Transforming learning and development: the need

Transforming l&d

You and us together

Do any of the following apply to you?

  • Budgets for training are flat or reducing.
  • Managers are finding it harder to release their staff for days at a time to attend training programmes.
  • Travel budgets are under pressure making it harder for participants to travel to central training locations.
  • Learning & development staff are apprehensive about the idea of using new learning technologies.
  • You have had a poor experience in the past of using rather tedious self-study e-learning.
  • You are reluctant to compromise on the quality of the solutions you offer.
  • You know you really do have to make changes but you’re not sure where to start.

If your answer to any of the above is ‘yes’ then it will be small comfort to know that you are not alone. The fact is that changes are necessary and sooner rather than later.

Over the past three years, as we in the learning and development profession have battled with almost unparalleled levels of uncertainty and pressure on resources, my colleagues at Onlignment and I have found ourselves engaged more and more often in discussions with learning providers, both external and in-house, looking to reinvent their offerings for their particular markets.

Of course this is not the first time that learning providers have had to struggle with tight market conditions. But this may well be the first time that customers – internal and external – are beginning to question the basis of the service offering. So what’s changed?

First of all, customers cannot any longer afford for their employees to be off-job for protracted periods. That’s because they don’t have the spare capacity they once had to cover the time lost, and they need all hands on deck. They are also short on budget and, as we all know, training (particularly when external) is one of the easiest expenses to cut. However much we might complain about the importance of learning as an investment in the future, I doubt if any company ever went bust because they delayed formal training when times were tight. We have to accept that fact and realise that learning is typically a medium to long term investment, and some organisations have not been so sure they are going to have a medium to long term.

Customers are also more aware of the environmental impact of excessive employee travel. A good proportion of those cars on the motorway or planes in the air are carrying people to learning events, and not always in situations where face-to-face contact is essential to success. The environment may not be the biggest issue on anyone’s agenda right now, but it will return as economic conditions improve. By then, many organisations will have got used to the idea that many meetings and other events can be handled perfectly adequately using web conferencing.

Finally, there is an increasing awareness that stand-alone classroom interventions have a limited impact on job performance. However enjoyable they may be at the time, and however high the knowledge assessment scores might be at the end, these are no guarantee that what is learned will be retained, applied and then put to good use.

In this series of posts, we’ll start by developing a vision for a transformed learning and development function; one that is aligned, economical, scalable, flexible, engaging and, above all, powerful in terms of the results it achieves. We’ll move on to look at some of the changes that can be made to realise this vision, expressed as six shifts:

  • from generic to tailored solutions
  • from synchronous to asynchronous
  • from compliance to competence
  • from top-down to bottom-up
  • from courses to resources
  • from face-to-face to online

In each case we’ll be making clear that these are shifts along a continuum, not the abandonment of practices that clearly deliver results. We’ll also keep reminding you that every situation is different and that every organisation needs to strike its own balance

Lastly, we’ll spell out a process that will get you started on the journey to transformation, starting with a thorough analysis of your particular requirements, target populations and constraints. We’ll look at the implications these have in terms of your learning architecture and infrastructure, the way you analyse performance needs and design blended solutions, and the skills you’ll need to take advantage of new learning technologies.

Coming next: The vision: 1. Learning and development that is aligned

About Clive Shepherd

Clive Shepherd has written 244 post in this blog.

Clive is a consultant specialising in the application of technology to learning and business communications. He was previously Director of Training and Creative Services for a multinational corporation and co-founder of a major multimedia development company. For four years he was chair of the eLearning Network.

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  1. says

    Thanks for your blog post! I really appreciate what you said and how you articulated it. I guess my response is this…On the whole, many of the shifts that you identified have been made with eLearning content. Are the results bringing the solutions to the problems companies face which you identified at the beginning of the post? Also, is it good that these shifts are “along a continuum” of learning, development, or training practices that are already in place or do we need to rethink learning and development on a completely different level? Thanks for your thoughts!

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