If you were your organisation’s leader……what would you expect from Learning?

In this #chat2lrn session we are inviting you to imagine yourself in the role of your ultimate customer – the leader of your enterprise. He or she may be a President, CEO, MD, Principal, or have some other title but whatever the title is, the leader of the organisation to which you belong and in which you practice your learning skills.

As leader, you are accountable for the direction, operation and performance of that enterprise. The external environment is tough and unpredictable. There are severe challenges from the global recession, money is scarce and must be spent to yield the maximum return that can be squeezed from it. Change happens ever more rapidly, competition is fierce, including for skilled resources. Your functional heads are arguing strongly for people and money to implement strategies to enable survival, but all of them are aware of the unpredictability of the future.

You have an L&D function which all your training as a leader tells you should be a supportive asset in these critical times. It, too, is asking for resources because it has a vision to implement new technologies in learning. What do you expect of that function? That is the question we will attempt to answer in our next #chat2lrn on Thursday 6 December at 16.00 GMT.

Can you put yourself in the position of that leader where you have to challenge and justify every element of your organisation’s business plan?

Have a look at a few snippets of recent research and a couple of comments from some business leaders. They make sobering reading

• Learning budgets have decreased 10% year on year for the last 6 years
• Staffing of L&D has been on a downwards trend for the last decade
• Fewer than 15% of leaders in a recent American based survey would recommend L&D to their colleagues as a useful resource in helping lead change or improve performance
• “Our learning function is out of touch with the real needs of the business”
• “We are not providing information and support to our people in their preferred learning methodologies”

But of course there is another side and many enterprises out there are doing some wonderful work in helping their learning experts to become true business support experts with a unique expertise. The creativity in some places is mind-bending and a few can point to real benefit delivered to their organisations. New technologies are being implemented and achieving results beyond expectations or even dreams.

In your role as a business leader, what do you expect of your learning function, it’s people and its powerful technology? How do you envision them? How do you expect them to engage? What outcomes do you want from them? What “bang for your buck” do you expect from them?



New skills for changing times

The environment in which Learning Professionals work has changed considerably in recent years. During a tough economic climate, there is continued pressure on budgets. Business agility and improved performance have become increasingly important.   There is also recognition that an organisation’s learning strategy should to be aligned to business objectives with the focus moving from the L&D process to business outcomes.

Clive Shepherd, a leading learning consultant, believes that corporate learning and development is at a crossroads and whilst there are many challenges there are also lots of opportunities.  Shepherd has identified that six areas of change for L&D are around whether or not learning is:

  • economical;
  • scalable;
  • flexible;
  • engaging; and
  • powerful

This view is supported by Charles Jennings, a senior director, enterprise strategy, at Internet Time Alliance and MD of Duntroon Associates. In a Training Journal article earlier this year, it was reported that traditional approaches to learning were slow and unresponsive. Jennings said:  “We do this often long-winded training needs analysis, design and delivery process that takes time – we don’t have that time. Learning is going on every minute of the day – all the time – and we have to accept that and work out how we can leverage it to the best effect.”

If Learning Professionals are to rise to these challenges, one of the key issues is the skills required to meet the needs of an ever more complex environment.  In an environment which is going to continue to change and evolve, L&D need to ensure they have the skills to support workplace learning that delivers performance improvement.

The Learning and Performance Institute (LPI) recognised this need and last month launched the LPI Capability Map.  A year in development, the Capability Map lists skills required for success in the learning and development profession. In a recent interview with Martin Couzins, Don Taylor, Chair of the LPI said “Our main focus has been on how organisations can use this internally to help develop the skills and capability of L&D teams for current and future needs. It is what L&D does for everybody else – it is time we started doing it for ourselves.”

The framework is supported by leading experts in the industry and is made up of 27 skills across 9 categories. The LPI is not suggesting that one person would expect to have skills in all areas as an individual’s skills set is, for the most part, role dependent.  However, when you look at the range of skills – it’s pretty extensive and clearly shows just how broad the Learning Professional’s skill set has become.

Many of the skills identified in the Capability Map are easily recognisable as being part of the ‘traditional’ L&D skill set, for example, face-to-face training, content creation and design.  However there are skills which are relatively new or have not been considered part of the L&D remit such as developing collaborative learning, performance support and marketing/communications.

Join us on Thursday 16.00GMT/11.00EST/08.00PST to chat about how the skills of the Learning Professional are changing in order to meet these new challenges.  Are these ‘new’ skills becoming a core part of the L&D role rather than a ‘nice to have’? If L&D needs to change, does that also mean we have to take new approaches to what would be regarded as the more ‘traditional’ skills?

Just whose business is it ??

Just how do leaders and managers prefer to learn?  No, this hasn’t got anything to do with ‘learning styles’ or anything of that ilk!  This is about the views of a key group of end users of learning provision, ie managers of people, and the findings of a recent study that could have profound implications for the Learning and Development community.

The study in question, The Learning Habits of Leaders and Managers (GoodPractice, 2012), sought to:

*  identify common themes in relation to the key challenges that managers of people face

*  identify where these managers go for advice and support to help them meet the challenges of their roles

* establish whether the support that managers find is effective in improving their overall performance.

Eight organisations of different sizes from both public and private sectors were involved in the study.  These included two large financial services institutions, a brewing company, a county council, a broadband and telecommunications provider, a legal services provider, a university and a motoring membership organisation.  Participants (consisting of a minimum of two managers per organisation) took part in 36 one-to-one telephone and face-to-face semi-structured interviews, which were conducted in June and July 2011.  An important part of the interview process was asking managers to describe their actual behaviours and actions in real situations, as opposed to providing a hypothetical description of what they could or might do.

So what were the findings of this qualitative study?  The five greatest challenges faced by those interviewed, in order of decreasing concern, were:

  1. Having difficult conversations with their team members.
  2. Managing the capability and (under) performance of their teams.
  3. Coaching and training team members.
  4. Dealing with negative reactions and resistance to change.
  5. Managing remote teams effectively.

When it came to support, the managers had a variety of support options available to help them to meet the above challenges.  These included:

*  approaching a range of people from within their own organisational networks and externally

*  using various technology-based learning tools, such as corporate intranets and learning management systems, and seeking support from the Internet via both PCs and smartphones

*  attending formal training courses and workshops, plus other more traditional face-to-face learning options.

However, more than half of the managers surveyed indicated a strong preference for informal face-to-face or telephone discussions with their peers, more senior managers and informal experts, to help them meet the challenges of their roles.  In particular, these managers mentioned specifically the benefits of speaking directly to their peers in order to share their experiences and to highlight best practice.  This strong tendency to choose informal learning is directly at odds with the perceptions of learning professionals as shown in some recent reports (eg the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s Learning and Talent Development Survey, April 2012), which show that L&D provision still tends to use traditional methods of formal classes and classroom and trainer-led instruction.  In which case it would appear that there is an obvious imbalance between what learners want and what L&D is currently providing.

“L&D’s role should not be to try to prescriptively ‘manage’ informal learning but to find out what informal learning is taking place in order to build up a picture of how it is contributing to performance.  As well as encouraging people to engage with effective forms of informal learning, L&D can nurture the development of internal networks and communities of practice, and develop high quality resources to support informal experts and mentors.” (p.8).

When it comes to learning then, ask yourself this:  just whose business is it?

Useful links:

The GoodPractice research report (June 2012):


The CIPD Learning and Talent Development report (April 2012):