The future of L&D?

There was a good discussion the other day on Twitter that I wanted to pick up and share with a wider audience. Neil Morrison tweeted this:

The problem is that employers are waiting to be delivered the employees that they want & haven’t realised that model of education is broken.

The conversation that followed was a really good debate about what this means for businesses, what it means for the education model we have, and what we should be doing about it.

Views were coming in from a variety of people whose arguments were along the line:

– this  is our children’s future, we should be doing something about this – first and foremost as parents

– if businesses don’t take the responsibility for taking action, then who will?

– what kind of skills are we talking about, and can we expect a one model fits all?

– it’s a genuine strategic HR issue that HR professionals should be tackling head on, and driving forward

– companies need to invest in the training they want to see in their workforce

– mindset is what we should be training for, not actual skills

Now, there’s more to be said about each of those statements above. They all have a solid amount of sense to them, and reasoning that you can follow through. But this was on Twitter. If you weren’t part of the conversation, didn’t check your timeline that day, not following those respective people, or just not on Twitter, you’ll have missed it. And this is far too important a conversation to have left hanging.

So an open invitation to you all to respond and share your thoughts. I think the one over-arching sentiment from the conversation is that we can make a difference to the future of learning and education. The challenge for every business will be about what they choose to do and how they choose to invest in this training.

By way of an example,when I used to deliver training for Ford Motor Co., they had a clear strategy for doing exactly this, and they’ve been doing it for decades. Their apprenticeship scheme for school leavers was one of the most sought after positions for young boys and girls wanting to develop a career in the automotive industry. If you’re accepted, you have 2 years of college to go through which is all geared towards your skills development and knowledge of what the job actually requires.

As another example, to become a teacher, everyone knows that you have to go through a process of becoming a Newly Qualified Teacher. It’s not easy, and you learn a lot, and you certainly gain the skills needed. Equally, you look at the police force, or fire service, they have very well developed training programmes.

But, these are specific sectors, who have had a long time to learn about how to make things work en masse. How would the likes of JPMorgan stack up to this? I don’t think a graduate programme answers the problem. It’s a solution, but not a comprehensive answer to the question of skills and education required to get in. What about Coca-Cola? Or Proctor and Gamble? How are they involved in developing a curricula at grass roots level that enables a whole population to stand up and know what they need to make a difference?


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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.

7 thoughts on “The future of L&D?”

  1. Great post Sukh,
    Only yesterday I wrote a long comment to Sara (@approachthemarket) about how much organisations miss the opportunity to become part of the learning process. Sadly silly error page took all my thoughts to virtual black hole. Very briefly L&D strategy should be part of any business regardless to its size. If I think about problems with UK skills gap, few things come to my mind.
    In recruitment and selection process there is too much focus on skills with little emphasis whether person has right attributes, and attitude willing to grow within company. Typical UK phenomenon in any business decision process is looking for quick fixes, which means without any thinking employers choose the cost for replacing skilled worker for another skilled worker, rather than finding person with cultural fit and invest same or less money into his/her development. Some big company do get the picture especially after simple empirical evidence coming from their staff turnover figures, and exit interviews mostly identifying lack of professional development as reason for leaving. (sorry, no reference but CIPD did number of researches pointing to this conclusions).
    Most of other businesses sadly pay no attention to this simple maths.
    Another phenomenon I’ve been observing for some time now is that UK (quite naturally) seeks to attract people from abroad to fill these skills gaps, however from what I’ve seen so far, rather than attracting “ready to use” professionals all we get are people with strong determinism to succeed in any job they will be offered. This is not the skills set they bring with them but rather the attitude and willingness to learn. Secondly they are happy to do it for less money.
    To sum up:
    1. Employers want “ready to use” people with little investment into their further development. The fact that they are twice as likely to leave within their first year is somehow ignored. (there is a reference for this statement somewhere, just can’t find it sorry)
    2. Turning to migrant workers doesn’t necessarily bring the expertise in the house but will attract people willing to learn and be paid less.
    3. Government and Companies should work together on new approach to lifelong learning of their people. The old NVQ needs rethinking. (I leave others to comment)
    4. Corporate Social Responsibility is mostly seen as “Using less paper” and “energy saving light bulbs”. Many companies have little understanding of the impact they do and could do within community.
    5. Speaking generally, there is still loads of short-termism rather than long-termism going on in here. Why? well it is simple. 4 years of one government is very short time to make long term strategy which will impress people of Britain. This is another storry though…

    Thanks for sharing, and who made it down here, thanks for taking time reading my comment.

  2. Good to open up this debate! Enjoyed both Sukh’s posting and Peter’s comment(blog?)! I have been in Training and Development – aka Learning and Development for over 25 years and this debate is always reoccurring – do we recruit on skills and experience or attitude and values? The impact of recruiting a highly skilled and technically experienced person can be disastrous if they are not a good cultural fit. How much effort and energy goes into managing someone who upsets other team members or customers? How many good people might we lose through their discomfort with the prickly person?

    I coached a senior manager a few years ago who left his organisation to join Google in the UK. He went through 14 interviews (and I’ve heard of others who had over 20!) including a trip out to Mountain View HQ as they wanted to ensure cultural fit most of all – he’s still there – something worked!

    A number of years ago I ran a company where our recruitment policy included team role type questionnaires for all, team involvement in the interview process and a focus on attitude and appetite for learning. We took several school leavers and provided training and development to help them find their area of natural interest – that gained us some real desk-top publishing talent, a talented supervisor and a number of other great team players who really found their niche.

    I think the key is not to pigeon-hole people too early, be prepared to coach and mentor them and let them try different functions until they seem to find the right fit. My own career started this way and had I not had the opportunity to try different functions I would probably not have had a long and extremely satisfying career in L&D.

    The payback in terms of loyalty and commitment is immeasurable (actually it probably is measurable in some way!) I have the fortune to work with a number of organisations who really get this and I will be facilitating a leadership workshop on Monday for a group of aspiring managers who will get a chance to try before they buy!

    I think I’ll stop now – nearly as long a post as Peter’s! Looking forward to reading more comments …

    1. I agree with you Margaret, and I am glad that you have almost made the same length as I did. 😉 It only proves how passionate we feel about the topic. It is not only about business case. Building fair society always involves passion….Thanks Sukh for starting this talk….

  3. In the last year at Hanover Housing we’ve had to respond to significant changes in policy, audit requirements, structures and IT systems to mention but a few things.

    Our L & D team has delivered around a 40% year on year increase in internal training days for the last two years – with everything linked to business goals, changes and improvement.

    So, our view is that any business worth its salt must take the responsibility for skills training to ensure effectiveness. It doesn’t appear to matter what age you are, there is essential workplace learning to undertake simply to stand still, let alone forge ahead as a market leader – which is our goal.

    We had an interesting discussion at an in-house management training session last week about the balance between recruiting for attitude / behaviour versus for skills. Without exception the delegates, with a wide range of experience, said they’d rather have the issue of training for skills rather than the challenge of moving someone with behavioural issues.

    So, as a parent, ex-school teacher and also trainer of teachers (albeit some time ago) I’d much prefer schools to be equipping young people with far more understanding in topics like living in a changing world, being able to find and use information, working in a diverse team, problem solving, ethical issues, using technologies of all kinds and being a life-long learner.

    As I sat down the other night with one of my children to support in homework on the use of matrices (big brackets with four numbers that rotate a triangle on an x-y scale) I reflected that I have never used this learning since I learned matrices in the late 1970s. But, it’s in the exam syllabus so it’s obviously very important :-/ !

    With our world changing so fast surely schools need to help young people have a pragmatic framework in which to approach the world of work and the world of work should focus on training for the business needs.

    On that point, I’m just considering taking our youngest through the key skills of emotional intelligence at home – I reckon that may have more impact than the current school project on concentric medieval castles!

  4. I think first of all businesses need to work out if they want people as a resource or if they want resourceful people.

    Today my eldest son is 10 years old. I don’t know what exams or qualifications he will need for his future employer / employers. Right now, he really wants to be an archaeologist rock star – how cool would that be!!!

    He has the aspirations of someone who has been inspired. To fulfil his dream, his natural curiosity will need to be constantly nurtured. He will need role models and support. Possibly most importantly, he will need the means to communicate well, comprehend the world (especially people) & be creative in an ever-changing world. Like all of us he’s resourceful and he’ll make his own path.

    However, the consequence of using people as a resource is that you actually constrain resourcefulness. Qualification and formal education is valued higher than the ability to communicate well, comprehend the world around us & be creative…

    Those organisations that want resourceful people are already waking up to the fact that the future is L&D.

    P.S. if you’ve not already done so check out the brilliant TED video of Ken Robinson on how schools kill creativity

    P.P.S. Just saw Andys post above – love it esp. ethics & emotions!

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