It powers three things:
- Enabling – allowing people to perform better in their roles, focusing on the what and the how
- Equipping capability – agility, growth, resilience, competitive advantage and innovation
- Ensnaring hearts and minds – fulfilling personal growth aspirations and creating cultural alignment
It provides you with the right “fuel” for you to perform today, climb the steep mountain, take an unexpected detour and accelerate and overtake the competition. It also ensures you store the optimal amount of fuel for tomorrow and the next day. To take the metaphor further, some shocks are predictable, others like the pandemic and the fuel crisis were not and required a rethink of the paradigm, maybe switching to electric.
Get it right and you have competitive advantage, agility, engagement and innovation. Get it wrong and it can be costly, wasteful and a distraction. Not using a new skill immediately can be frustrating but also can become redundant fast, in terms of content, employer need and in an employee’s memory. If delivery is not learning-style compatible it can lead to a sub-optimal outcome.
Why does it matter and what is happening in this space?
L&D is a necessity not a luxury. The World Economic Forum reported in early 2020 on The Future of Job. Summarising the key findings:
- 50% of employees will need reskilling by 2025
- 44% of the skills we use today to be successful will be redundant by 2025
- Over 80m jobs will be totally obsolete
- Over 95m totally new jobs will be created
- 94% of employers expect ski8lls to be picked up on the job
- Only 62% of employers provide upskilling/reskilling
- Where offered only 42% of employees take this up.
Add to this the common wisdom that it is better to upgrade than replace as the hard and soft costs of a new hire can be 6-9 months of salary for a new hire and take a similar amount of elapsed time to have someone fully operational, double that for a senior position. Increasingly, access to learning and development is seen as one of the most valuable benefits, especially for millennials and younger. Both points, elevating its importance in an overall talent strategy.
In addition to this, there has been a new emphasis beyond providing content, to focus on behaviour change and meta-learning, problem-solving, big data management, stress tolerance, flexibility and anti-fragility/resilience.
The spotlight was already on L&D with digitisation and changes to business models and how we do work. The pandemic put the scale and rate of change on amphetamines and The Great Resignation is the hot sauce on top. The consequence is that hybrid and remote working was not a band-aid but here to stay, both demanded by the employees and employers. Some companies’ reaction was to abandon the L&D agenda. Others worked on a temporary patch basis. A steely, wily few capitalised on the opportunity.
Now there is an opportunity and a need to be more strategic, to step back to understand the knowledge and mindset shifts necessary to deliver sustained performance in this new landscape and deliver location-agnostic learning strategies. The goal is to develop visionary, agile, resilient, resourceful, collaborative, innovative, autonomous and motivated employees.
The principles are the same: needs assessment, design, delivery, embedding and measurement. However there have been big changes in this field, with a shift from knowledge input to capability building, an emphasis on tailoring solutions to individuals’ learning styles and more focus on on-line, hybrid and blended learning.
Four big themes have emerged:
- Technology has improved both the user experience and outcomes. There has been an increase of use of AI, VR and AR in solution design. Digital delivery and collaborative platforms like Zoom, Teams, Enably and Blue Jeans have serendipidously transformed the way programmes are designed and delivered. Increasingly artificial intelligence is being used to facilitate adaptive learning and we have seen the increasing use of gamification in learning programmes.
- There has been an increased interest and focus on the psychology of learning to learn. There has been increased interest in using micro-learning as a tool to break information up into small digestible chunks, spaced repetition to reinforce learning and shift it deeper than short term memory and embedding social learning practices.
- Focus on the overall learning experience and journey. For example, just because it is possible to do it, it doesn’t always mean it is best to put everything online and there is a strong argument for retaining a human touch even when it can easily be designed out. The goal is improving the art of the possible, to positively increase knowledge and change behaviours to better equip employees for the future of work.
- Effective measurement remains an important challenge
So, a bit like salad an exercise, we may know what is good for us, but what gets in the way? Not having leadership buy-in, not having the right resources, not having the bandwidth, conflicting priorities or simply experiencing initiative fatigue, may all be active barriers which need overcoming.
Also understanding that L&D does not and should not stand alone, rather act symbiotically and be part of the overall agenda, fitting in with other “big ticket” items like the overall employee experience, talent management, performance management, DEI and data capture and measurement strategy.