The State of Learning and Development

Peek inside any recent L&D industry publication and you will find everything you need to know about the latest trends. Some of the most prominent focus on disruption, learner-centricity, micro-learning and millennials. One could become dizzy, or worse disheartened, trying to keep up with all the latest initiatives L&D experts are expected to undertake to maintain relevance in today's business climate.

Despite all the disruption and technology, companies still need people. According to PwC, 52% of them are planning to hire more people in the coming 12 months (PwC 20th CEO Survey 2017). The skills they consider most important are those that can't be replicated by machines; skills like creativity and innovation, leadership and emotional intelligence. Yet studies have concluded that managers believe employee performance would not suffer if their company's learning function was eliminated altogether (MIT Sloan Management Review 2015). This leads me to ask when and how L&D professionals became so irrelevant.

I've been in L&D my whole career, which is...well, a really long time. Over the years I have seen the industry shift and change but not really evolve. Meanwhile, business has evolved. Gone are the days of clocking out and not thinking about work until clocking in tomorrow. Business happens everywhere, at breakneck speeds. Today's employees face overwhelming demands. More than 80% of all companies rate their business "highly complex" or "complex" for employees. In addition, the proliferation of technology has enabled work to happen anytime, anywhere. On average, mobile phone users check their device 150 times per day (Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2014 and 2015). It's no wonder workers don't have the time and don't feel the need to go to training. We are at the precipice of change.

Evolve or become extinct

I can't help but think of the human resources revolution of about 20 years ago in which HR professionals were faced with a very similar conundrum. HR was largely an administrative function up to that point. HR hired people, handed out policies and administered benefits. HR was the place where employee files were kept. It's where you had to go when there was a problem. HR was not a part of the business. HR served the business.

The emergence of global economies and increasing diversity in the workforce forced business to evolve, and HR professionals realized they had to do the same. They got involved with the business, became vested in the success of the organization by partnering with business leadership, which gave a voice to a valuable people perspective that had previously been largely silent. Back then, I spent the vast majority of my time in the classroom and, even from my vantage point, it was obvious to me: HR pros saw the handwriting on the wall.

Now is our time. L&D professionals must recognize that training is not the same as learning. While the terms are commonly used interchangeably, training and learning are, in fact, two very different things. We must shift our focus away from administering training; administration offers no real business value. It's time we pay attention to the learners' needs. And we must acknowledge that learning is merely a means to an end. Learning helps employees do their jobs better; learning gives employees an edge over the competition; learning helps employees achieve the outcomes they seek.

What's next?

This isn't going to be an easy paradigm shift. And we can't just hone in on a single area. This is going to take more than adopting new L&D technology, bringing fresh faces into an organization, or revamping processes.

Tribridge has worked with companies in various industries that have started to make the transition. We can help transition from the role of delivering training to the role of developing your organization's talent capabilities and demonstrating the true business value of L&D.

Learn more about Tribridge business consulting services.

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