Invisible L&D

By guest author, Dani Johnson,VP, L&D Research, Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Our jobs as L&D professionals was easier 10 years ago. Information flowed from the top of the organization to the bottom. Managers and facilitators had the most information, which they then imparted to employees like benevolent overlords. But that is no longer true. Technology and frustratingly self-sufficient learners often means that employees know more than facilitators or managers on a given subject.

Over the past six months or so, we, the L&D research team at Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting LLP, have been floating an idea. Our hypothesis is that traditional ways of developing employees should change radically and L&D functions need to pivot if they want to remain valid. We’re calling the idea Invisible L&D. What do we mean by invisible L&D? The rough definition we have come up with so far is:

An L&D approach to developing the workforce by enabling and assisting learning throughout the organization, wherever and whenever it happens.

This new approach involves shifting mindsets in at least four key ways, outlined in the graphic below.

characteristics of invisible L&D

Source: Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting LLP 2016

Let’s briefly look at each.

In your face vs. Stealth

First, and sometimes most challenging for L&D, invisible L&D organizations are moving away from a very visible role to one that better blends into the background. While this has been unsettling for many L&D professionals, those that have done it successfully note that they have more influence and impact on the business as a whole.

From Creating to Enabling

Stealth like invisible training and developmentFor many L&D departments, creating great programs and then facilitating and delivering those programs is the main focus of their organization. While we have seen the time allocated to these activities decrease across the board in recent years, they remain a primary focus.

However, increasingly, organizations we speak with consider these tasks only a portion of their job. They choose to focus instead on enabling learning wherever it is occurring. This may include activities such as:

  • Identifying how employees are already developing and then enabling whatever technology or content that involves
  • Partnering with other human capital functions, as well as line managers, to ensure that experience-type learning is happening
  • Ensuring that systems and processes make it easy to find expertise in the organization and don’t hinder communication

Changing business needs and learner wants are stretching L&D organizations thin. Changing focus from creating and delivering content to enabling learning empowers the organization and takes advantages of additional resources.

From Programmatic to Systemic

Thinking about L&D systemically instead of programmatically means taking into account the entire employee experience, not just the experience they have with one course or interaction. For example, ask yourself:

  • How are employees finding the information they need and how can we make that easier, or integrate it into existing systems and processes?
  • How are employees sharing information, and how can we make that a better overall process?
  • How do we identify who has expertise in the organization, and how can we leverage those people to enable learning?
  • How can we simplify processes and systems so that things don’t need to be learned?

Moving from systemic to programmatic also requires closer collaboration with all areas in the organization that affect employee experience – from front line managers to the IT department.

Event-based vs. Infrastructure-based

For years, the building block of learning has been the course. This must change. Invisible L&D organizations take a more holistic and continuous approach to employee development, and in essence, they’re trying to build L&D into the light sockets. Wherever employees go, they will see tools, systems, processes, information, platforms, networks, etc., that are being powered with L&D.

When most of us think of infrastructure, we think about technology – and that definitely plays a part. But infrastructure-based thinking goes beyond just the technology being used. L&D organizations, in cooperation with the organization at large, are building infrastructures to support a learning culture.

Your Turn

There you have it. In the next few months, you’ll be hearing much more from us on invisible L&D. In the meantime, and to continue to help us shape the idea, we would love to hear from you. What do you think of our hypothesis? What is your organization doing to enable Invisible L&D? We welcome any feedback!


Guest bogger, Dani Johnson - VP, L&D Research, Bersin by DeloitteAbout The Author: Thanks to our guest contributor, Dani Johnson. Dani is the Vice President of Learning & Development Research at Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting LLP, and has spent the majority of her career writing about, conducting research in, designing, and consulting on human capital practices and the evolving L&D function. Dani led the Human Resource Competency Study with the University of Michigan and six other professional organizations around the world, which resulted in her coauthoring the book, HR Competencies: Mastery at the Intersection of People and Business. Some of her other ideas can be found in publications such as HR Magazine, Employment Relations Today, and The Human Factor. Dani holds a master of business administration and a master of science in Mechanical Engineering from Brigham Young University.


Editor’s Note: To learn how next-gen LMS technology supports the diverse perspectives of today’s learning organizations, visit ExpertusONE online or contact us anytime to schedule a personalized consultation and demo.

Photo credits: Pixabay

3 thoughts on “Invisible L&D

  1. Pingback: Invisible L&D – Bersin by Deloitte

  2. Dani – I like all 4 of these shifts. Here are a few thoughts to consider:

    One shift to consider is the shift from efficiency to learning (i.e., organizational focus on employee effectiveness to organizational focus on individual learnability). This shift will help drive changes that will be required of L&D.

    More thoughts here-http://learnstreaming.com/the-shift-from-efficiency-to-learning-means-an-opportunity-for-ld/

    I also think there is a shift from how the organization views learning (this could be part of your programmatic to systematic). Who is directing the learning? There will be more learning in the future that will be directed (initiated) by employees than the organization. The organization should embrace and enable this as well.

    Part of enabling might include enabling performance from a business learning partner/consultant as well?

    I agree that L&D will be playing more of a “back stage” role to have a bigger influence but I do think they have to be present as a business partner. Stealth may indicate that you’re never seen (unless that is what you’re implying)? I call this L&D working in the gray space. Maybe front stage/backstage?

    Agree, infrastructure is much bigger than technology. Love this ”….they’re trying to build L&D into the light sockets. “

    I excited to see how this evolves.

    Thanks for sharing and seeking input.

  3. These concepts are very much in line with the work Jane Hart has done around the MPL, MWL, and ELL, where we need to meet the learner where they are by supporting their needs through environments that make learning accessible, continuous, diverse, applicable, and sharable. Here is a link to her most recent work http://www.c4lpt.co.uk/blog/2016/08/14/modern-professional-learning-mpl-meets-modern-workplace-learning-mwl/

    It is imperative for us to blur the lines between work and learning! We must be improving the overall employee experience and enabling success for each individual as well as the organization as a whole.

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