From the Colosseum to Clerkenwell: a snapshot of the profession

By the time you’ve worked around the summer holidays, spent September getting things sorted, and made sure to avoid the “Christmas season” – then inevitably October-November becomes “Peak Conference”.

Four events in two weeks have provoked some thoughts on the L&D Profession.  The events:

– meeting senior European Foreign Ministry colleagues in Rome (mostly Directors of Diplomatic Academies, Heads of Training Departments)

– meeting L&D colleagues for an afternoon’s “Unconference” at the Wallace Space in Clerkenwell, London (organised by the online @LnDConnect forum – mostly independent and private sector L&D professionals)

– a joint CIPD/Whitehall and Industry Group workshop on learning facilitated by Andy Lancaster (mostly wider government Heads of L&D/Training, some pivate sector)

– an internal conference of our Regional Heads of L&D in the Foreign Office (L&D professionals supporting our network – all based overseas)

Unfortunately I missed #CIPD14 – some real work had to happen somewhere..

This is a snapshot, not an essay, so just to offer five thoughts:

– The L&D Profession is becoming very stretched out.  The backmarkers do not even realise that they are in a profession.  They are looking to be competent administrators of training programmes.  Disappearing into the distance, the frontrunners are blending established learning practice with the latest in technology, neuroscience and the realities of the modern lifestyle.  The extremes barely have a common language.

– Social media are also opening up a big divide, but an entirely different one.  There is a strong generational element, but you also see digital enthusiasts born in the 1960s trying to persuade their younger colleagues to “Give Twitter a chance”.  The digitally aware are part of a global conversation with a higher evolutionary rate of change.

– The frontrunners exercise their power mostly through professional networks, thought leadership and demonstration projects.  The backmarkers tend to exercise positional power in organisations.  This distinction won’t survive for very long.

– Everybody has given up on Return on Investment and evaluation.  I mean, just given up.  We’re not even pretending anymore.  On several occasions, I saw groups of sober L&D professionals simply give a collective, hopeless shrug and vote for a coffee break rather than discuss how to measure impact.  I share the feeling.  But if we don’t get this sorted, we are screwed.

– we all need to go back and read Marshall McLuhan.

The EU conference in Rome included workshops for young diplomats.  I asked one what he thought of the seminar on social media.  “Interesting”, he said, “but isn’t social media very 2008?”  Unfortunately for some of his colleagues down the hallway, social media is still a futuristic dystopia circa 2080 AD.



Photos: the Flavian Amphitheatre (Colosseum) and some rather younger adornments of European civilisation at the LnDConnect Unconference.


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