By Joy Church Millard, Sr. Editor, Expertus
Editor’s Note: Welcome to the 11th interview in our “Learning Luminaries” series — where we showcase conversations with the brightest and most innovative minds in the world of training and development.
This month we’re honored to feature one of the most respected L&D community leaders in the world, Donald Taylor! Read on to explore his passion for developing learning practitioners, as well as his thoughts about learning technology’s top challenges and opportunities.
Q1: What drew you to focus on developing the skills and knowledge of learning practitioners?
DT: I have been in Learning and Development since starting my career in the mid-1980s. Since then, the expectation of and demands on the profession have changed enormously, but the understanding of what L&D should do has not.
The L&D profession must evolve to take account of these changes or risk irrelevance. That is why I have focused on developing learning practitioners.
Q2: Do you see progress in this movement to upskill L&D for the rapidly changing world of work?
DT: Yes, there is progress, and it is needed. The Learning Performance Institute, which I Chair, provides practical assistance—e.g., how to move from the classroom to the on-line world, and bigger picture stuff such as helping people understand the importance of social learning.
Q3: Where are the sticking points?
DT: The key sticking point of L&D is mindsets. Specifically, the attitude of L&D professionals, managers and employees about what learning at work means.
Even though we all use on-line search, social networks and other new technologies to learn, the prevailing mindsets, on all fronts, is that L&D is about the production—half filling up and delivery of information. Until we rid ourselves of this 19th century mindset, L&D will not be equipped for the 21st century.
Q4: How is this challenge being addressed?
DT: This challenge is being piecemealed and ad hoc’d in organisations of every size, from cruise liners to the British Army to Indian pharmaceuticals.
There are great examples of modern approaches to learning everywhere, helping them spread faster and be more effective in the rapid exchange of experience and information. I, along with others in this industry, are dedicating ourselves to it.
Q5: These days, what are the biggest technology challenges L&D leaders face?
DT: Technology is not the issue. The issue is our attitude towards it and the attitude of others in the organisation. Shifting mindset is more important than any technical challenge L&D faces.
Q6: What should learning organizations do to address this challenge?
DT: There are two diametrically opposed things L&D must do:
- First, stick to the knitting. L&D is currently judged to deliver bread and butter training. If you deliver the mandatory, the compulsory and the on-boarding training superbly, you will establish yourself as a trusted partner. This is no trivial task!
- Secondly, escape the comfort zone. L&D must completely get out of their delivery comfort zone and talk to others in the business, and elsewhere, to learn what is new—then challenge themselves.
Q7: How can LMS vendors help?
DT: LMS vendors can be a crucial part of helping these conversations take place. Learning technologies are already extremely sophisticated. The next stage is to help people use them better.
Q8: What kind of business outcomes are you seeing among organizations that embrace modern learning tech ecosystems?
Modern learning technologies are helping with the faster distribution and understanding of corporate information and with the facilitation of rich conversations between employees. The inevitable outcome:
- A shorter time to competence, and
- A great cultural awareness.
Q9: If you had one piece of advice to share with companies that are considering a new LMS, what would it be?
Talk to their existing customers. There are many great LMSs out there. However, what will work for you may not have worked for somebody else.
Find as many organisations as possible similar to you and arrange for honest conversations with them to find out how they are using their current LMS.
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