Are L&D Professionals Ready For Transformation? (Part 1 of 2)
By Caleb Johnson, Director of Strategic Accounts, Expertus
In an era where disruptive innovation reaches all corners of the enterprise landscape, why do learning professionals seem wary of change?
Do L&D decision makers believe there’s safety in preserving the status quo? What does that imply about the future of learning and business performance? How can training professionals become champions of technologies that are redefining today’s workplace? And what does this mean for the way learning tools and services are adopted?
These are big questions with complex answers. We won’t resolve every issue in just one blog post. However, it’s important to start the conversation. So let’s begin with some food for thought.
A Learning Community Leader’s View
First, consider prevailing trends. Learning & Performance Institute Chairman, Donald H. Taylor, is in an ideal position to assess the state of today’s learning community. In a recent article, “Are You In The Training Ghetto?” he asked practitioners to focus on a critical question:
How fast is your L&D team changing in relation to the rate of change of your organization?
Taylor suggests mapping responses to a simple X/Y grid, where each quadrant poses unique challenges. The lower right quadrant represents the worst-case scenario — a rapidly changing organization where the learning department is slow to adapt. He explains:
“Most L&D departments with whom I’ve spoken appropriately fear being in the bottom right quadrant … the ‘Training Ghetto’ … The result: It’s the business, not L&D, that adopts today’s innovative approaches to learning and information sharing. I’ve seen plenty of examples of sales, operations or marketing departments doing things with wikis, online communities and mobile devices that are fundamentally about learning, but without the L&D department being involved.”
A Learning Executive’s View
Taylor’s assumptions are consistent with the first-hand experience of Larry Borgese, a learning executive who has served as Director of Operations and VP Education at CA Technologies. Larry offers additional insight into why risk aversion is a factor:
“In my experience with many learning executives, they tend to be more risk-averse. One of the primary functions of a learning organization is to improve employee performance. That is the same as saying you want to reduce the chances of employees making errors in the jobs they perform — which is a means of managing risk. Whether that core principle is subliminal or not, it is likely to be one reason learning executives may be more cautious with their decisions. They want to ensure that there is an appropriate ROI on their purchasing choices.”
The need to build a business case for technology seems like a valid reason to hesitate. But disruptive innovation isn’t waiting to prove its worth. Transformational advances are already taking hold, and there’s no going back. Even two years ago, at a Think Tank focused on high-impact corporate learning, participants discussed the importance of moving forward in the face of uncertainty. As one VP of L&D said:
“We need to start building innovation as a platform. Many of us don’t know where we’re going as a company yet. Innovation is what is going to help drive business over the next decade. We better be thinking about what new roles will emerge and how we are going to get people there.”
The Consequences Seem Clear
If L&D departments don’t step up and lead the charge, they’re at risk of being left behind in an isolated role. They’ll remain a go-to resource for formal content development, delivery and administration. But already, this traditional “comfort zone” feels out-of-sync with future-oriented business priorities.
Of course, these observations also raise good questions about the level of responsibility that is reasonable and appropriate for L&D.
What is the best role for training in a workplace where LMS platforms are only one of many tools that support the learning function? And In complex, global organizations, can L&D departments realistically expect to drive adoption of emerging social, collaborative and mobile technologies? How can learning specialists prepare?
For suggested answers to these questions, read Part 2 of this series…
Or if you have opinions about the above questions, we welcome your comments below…
Note from Caleb: To discuss your learning technology challenges, or to see if a cloud-based continuous learning platform like the ExpertusONE LMS makes sense for your organization, visit our website. Or contact us anytime for a personalized consultation and demo.
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