I remember when I started out in this game 13 years ago being a trainer and delivering content in a workshop. The content was well designed and thought through. There were workbooks, handouts, acetates for the OHP, and a video to use at different points in the training. The content was good. I was a novice, and really appreciated the trainer notes that helped the discussion move along. It was all about getting through the content. That’s what defined good training.
Or at least, that’s how I defined it.
And I’m confronted with the fact that 13 years later, there are still many L&D practitioners who think modern learning should still look like this. There are still many L&D practitioners who are working in businesses and organisations up and down and across the globe who think this form of training delivery is efficient and right.
And to an extent they’re right.
But just because people expect training to be delivered to them in this way, doesn’t mean this is what’s best for them.
13 years ago, I didn’t know that I could be a better trainer by understanding emotional intelligence. Or that I could improve my facilitation skills by gaining regular feedback on the very same. Or that if I understood the business need I could develop a really relevant training course. I didn’t know that my own development – as a practitioner – needed to move with the times. For about 6 years, I was happy just delivering content, slowly improving my ability as a trainer, but not really doing much more.
Until I started to understand that moving into senior roles in learning and development wasn’t just about delivering training, but it was about providing solutions to the business that helped the business be better at what it does. I started attending all manners of workshops, seminars, conferences, webinars, and all sorts. I got onto social media and started consuming everything I could that informed me better as a practitioner – but more so, helped me be a better human being at work.
As time went on and I started to become better at understanding business leaders, what they needed from L&D and delivering solutions that made a difference that I started to then rethink my whole approach to L&D itself. It was fine that I was working on being as good as I could be, but then I started to grow and develop my understanding of how learning itself works. After 9 years of doing this stuff, you’d think I’d know, but I didn’t – all I knew, really, was how to do training – how people learn, though, was a whole other thing.
And all the while this was happening, technology was moving at pace, as were world events. Terrorism defined the media, disruption was happening in all high street businesses, banks were getting caught out for ridiculously bad behaviour, racist, mysoginist and abusive behaviour was becoming rife. At the same time, human understanding started to explode like never before. Where models like NLP and MBTI had strong holds, these were becoming unpicked. Learning Styles, which was once the darling model all trainers used, was becoming debunked at pace. Emotional intelligence, which was once a very theoretical model, became far more entrenched in evidence and provided a whole new way to articulate human understanding. An unknown area called neuroscience started uncovering the mechanisms of the brain – not just that it worked in certain ways, but what that meant for people. A whole new field of behavioural economics became fresh and exciting helping people to understand that you can encourage good behaviours for the common good.
L&D itself almost transformed over the last decade. People began posting their own how to videos online. People began writing their own thoughts and experiences through platforms and getting them read and shared widely. Online content fast became the go to source for knowing anything. Brands moved away from broadcasting content, to be content providers, helping people know how to do better things with their products, not just that the products exist. We started to learn that there were experts everywhere, and we didn’t need to hold all the information ourselves. Online experiences became more and more about user experience, forcing us to re-examine how e-learning itself works. We learned that in providing online spaces for discussion and debate you can collaborate, meet other people and achieve pretty cool things.
I’m a bit exhausted just writing about how much has changed in the last 13 years that I’ve been doing this L&D and OD stuff.
And yet, there are trainers, HR types, recruitment types, and L&D/OD types who refuse to understand this explosion of new information and new ways of working. The world has literally moved on, and the very people who are meant to understand human insight and provide this knowledge to the organisation are worried about the transactional activities they’re doing and not looking at the stuff which makes a difference.
Which leaves me a bit deflated I’m honest. I’ve been at this blogging lark for a number of years now. I don’t get as many readers as some of you might think – I’m a modest writer with modest readership. But I’ve been writing about this stuff consistently for all that time. And not just me – many other better writers are out there. They’re trying to do the same. Get people to think differently. To work differently. To behave differently. To be amazing all on their own. And for all the people who will share and like and retweet this blog, there are many more who are blissfully unaware the world has fundamentally changed around them. They’re there, getting on and delivering the same old thing in the same old way.