Just how important are digital skills for L&D?

The skill set needed by L&D is ever-growing. The traditional skills of being able to design performance enhancing courses/workshops/programmes is still very much needed, as is the need for high quality delivery and facilitation in-person. Anyone who argues that in-person delivery isn’t needed is being disingenuous to its impact and its efficiency.

If you look at the range of job titles on offer these days, it can be really quite confusing about what some roles actually do. I see titles like “Learning Experience Designer” and wonder how this is different to an “L&D Designer”. Yes, I understand that experiences matter, but why are we calling out experience as the key differentiator? I see titles like “Talent Development Partner” (my current title by the way) and wonder if that’s not the same as “L&D Business Partner”? It seems to be the focus of the organisation in drawing attention to talent specifically. I see titles like “Digital Learning Specialist” and wonder how that’s different to “E-learning Designer”? Yes, I understand one references a specific mode of delivery and the other a broader set of interactions.

Moreso, a lot of writers in our space talk about the need for digital skills. The challenge to that is we are still fairly immature in L&D when it comes to digital skills. Yes the likes of LinkedIn Learning, Skillsoft’s Percipio, and other platforms are getting better at delivering high quality content, and in accessible ways, but that’s still several steps removed from digital being the first set of thoughts for L&D. Many in our space think of digital as an after thought. About how it can bolster the in-person stuff as opposed to being a core way the learning takes place.

For me this is about several things.

L&D need to get much better educated in the potential and the utility of digital. I remember recruiting for an L&D Manager several years ago and being shocked at how many didn’t get how digital could be used to effectively deliver learning solutions. I’ve been in many conversations with senior L&Ders and struck by just how reluctant and reticent many are to think and design with digital in mind, instead acknowledging the fact they have amazing digital teams or digital content which is not designed to support performance directly and more often than not separate from the in-person learning experience.

We’re also at a stage where we don’t need to necessarily have the digital skills ourselves in order to deliver better learning solutions. There are more and more people trained in these skills. What we need to better understand is how digital can and should be just as fundamental in the delivery of a learning solution as is the in-person stuff. It still amazes me how we’re not including pre and post in-person stuff with digital delivery to prime people before in-person stuff and support consolidation of learning and sustainment of practice after the in-person stuff. And it doesn’t all have to be webinar or virtual, it can be about using Skype for coaching calls, or Slack for ongoing communication.

There’s an important question here about the need for vendors and our trade representatives to provide much better support and skills development when it comes to digital. There’s a real need for L&D to be upskilled, and not just through playing with the tech, but also being shown what the tech is and what it’s capable of.

And of course there’s our lives experience of digital. Writers in this space say we use digital everyday. Yes, of course we do, but consuming digital for personal purposes is fundamentally different to consuming digital for learning purposes. This is where there’s a disconnect of the hype and the reality. Its fine to say an LMS should be as easy to use as Amazon but if the LMS is built on bad tech, what do you do then?

So, yes digital is an important part of L&D but not because we should be delivering more through digital content, but because we are simply not making the best use of digital content and resources to fully realise what we can support with learning solutions.

Published by

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.

3 thoughts on “Just how important are digital skills for L&D?”

  1. Hey Sukh. A really intereting post. Thanks for adding some measure to the debate. What are the fundamental differences in digital for personal and learning purposes? (This question rests on the assumption that digital is not only content consumptio which is a huge problem for L&D).

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