Death to Learning & Development! Fact or Fiction?

This weeks post has been written by Ajay M. Pangarkar CTDP, CPA, CMA (a member of the #chat2lrn crew) and Teresa Kirkwood CTDP are founders of and They are renowned employee performance management experts and 3-time authors most recently publishing the leading performance book, “The Trainer’s Balanced Scorecard: A Complete Resource for Linking Learning to Organizational Strategy” (Wiley), award-wining assessment specialist with Training Magazine, and award-winning writer winning the 2014/2015 prestigious Readership and Editors’ Awards for the Top 10 most read articles. Help them start a, “Workplace Revolution” at or contact:

Is workplace learning and development (L&D) dying? Does it deserve to continue to exist? What should L&D become to survive? These are some of the questions people have recently been asking. My friend and colleague, Tom Spiglanin, just blogged about a significant change in the workplace learning space. Tom knows his stuff and I encourage you to read his post, “It’s Happening” first before reading this. But also, Tom (and me too) is open to discussion so please share your opinions.

What I appreciate about Tom’s post is that it brings to light the need for L&D to keep up with the times. Regretfully, I meet too many L&D practitioners who have an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ attitude or are seeking a ‘quick fix’. If you fall into this category then soon say ‘bye-bye’ to your job and L&D role.

Colleagues from the Internet Time Alliance asked, “What would happen if there were no L&D department?” or as I want you to ask yourself, “What if my role becomes irrelevant?” Don’t scoff at these questions, it’s very much a reality, not a possibility. Our position is that L&D won’t die but will evolve significantly. Essentially, death to L&D, as we currently know it and in my professional experience, is as close to being ‘irrelevant’ as you can get.

There are a variety of reasons why I firmly commit to the L&D (r)evolution hypothesis. Those who know me, read my books (recently, The Trainer’s Balanced Scorecard: A Complete Resource for Linking Learning to Organizational Strategy), or participate in my workshops (Learning DevCamp, ‘Gaining Buy-in for Your E and M-Learning Projects‘), know that I’m an L&D hard ass…I like to refer to it as L&D ‘tough love’ and always look at L&D from a business perspective, not from one of learning. This means that I interact with many business leaders, and trust me, they’re desperately seeking more from their L&D people. But not in the traditional context. They need L&D to be innovative and become a leading performance indicator partner.

Another reason that I believe an L&D (r) evolution is afoot has to do with generational progression. What’s that you say? At no other time in modern human history has there been so many generations in the workplace at one time. Think about it, there are the traditionalists (the 75+ crowd), the boomers (the 55+ crowd), the Xer’s (the 40+ crowd) and the boomers’ children, commonly referred to as millennials, (the 25+ crowd). Count’em. That’s four generations. Typically, there are only three. But wait…there’s more! Gen X generation’s children, gen Z or the Facebook gen, are popping-in. Both the millennials and gen Z employee population will soon exceed the combined employee population of older generations or at least they will in some countries, but not worldwide. In the UK, the workforce population is getting older and it’s not just in the UK that things are changing…it is a worldwide occurrence that L&D professionals will have to address.

So, what does this generational progression mean for L&D? Well, you may notice that millennials and generation Z are mobile ones. They were raised with, and using, the Web. Gen Z is even more mobile than millennials as they typically rely on using tablets and smartphones. Worse, they have the shortest attention span compared to any other previous generation. Recently an interesting Forbes article, Generation Z: 10 Stats From SXSW You Need To Knowhighlights many pertinent Gen Z facts but more importantly for L&D are bullets 2, 3, and 4. They say that pictures speak a thousand words…have a look at this infographic… L&D are facing a huge challenge!

There must be some type of (r) evolution considering the options available to deploying L&D solutions that is inclusive. This technology (r) evolution is accelerating forcing L&D to rethink its place and how it moves forward.

Finally, ‘the learning curve is the earning curve’ resonates with millennials and older generations alike. In the Bersin by Deloitte report, “The Future of Corporate Learning – Ten Disruptive Trends“, people are increasingly seeking additional knowledge or education. In the last four years, 35 Million people enrolled in massive open online courses (MOOCs), with 2015 enrolments doubling 2014 (Bersin et al.).

It’s safe to assume that L&D’s is an endangered species and I say, so be it! If L&D can’t evolve with the new need then should we let it die? But what then of the workforce that likes and feel safe in traditional methods of delivery?  Do we need to find a different way – a way that supports all employees? From its ashes what we have is a stronger, more innovative, more adaptable and a more relevant L&D to rise. Be part of the solution and not part of the legacy.  Align with your business leader’s needs, adapt your learning solutions to meet generational expectations, and seamlessly integrate technology to facilitate the learning process. Simply doing just one of these things will make you an indispensable part of the L&D revolution and for your organization as well.

What do you think? Do you agree? Did I miss something that will revive or possibly kill L&D? Please share your thoughts, experiences and opinions. Join us for #chat2lrn this week Thursday, 08.00PDT/11.00EDT/16.00BST and let’s chat about it!




The Trouble with Tribbles: Traditional Smile Sheets. Lovable? Or Exponentially Dangerous?

Will bookSmile sheets, happy sheets, reaction forms, response forms, learner evaluations, level 1’s. The same thing, different names.

In a 2016 ATD survey, 88% of respondents reported that their organizations used smile sheets, yet only 44% said their learning measurement efforts were supporting their organization’s learning goals.

In two meta-analyses—studies of many scientific studies—traditional smile sheets have been found to be virtually uncorrelated with learning results, with correlations r = .09. That’s like correlating the daily number of my footsteps with the number of Patti Shank’s social-media posts. Not highly related, with the slight negative correlation being due to me being riveted by Patti’s brilliance, which keeps me from walking away from my computer screen!

Smile sheets are ubiquitous, but they are clearly not effective—in their current form—for giving us feedback about the success or weaknesses of our learning interventions. And, aren’t we, as learning professionals, sort of charged with ensuring that what we’re doing is working? Shouldn’t we get good feedback and make improvements?

Maybe we should just throw them out… On the other hand, there are many reasons besides getting good feedback to use smile sheets. From my recently published book, Performance-Focused Smile Sheets: A Radical Rethinking of a Dangerous Art Form, I offer the following list, which I borrowed and modified from measurement expert Rob Brinkerhoff:

  1. Red-flagging training programs that are not sufficiently effective.
  2. Gathering ideas for ongoing updates and revision of a learning program.
  3. Judging strengths and weaknesses of a pilot program to enable revision.
  4. Providing instructors with feedback to aid their development.
  5. Helping learners reflect on and reinforce what they learned.
  6. Helping learners determine what (if anything) they plan to do with their learning.
  7. Capturing learner satisfaction data to understand—and make decisions that relate to—the reputation of the training and/or the instructors.
  8. Upholding the spirit of common courtesy by giving learners a chance for feedback.
  9. Enabling learner frustrations to be vented—to limit damage from negative back-channel communications.

In the book, I focus on the first four—the ones related to getting good feedback. I wrote the book because I think we can create better smile sheets. Not perfect smile sheets! There’s no such thing as a perfect measurement tool, and in the complex world of learning, this is doubly true. But organizations will still use smile sheets, so if we can make them better, we should. Also, as the list above shows, there are other reasons to use smile sheets.

To create better smile sheets—better in enabling feedback—we have two imperatives. First, we have to ask questions that give us information related to learning. Second, we have to ensure that our questions give us results that are more actionable. When a course is rated using a traditional smile sheet at a 4.1, it causes two HUGE problems. First, it enables bias. There is no clear standard for whether a 4.1, 4.3, etc. is acceptable or not. So, we evaluate the number based on our biases. Second, these numeric responses also create paralysis within our organizations. Because we don’t know what a 4.1 means, we stick with the status quo, which too often means we stick with learning interventions that are not as effective as they might be.

For further reading before our chat, here is an article that describes what improved smile sheet questions might look like:


What can L+D learn from product management?

Today’s post is written by Holly MacDonald, #chat2lrn crew member and Chief Spark at Spark + Co located on an island off the coast of BC in Western Canada. Holly is an instructional designer, consultant, serial dog walker and a self-confessed whale nerd. Find her on Twitter @sparkandco.

According to wikipedia:

Product management is an organizational lifecycle function within a company dealing with the planning, forecasting, and production, or marketing of a product or products at all stages of the product lifecycle.

In L+D, we often focus on what goes into our instructional product (content), but less about WHO uses it, WHY they use it, WHEN they use it etc. We tend to think of our work in terms of “projects” not products, but what if we changed our perspective?

What if we developed instructional products? What lessons could we learn from product management?


Product managers are guided by the following principles:

  • Products have a limited life and thus every product has a life cycle.
  • Product sales pass through distinct stages, each posing different challenges, opportunities, and problems to the seller.
  • Products require different marketing, financing, manufacturing, purchasing, and human resource strategies in each life cycle stage.

Lessons for L+D

We could develop principles for our instructional products.

How do we develop instructional products to make maintenance or sustainment easier? Do we even consider that? Do we start a “project” thinking about it’s lifespan and how things might be different on launch than 2 years down the road? For our audience and for ourselves? Do we consider product roadmaps?


Product planning involves relentless focus on the customer – using tools like Customer Discovery – the product manager is always thinking about their customers and how to deliver their product to their customer segments. They often use techniques like the “Fuzzy Front End” – which is the conceptual idea stage of the product. Some also use the “Minimum Viable Product” methodology to test their design.

Lessons for L+D

This is analogous to our analysis phase, however do we ensure that we define our customer on every instructional product? Do we truly define the problem that our instructional product will solve? Are we focused on our customers? Do we understand that our customers and users are not the same?  Do we do an FFE? Could we adopt a Minimum Viable Product methodology?


Product managers know their competitors – who are yours? Who vies for your customer’s attention? They also scan the competitive landscape to determine what influences are happening: political, economic, social, and technological.

Lessons for L+D

What is going on in your “market” that you need to keep tabs on? Do you do any forecasting around external forces? Do we anticipate what our business/client is going to need in the future? Are we prepared to provide that?


Product managers of course spend a lot of time on producing their product. They use techniques like “design thinking”. Consider all of the things that are designed: teapots, cars, solar panels, chainsaws, electric cars, stand up desks (and a bazillion other things). Take the lowly door. Even doors can be designed in a way that’s right or wrong. A door that isn’t designed well is a “Norman Door”:

Lessons for L+D

Do we approach design in the same way? Do we look at the overall process of design from all angles: Can we resist the pressure to just jump in and start building? Do you have “safeguards” in place so you don’t build a “Norman Course”.


There’s been variations on the “Marketing Mix“, or the “P’s” of marketing – product, price, promotion, place, (and in some instances, 5 P’s, adding profit) and more variation for service businesses (adding physical evidence, people and process to the mix) and even more for more “digital products” for decades. However you think about it, product managers use a model for marketing their products.

Lessons for L+D

Could we use some of  the “P’s” for our instructional products or adapt them to instructional products?

We’d love to know what you think. What CAN we in L+D learn from product management? Come and join us on April 7th to share your ideas, insights, questions, challenges and concerns.

What skills do learners need to learn?

This week’s post is written by Lesley Price (@lesleywprice).  Lesley is a co-founder of the #chat2lrn crew and now, although supposedly ‘semi-retired’, she works part-time for Learn Appeal  and continues to love challenging and being challenged! 

Those of us who work in learning tend to focus on our own skills and recognise that the skill set we require is changing. We know that even delivering high quality engaging face-to-face training or e-learning will not necessarily improve either performance of those we want to support or have a positive business impact.

Those we support very often focus on what skills they will need to be better in their roles or on the practical skills they need to acquire. Management ask us to deliver all kinds of training.  The list is endless and varied – leadership, project management, health and safety, compliance, performance support and so it goes on.

But how often do we think about the skills that are needed to learn? Do we ever actually spend time helping those we support to develop learning skills or do we assume that because everyone has been through the education system that they know how to learn?    We also know that some learners are more ‘successful’ than others in terms of academic ability or in their ability to learn practical skills.  But what makes them ‘better’?  Is it some inherent part of their character or are some people just better at learning that others?

There have been rapid advances in the use of technology to support learning. Not just in terms of the way it is used in the workplace, but also that if people want to know about almost anything, they can probably find it somewhere on the internet.   However there is also a lot of incorrect information out there which is at best ill-informed and at worst just a hoax. Do those that we support have the skills to be able to tell the difference?  Do they need to learn another skill set?

So my question is, what skills do you need to have to be a successful learner, can they be developed and if they can, how can we as learning professionals help learners learn?

Join in using the hashtag #chat2lrn and discuss these and other questions on 10 March, 2016, 08.00 PST/11.00 EST /16.00 GMT.

Is L&D a real profession?

This month is #chat2lrn’s 4th birthday!  Our conversations together started in January 2012.  We spend our working lives supporting others….helping our colleagues develop skills that will improve their individual skills and impact on organisational and business performance. So to start the year, lets first take time to reflect and ask a very basic question…..

Is L&D a real profession?

This week’s post comes from #chat2lrn crew member, Judith Christian-Carter B.Ed (Hons), M.Phil, FLPI, Chartered FCIPD. Judith is a Director of Effective Learning Solutions, a UK-based learning services company. You can find her on Twitter @JudithELS

chat2lrn judith image

I imagine to some people, the very question “Is L&D a real profession?” is nothing but akin to sacrilege! However, as the term ‘L&D Professional’ or ‘Learning Professional’ is used a lot these days, the time has come to ask whether L&D is a real profession and, if not, then should it become one?

The importance of being a professional

Many occupations and trades have their own professional organisations, such as architects, engineers, lawyers, doctors and nurses. The reason for this is simple; it helps to make them an established, recognised and respected group of people. Anyone, in any area of business, usually wishes to be recognised and respected for what they can do, and my guess is that L&D is no exception in this regard.

Recognition is probably the key aim in terms of being regarded as a true professional. Others are naturally drawn to those whose professionalism is recognised, and are prepared to put their trust in them and to use their services. The term ‘cowboys’ is often used to describe unqualified, non-professional people who require payment for their services. Whilst there are those who are quite prepared to take a risk and employ such people, most migrate naturally to those who have professional qualifications and experience, even with the knowledge that they will have to pay more for the latter’s services.

What of L&D?

In all probability, the need for L&D to be seen as a real profession has never been more needed or important than today. With changing organisational structures and functions, with greater demands on budgets and financial spend, and with an increasing emphasis on workplace performance, this all means that the role and achievements of L&D are continually under the spotlight. If L&D is to have its place at the top table then it has to show that it is a real profession and to behave like one.

But what, exactly, does this take to achieve? Accredited and relevant qualifications (of which there are many), membership of a recognised organisation (such as an institute or an association), postnominal letters, conformance to standards/an official code of conduct, appropriate knowledge, skills and experience? Some of these, or all of these?

The current state of play

So, how do you think the land lies today? Does L&D need to be a real profession, is it one already and, if not, what needs to be done to make it one that is recognised world-wide? 

Join in and discuss these and other questions on 14 January, 2016 and let’s kick-off our 5th year in true #chat2lrn style!  08.00 PST/11.00 EST /16.00 GMT

Trends, Goals, and Professional Development…Planning for 2016

“Ajay is a Chartered Professional Accountant and a Certified Training and Development Professional but considers himself a Workforce Revolutionary. Ajay is a 3-time published author with John Wiley & Sons recently publishing his third book titled, “The Trainers Balanced Scorecard: A Complete Resource for Linking Learning and Growth to Organizational Strategy” ( He is also a multi award-winning writer receiving the 2014 and 2015 prestigious Readership and Editors’ Award for Editor’s Choice and the Top 10 most read articles. Ajay regularly appears on the #1 Montreal Talk Radio morning show discussing workforce performance issues.”

Visit his (uncensored) workforce performance blog, Workforce Revolution

The 35th anniversary of John Lennon’s death just passed but his words remain…“So this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over. And a new one just begun.”

Yes. Another year is over and what have you done? If you are unable to fully answer this question don’t worry, you are not alone. The end of a year comes upon us quickly and it is often difficult to reconcile considering the promise a start of the year offers.

Each of us begins every year with renewed vigor and energy then in the end, which we believed was so long away, comes upon us with little notice. If you feel deflated from the passing of another year I have bad news…another one is around the corner. But here’s the good news. If you don’t want to experience disappointment the same time next year then do something about it now.

Moving Forward By Looking Back

The first step to achieving your end of year expectations is to first take a moment to reflect upon the past year. Learning only takes place if you are able to recognize what you can learn from past experience.

Begin by taking inventory of your experiences in the past twelve months. Human nature is to focus on the mistakes rather than successes. Both provide valuable learning lessons and it is essential that you not repeat the failures and attempt to leverage the successes.

When reflecting, take note of everything you observed/experienced in the past twelve months. What were the fads disguised as trends? What were the trends that meant well but never delivered on their promise? What did you learn from them? What experiences did you take away? Answering these questions is key to achieving your next twelve months objectives.

Goal Setting Isn’t Goal Achievement

Reflect upon the goals you set. Did you set any at all? Disappointment is only measured based upon the goals you initially set. Otherwise your disappointment is a waste of time…the only disappointment you experience is why you never set goals in the first place.

If you did set specific goals at the beginning of the year then measure how well you’ve achieved them. I assume you’ve achieved some to your complete satisfaction, you achieved others to the extent to say you met them (but not to your complete satisfaction) and then there are the remaining ones that you didn’t achieve at all. Focus first on the ones you didn’t achieve and then the ones you could have done better achieving.

If you failed to set goals then you are solely to blame for your end of year ineffectiveness. But don’t wallow in the disappointment learn from the experience. Set specific goals for the next twelve months but be sure to set them up so you can track your progress throughout the year. And, never make it a shopping list of goals. Plan too many and you will set yourself up for certain failure this time next year.

Professional Growth Is Not Optional

Finally, take care of your own professional growth. It simply amazes me how so many learning practitioners I come across don’t place any effort into their own learning. How can you not practice what you actually preach unto others?

The second error many practitioners make is to be myopic in their development. Stop focusing on what you actually do. While it is relevant to maintain your expertise it is equally important to develop holistically. To be taken seriously by your leadership, think about complimenting your skills with learning that lifts your value and expertise to be more inclusive of ancillary concepts and roles.

Give Yourself a Year-Round Present

Christmas is around the corner. Why not be kind to yourself. Plan your 2016 with learning events and opportunities by subscribing and/or registering for courses and conferences throughout the year. This will guarantee your professional growth and lead you to reflect favorably when 2016 comes to an end.

We hope that the past twelve months have been good to you. What I mean by that is not only in successful attempts but also if you didn’t achieve your objectives. You must be able to look back on both experiences to add to your personal growth. My wish for you is to take these experiences and leverage them for a more fruitful and exceptionally successful 2016.

Please share your experiences from the past year with the #Chat2lrn community. What are the fads or trends that you believe added value or were a waste of time? What was your wish list from last year that you achieved or wanted to achieve? What is going to inspire you to achieve your goals in twelve months? Join us on December 17th, 8:00am PDT, 11:00am EDT, 4:00pm BST for a #chat2lrn discussing these and other questions.

Allow me to leave you with a closing John Lennon thought and my sincerest wish to you that seems appropriate for this post:

“A very merry Christmas, And a happy New Year. Let’s hope it’s a good one. Without any fear.”

Please take this Poll:

Wearables and L+D

This post was written by Holly MacDonald of Spark + Co, one of our chat2lrn crew.

The internet of things is coming and in some cases it’s already here. Wearables are everywhere. It behooves us in the training field to track these technology changes and consider how they might influence our own practices. As with many technological advances, the potential for change is huge. Wearables create equal parts of fascination and fear for many people in general. And while it might seem far-fetched or sci-fi, it is not a movement that will go away.

First of all, what is a “wearable”?

According to

The terms “wearable technology“, “wearable devices“, and “wearables” all refer to electronic technologies or computers that are incorporated into items of clothing and accessories which can comfortably be worn on the body.

Wearables can have more than one function:

  • Accessing content
    • Google Glass
    • VR headsets (Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard)
    • Smart Watch
  • Trigger behaviour – these are “haptic touch” type of triggers. Your device or clothing buzzes you. This might remind you of something, or stop /start a behaviour.
    • Smart Watch/jewellry
    • Fitbit
    • Bands
  • Provide feedback
    • Typically a wearable device plus an app – e.g runtracker, biofeedback,

What are the implications for L+D?

  1. Delivering Training

Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality devices and software can provide a very robust simulated environment or enriched environment for training. This is used already in medical training, the military and flight training. Eventually, it’ll be a possibility for other industries as well.

Location specific beacons and a wearable (or an app) could serve up context/location specific content for employee training. Imagine a new employee who works in a certain physical section and needs to learn product and process in order to do their job. Training would not have to be linked to a computer, but could be triggered when the learner enters a certain area. This is already widely used in museums and other tourist attractions.

  1. Performance Support

There are lots of ways that we can consider wearables as performance support tools.

Training can be reinforced and performance can be monitored to help our learners adjust and refine their performance. For example, in physical jobs, smart clothing can collect data to help reduce repetitive strain injury. Immediate and specific corrective coaching could help avoid a lifetime of pain.

A new employee could wear a go-pro camera to record their actions the first time they complete a task after training and analyze where they could do things differently. They could even ask a more experienced employee to review with them or coach them.

An employee could set their wearable to nudge them during task completion with reminders or immediate feedback to ensure that they are doing it right. This would be especially useful for job sites that are “field based”.

Knowledge workers might use “mood tracker” and device combinations to monitor their own performance, much like a high performing athlete does. The “Quantified Self” movement could be adapted to learning, where individuals use wearables to provide information and feedback about their learning goals.

Probably the biggest fear for people in L+D is the potential for employers to use the technology to spy, punish or otherwise manipulate workers. This is a valid fear, but still won’t stop the wearable movement from happening, so it’s better to get out in front of it and shape how it might work for good in L+D.

Come and join the chat on Thursday, November 3rd to learn more about wearables, share your experience, or feed your fascination!


For the keeners:

I wrote a number of posts about this earlier this year that go into more detail of the possible ways that wearables could play a role in L+D.

I also encourage you to read Donald Clark’s posts on VR, he always has insightful comments.

Julian Stodd also wrote a couple of posts that are really great and