It’s Crunch Time: What’s the Future for L&D?
You can find transformation everywhere. From how we travel via apps, to how we cook using YouTube, and even down to how we exercise using smart watches and trackers—it’s all around us, ubiquitous in our daily lives. Yet, the concept of transformation is nothing new in our world, and for Learning & Development (L&D), it’s no different. As businesses and job roles evolve, so does the way we learn and how we adapt to these shifts.
More recently, we have seen a rapid change of pace in the context of workforce transformation. There was a sharp rise in online training, which is making a lasting impression, but what does this mean for L&D and L&D functions? What do we really mean when we say “it’s crunch time for L&D?”
The Democratization of Learning Is Here!
Put simply, it’s time for L&D to reposition itself by being as relevant and as valuable as possible. Experience and performance have intersected in ways we have not seen before. Learners can curate and create their own learning content. By doing so, they can pick and choose what is relevant and engaging to them, and do so in a timely way. They are learning effectively and efficiently by themselves. So where do we as L&D functions come in? If they can do this on their own, what benefit can we provide?
Firstly, we must streamline the two elements of experience and performance to ensure we enhance the learning experience while showing real business impact. As a learning function, you should be asking yourself, what use are you to the organization you work for, especially in regards to the learners themselves?
Interestingly, when leaders were asked what the top challenge may be for learning functions by 2025, 43% said it would be the need to upskill their L&D team members. As the learner becomes more autonomous and accountable for their own development, L&D functions must become proactive toward and facilitate this democratization of learning by ensuring they can add value while allowing the learner to remain self-directed. Why would a company pay an L&D function to take people out of the flow of work to attend a training course when they could find the information they need from a short YouTube video? Unless you are offering a way for people to do their jobs better and faster—which is what people in general strive for—you may be missing the point of why L&D functions exist.
The Shifting Demands of the Learner
In a world of hyper information and cognitive overload, we are increasingly in search of memorable experiences in our day-to-day lives: things that leave a lasting impression in our hearts and minds. Now, we are seeing this need reflected in the workplace, too. For L&D, there is a growing need for learning experiences to be told as a story with an arc: something sticky, interesting, and personalized to increase engagement and deliver key messages with impact. For businesses to achieve this, they have to get to grips with their people. Who are they? Where are they? What motivates them? What demotivates them? What are their constraints? What has meaning and importance to them in their working lives, and even their lives outside of work? Before you can create any effective solution, these questions and more need to be asked; otherwise, you will be blindly building content that clearly misses the mark. This goes back to the fundamental point that the learner must be at the heart of everything we do; understanding them and their needs is crucial.
Data can help alleviate the struggles that sometimes come with this task. It can help us rationalize content, and tell us what it is that learners are asking for. You can use their interactions to inform your future decisions on what assets and materials are relevant and in demand, as well as recognizing materials that aren’t so effective. As learner and workforce performance data becomes more available and accessible, insight and value in these sources of information must be demonstrated in order to prove the effectiveness of solutions and how their outcomes align with strategic goals.
L&D as the Disrupting Force
So what can we do to adapt to the changes that are taking place? Well, first and foremost, we need to create disruption—in the right way, of course. We need to challenge the norms that are still there. Structured learning is a prime example. Classroom learning, live or online, is less likely to be a default choice of modality, especially to the modern learner. It tends to be less flexible, and learners don’t have the best opportunities to revisit what they have learned once the session is over. It does, however, provide a richness in social interaction that the digital world sometimes struggles to replicate.
Ultimately, the focus has to be on what works best for your learner. Prioritize that over leader preferences. Enhance that experience and cater to them while simultaneously providing useful resources, moments to coach, and other complementary assets to create seamless and enjoyable learning journeys. L&D should be the disrupter within its own business area to create and innovate. As we’ve mentioned, we are in a data-driven and date-informed age, so make sure you learn how to interpret it. What have your learners searched for? What have they spent the most time on? How did they react? Likes or thumbs down? Use that data for your own continuous improvement.
Remember, relevancy is king.
As the world faces a reskilling emergency, L&D functions must evolve and adapt to remain relevant – if they don’t, they simply get left behind. Outsourcing an L&D partner can be an effective strategy for transforming your workforce and can help ease your transition into the new world of work. It can help you achieve your goal of adding real learner and business value. It can help you keep pace.
Still unsure if it is crunch time for L&D? Ask yourself, are you and your team ready?
If you need support to take on the new world of work, let’s talk: https://www.gpstrategies.com/crunchtime.