused. There’s no two ways about this. Gone are the days you can come bounding in saying “I’ve got a great idea for a training course”, and commence to put everyone through it. But this isn’t anything new. Businesses are moving so fast and agile these days that L&D has to move with the same pace.
I’ve been lucky in that my career to date has exposed me to a lot of business practices and ways of working so that I am confident in my ability to consult the organisation, and provide solutions based on the needs, as opposed to my ego.
There was talk of L&D being ‘T-shaped’ people. There’s many an analogy you could use for what an L&D person needs to be like. It does fundamentally come down to the fact that you have to be able to describe what the business does as well as the CEO. There was a great quote from the day which I strongly believe – “you have to love the business you’re in as much as, if not more than, learning and development”. How true. I quietly believe save the senior management team, I’m one of few people in the business who could accurately describe every function we have, what they do, how they do it, and what their names all are.
No mention of digital

I was surprised there was no mention of digital, social media, Generation Y/Millennials. This was a real missed opportunity. Let’s take each of those things in order.
I’ve spoken about digital in a previous post and would encourage you have a read of that here.
Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know I enjoy social media. There is so much happening in the interwebs that if we aren’t involved in those discussions we’re never going to understand the world we live in. It really is a fundamental shift in human behaviour we cannot ignore.
The possibilities that social media and digital open for L&D is immense. Informal learning as we know it traditionally is nothing compared to what is currently available. And it’s all free. Open source technology means you don’t have to pay for anything and even though some information may need to be paid for, you can guarantee in a short space of time, someone will have found a way to make it free and open for all.
Generation Y/Millennials for those who aren’t sure are those generation of people born in the mid 1980s to early 2000’s. L&Ders haven’t really had to deal with this group in any pro-active way yet, because they’re only really entering the workforce in a significant way now and are on the radar as ones to develop. The challenge here is to not be complacent and think they can be dealt with in the same way as other generations. There are characteristics that it’s worth learning about, but I’m not going into that here.
What this means for L&Ders though is we have to be far more agile and nimble in our approach to L&D as a whole – not just to Gen Y. Individuals will want more focus on their development as they learn they can grow careers quickly and develop skills in their own time. Does that mean the end of training courses 2 days long, residential and expensive? Not necessarily. It means L&Ders (both internal and external professionals) need to really get into the needs of the business, develop a plan and be willing to adapt as they roll it out.
E-learning and social learning tools will be a growing part of that new learning. Open source technology will allow information that was once premium only to suddenly become free and available to all. Even I, who am a hardened face to face L&D believer, am waning to the fact if I don’t learn about what these tools offer, and how to use them effectively, I’ll be screwed.
Is Donald Clark right?

Donald Clark is a blogger who is a harsh critic of the current face of L&D/HR/CIPD and education. He has some hard views about things, and unfortunately he may be right on a lot of them. He reminds me of the heckler in the group who is a harsh cynic, not because he doesn’t buy into the message, he just doesn’t agree with the delivery.
The challenge here is how to prove Donald wrong. Well first I’d like to have him in a room with me. I’ve had enough mistakes of training delivery, delivered Diversity training to production operators at a car manufacturers, and faced the darkest side of cynicism. And through my training career to date, I’m confident I can engage with my audience, learn what their needs are, and ensure they leave my room having learned something. I’d say my batting average is about 80% success rate in being able to do so.
However, a main criticism of Donald’s is his stance on the lack of effective use of technology in delivering a message. And here I fall down. I am a strong believer in the superiority and power of face to face learning over e-learning type events (notice the language I’m purposefully using?). And this is what I need to learn better. How can I hold myself up as a believer in L&D if I’m not utilising the technology available to deliver messages in equally effective ways? Therein lies the nub, which I think is true of many L&Ders in this world.
Is the future bright?

I think the future has a lot of exciting prospects. Coalition government in the UK, new administration in the USA, global recession, China and India on global rise. Digital, ever increasing broadband speeds, social media and new technologies. Climate change, oil spills, being green, corporate social responsibility. All of these things are factors L&Ders have to understand and develop ways of thinking how to provide solutions to these through the businesses we work with.
The stock and trade of what L&Ders do will be the same. Effective management of the L&D cycle. It’s the continual learning we have to engage with that the challenge lies in. Short of going to Roffey Park, paying £0000’s and learning some core skills, I have very few options open to me to develop this growing skill set. There are few ‘learning institutions’ aimed specifically at L&Ders. A lot of what you learn is on the job, through those senior to you, and through trial and error.
I’m confident in my abilities as an L&Der to deliver a message, but as I’ve mentioned above, e-learning and social learning tools are providing so much accessibility to a growing workforce (virtual and static) that us stock and trade L&Ders have to get on that bandwagon or we face a losing battle. And that is a horrid thought for me.
If you’re of the trainer ilk that says I have a great solution and it’s just right for your organisation, you’re old news. You either need to think of 100 variations of that solution, or learn how to develop consultancy skills instead of selling skills.
L&Ders have a great opportunity to help businesses and organisation deliver be successful. As one of the points raised at the workshop, L&D are the best Trojan horses for organisational change. This, I truly believe.
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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

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