In January 2020 at the Consero Corporate Learning & Development Forum, over 45 heads of learning from global organizations met to discuss the question: is the learning function dead in the age of self-service?
After all, with vast content libraries like LinkedIn learning and Coursera easily available, and with millions of “free of charge” learning resources accessible through Google and YouTube… L&D is no longer the single creator of content, nor is it the single delivery provider. What is the primary role of an L&D function in such a content-rich environment, and why should senior management invest in an in-house learning team?
The group of senior learning leaders debated several key questions, and decided that the learning function isn’t dead at all, but rather even more relevant than ever before...
…but only if we act now to evolve beyond “old school” thinking about our roles and responsibilities. We need to:
- Learning how to engage the business to invest in our initiatives
- Excite our learners about the options available to them
- Leverage technology wisely to help embed the learning into the day-to-day
Common (mis)perceptions that can restrict the learning function
- We are seen to offer a service that is “nice to have,” but doesn’t have an impact on the actual “business of our business”
- Learning strategy is designed from within the HR team and is focused primarily on the people agenda
- We are sometimes perceived as “order takers” and simply asked to provide “training” when the true need is unclear
- We must continually fight for our budgets
- Our teams are asked to build and deliver most of the learning content
- We are beholden to legacy technologies (like LMSs) that detracts from the learning experience
The future of the learning function and how to grow our relevance
- Wee need to be seen as savvy business partners who can help the organisation solve real-world challenges and help to advance business objectives
- Our learning strategy needs to be perfectly aligned to the overall corporate strategy
- We need to be perceived as being consultants who know what interventions (learning, OD, or something else entirely) are likely to have the most impact
- Our C-level colleagues must understand the true and far-reaching value of investments into learning and development
- We need to be seen not just as content creators and trainers, but as curators and strategists. We still will create and deliver content where appropriate, but we will also source from outside the organisation where it’s more advantageous
- We must leverage consumer-friendly modern technology to provide easy to access, easy to use, and “in the flow of work” learning resources to our global, remote and local employees
Engage senior management to secure and justify continued (even increased) investment in learning
To shift the perceptions of learning functions we need to be able to convince the key decision-makers of the value (ROI/ROE) L&D functions add to the organisation, and demonstrate how our roles are much more than ad hoc training - but essential for employee engagement and development. We need to ensure that we:
- Proactively educate the senior management teams about the value of learning (share real-world case studies and cautionary tales)
- Reset expectations about the services the learning function can provide - establish our L&D team members as learning consultants & strategists
- Identify a small number of “quick win” projects that will help generate internal interest and momentum
- Link all learning priorities and programmes to the corporate strategy and current business priorities and be able to draw a direct line between the strategy and every single programme we offer
- Establish and commit to KPIs and success metrics that are directly connected to business objectives. We must always make sure ROI is not just an afterthought
- Leverage the social capital and the connections of the senior managers to promote our programmes to the widest possible cross-functional audience
How can we excite our learners to engage with learning content that aligns to our corporate strategy?
Providing employees with a learning platform is no longer enough, alongside the actual content, learners need context and a purpose for them to engage and actively learn. As a function we need to be able to grab our employees' attention and showcase the benefits of learning, not only for the organisation, but for the individual. How can we do that?
- Start “bottom up,” not “top down:” ask our learners what resources they need to be more effective in their roles.
- Apply marketing best practices to our learning programme rollouts to get people excited about the offering. We need to start building momentum and buzz early
- Always lead with the “why” and repeatedly tell our learners how they’ll benefit from our offerings. Let's show them how training will help them improve their performance, grow professionally, and achieve their goals
- Provide connectedness and credibility and show how each learning offering is directly related to both the company strategy and their day-to-day work
- Find and curate new content based on what our employees are already seeking – analyse the date to see what’s popular, then source additional related resources
- Think beyond the obvious and offer learning solutions that meet the needs of all styles and all generations. It’s no longer just about classroom instruction, and people learn in different ways. Think videos, on-screen prompts, lunch-n-learn sessions, peer shadowing, coaching, text-based resources, printable guides, podcasts, etc.
How can we leverage modern learning technology to help create a learning culture and embed new knowledge into the day-to-day?
Investing in modern learning technology that has been developed with the end-user in mind will allow our organisations to offer corporately-aligned learning content in the flow of work. We need to provide employees with relevant learning materials that seamlessly fit into the flow of work via a simple, yet initiative platform that supports self-service learning. We need to ensure that our learning technology:
- Is simple to implement and administer - not reliant on a legacy LMS, but can link up to an LMS if required
- Is designed with the needs of the end-user in mind and doesn't require an instruction guide – as intuitive to use as Netflix, Spotify or Hulu
- Provides 24/7/365 access to learning resources from any office-based or mobile device and multilinguistic in both interface and content
- Enables our employees to share learning content that they find valuable – empowering them to be additional learning curators and cultural advocates
- Provides access to a variety of learning assets and modalities to suit diversity workforces: video, audio, text, interactive, quizzes, etc.
- Is content-agnostic and provides content from a range of sources, whether that's internally developed content or third-party learning materials
Putting it all together: the learning function of the future
So let's embrace the evolution of L&D functions and show everyone how we're more than training and development but how we're specialists in brand advocacy, employee empowerment, career development, and content creation/curation.There's a great opportunity here for L&D to grow our roles, our relevance and our futures... let's grab it.
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