What’s the biggest challenge facing workplace L&D right now? My recent conversations with L&D professionals have revolved around these points:

  • Reduced budgets
  • Tighter timescales
  • Increased demands for L&D services
  • Wider range of required tasks

The first of these is on pretty much everyone’s mind right now. Last week I presented a webinar for Citrix in which 54% of the audience of over 200 said it was their top concern.

On a webinar this Tuesday we tackled the other three issues.

I was fortunate enough on this occasion to be the guest presenter. Doing all the real work was the redoubtable Stacey Harris of Brandon Hall Group. The title of the CERTPOINT Systems-sponsored event: Moving Knowledge for Rapid Business Impact.

The key take away from the presentation (click for the recording) was that things are simply moving too fast for the traditional models of learning and development to keep up. This is not to say that the course is dead, but rather that it is no longer sufficient – if indeed it ever was.

To be effective, today’s L&D department must adopt a wider range of ways of producing materials. Some development could be rapid and to the point, in other cases it could be delegated entirely to the learners themselves, and at other times only a highly-polished course with high production values will do the job.

New methods of content creation were only one of the many changes that Stacey suggested L&D needs to make to tackle these issues. Others areas of change included content dissemination methods and new job roles for L&D, not to mention the need to shift to a new, relationship-centred model of learning.

In addition, in L&D we have to remember that learning isn’t the point. Performance impact is. The clear implications of this: sometimes people don’t actually need to learn. Sometimes a job aid or handy reference materials will do the job. Sometimes the most important thing in today’s busy world is just to put some information in the person’s hand, so that they can put it to use as they see fit. Any learning that takes place will be incidental.

And at the end of it all, systems have to support this changing role for L&D. My model of L&D systems is a composite triangle. Learning Systems Triangle

The things we see most obviously are the pieces around the edges – the ability of the systems to deal with content, with content delivery and with people.

However, the one thing that determines whether systems succeed or not is not easily visible. It is the core processes that enable the other pieces to work well. With a good set of core processes in place, the L&D function will spend its time integrating mis-matched technologies, trying to extract data for reports and so on, rather than on the key job – ensuring that what we do is actually having a positive impact on the business.

We live in a world that is madly busy. If L&D is to be of any use at all we can’t stick to the old ways, we have to broaden our role massively, and rapidly. As we do this our technologies and systems must not be a distraction; they must do their job well, in the background.

The great news is that L&D has never been more important to organizations. The difficulty is to rise up to the challenge before us.

Thank you,
Donald H. Taylor



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