Making Over L&D to Serve a Fast-Changing Workplace

March 7, 2018

Takeaways

Skills training has never been more imperative to business performance.
Flip the switch - to attract and retain top talent, nurture a culture of learning and make L&D a strategic asset.

Technology has transformed a lot of the things we do at work, but learning and development (L&D) has mostly stuck with the status quo. Training is typically rolled out as a company-wide mandate, with employees required to complete such-and-such program by some arbitrary date. According to Capgemini, 42% of employees think the training they get at work is “useless and boring.”

When companies are trying to run lean and efficient, such negative feedback makes L&D budgets vulnerable to cuts. Yet, as you’re probably well aware, skills training has never been more imperative to business performance. The modern workplace is a fast-moving environment. Automation and other technologies are changing job descriptions, and the half-life of skills is shrinking. Whatever people learned in college or even grad school, it’s probably outdated.

In such a climate, those who embrace lifelong learning will have a distinct advantage. To attract and retain such talent, employers would be wise to nurture a learning culture and revisit their L&D strategy to make learning a strategic asset.

Learning, Not “Training”

L&D shouldn’t be about training. We need to change that mindset. Flip the switch and consider any element of an L&D strategy to be a component of a culture of learning.

  • It’s hard to keep up with rapidly changing skills. The days of having a static job function are over. No one can predict what people will need to learn next, but at the same time, creating training content is time-consuming. While L&D spends months developing content, the world moves on to new skills. With a strong learning culture, upskilling is integral to everyone’s routine, so it’s not an interruption or one-off event, nor is L&D left in perpetual catch-up mode.
  • Managers are closer to employee needs. In a learning culture, everyone shares responsibility for speaking up when they need access to educational resources, and everyone takes ownership of upskilling in their moment of need. To enable the free, on-demand flow of information and resources across the organization, “training” can’t be siloed. Managers should be a bridge between employees, who want to learn and grow, and L&D, which can facilitate access. By forging a partnership, managers ensure training focuses on the right topics, while L&D ensures the training is delivered when and how employees need it.
  • We all work in tech now. You don’t have to be an engineer to need a baseline understanding of technology. Today’s marketers, for example, rely on automation tools to run campaigns. Proficiency in web development and design can transform an average marketer into a multi-talented unicorn. Instead of screening resumes for skills, companies can save time and money by identifying avid learners and letting them stretch into new areas. Traditional L&D teams limit employees and only provide training related to their current job function.
  • We’re wired for digital content consumption. Millennials, in particular, bring their consumer habits and preferences into the workplace. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; using business tools as familiar as those we use in our personal lives can reduce friction and boost productivity. When it comes to training, it’s got to be interactive, personalized, and flexible. Moreover, people want to control their own experience: if they can binge-watch an entire season of a TV show in one day, why can’t they binge-learn on demand at work? Self-paced online learning empowers employees to access knowledge whenever, wherever, and however they want.
  • Internet technology enables more and better learning experiences. We can do more than just log in to take courses; we can also find support and guidance online. Technology allows us to connect to study groups, mentors, coaches, and much more that helps people get the most from newly learned skills. Analytics allow us to track who’s learning, what they’re learning, and when they’re learning it and use that information to help other employees determine where they should be upskilling in order to progress along their career paths.

Let’s Do Better

Times have changed, and L&D needs to catch up. Instead of just checking a box and moving on after employees have completed training, we need to stay connected to ensure that real learning has taken place. Modern LMS and analytics tools can help us understand our “customers” (employees) better, so we can serve up the learning content they need and keep supporting them in reaching their goals.

To be sure, this is a shared responsibility. Employees need to embrace learning in order to maintain the skills their jobs require and to continue advancing in their careers. But employers need to step up more: by providing access to up-to-date, high-quality content in the moment of need and by empowering employees to drive their own learning experiences. Disney is just one company that is using tax-reform savings to invest in employee education. We look forward to seeing more forward-thinking organizations follow suit.