The future (or not) of the internal L&D provider

I thought I’d flag up two pieces of work that caught my eye last week.

Firstly, Jane Hart (@C4LPT) has published some contributions she’s gathered for an article entitled: “What if there were no L&D Department?”

These include comments from well-known L&D thinkers Charles Jennings, Clark Quinn and Harold Jarche.. and from a couple of colleagues in the FCO L&D community as well.

The comments are well worth scrolling down.  To pick out some possible consensus (amidst much disagreement), if we’re going to continue with internal providers they’re going to need to be:

  • Loud advocates of learning
  • Heavily into the curation of content (making sense of the world for busy learners: signposting, recommending, packaging)
  • More focused on surfacing the tacit learning within an organisation, than buying from outside

An intriguing comment by Peter Davis (@Pete27513650): if the L&D Department disappeared, you could replace learning design with performance design.  (Couldn’t you do that anyway?)

And a chilling comment by Natalie Lafferty (@nlafferty): “In some cases is the new L&D Department”.  I don’t know if she meant it to be chilling.  I find it chilling because isn’t going to be interested in internal content, promoting learning or building peer communities – it’s going to be interested in selling more courses and resources through

Secondly, this slidepack by @Josh_Bersin (“The Future of Corporate Learning: Ten Disruptive Trends”) is worth looking at, especially from slide 18.  MOOCs and video are explosive.  L&D spend is growing quickly after a slump. Instructor-led learning is dying.  Content and curation are king.  Gamification, coaching, mentoring, apprenticeships are big.

I paraphrase.  If you’re into clipping slides, I recommend 35, 36 and 38 – great charts and infographics.

Thank you for the thought-provocation, and looking forward to lively discussions..!

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One thought on “The future (or not) of the internal L&D provider

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  1. One of my dreams is that the language around learning would change so that learning is always spoken about as a personal process that results in some change for an individual.

    ‘Learning’ cannot be ‘provided’ because it is not a ‘product’.

    Those who have a role in supporting the learning processes of others can only provide external environmental supports for the individual internal learning process.

    This support typically falls into three interrelated types

    – stimulus to shift awareness and attitude (unlearning some previous beliefs)
    – environment and support for the learner to go through the stages of acquiring a skill
    – information to be understood, which then needs to be remembered and applied (the easiest piece to package as ‘content’ or ‘product’)

    L&D Departments suffer from the need to ‘do something’ in a field where the business goal is an internal personal process happening for other people – this is a tricky thing to manage and influence so L&D departments fall back on doing the manageable, tangible things in the form of ‘content’ and ‘products’. This tangible work often become an end in itself and loses connection with the complex and diverse needs of individual learners.

    Similarly learners are largely conditioned to think of learning as external wisdom to be found elsewhere and ‘consumed’ in the form of ‘products’ such as courses, books, electronic content …much of which is being commercially marketed.

    But there can be no ‘one size fits all’ ‘product’ in the field of learning. Thankfully, we are all in different places internally. And our contexts differ. We each must start the learning process from where we are currently in terms of our thinking, our conditioning, our skills, our behaviours and so on. This presents another problem for L&D Departments – how to create meaningful learning processes for large numbers of very different individuals.

    Organisations need to

    (a) focus on and provide meaningful learning processes before considering the buying or creating of standard ‘products’ or ‘content’
    (b) support meaningful learning processes for individuals – so L&D facilitators must be able to get close to individuals to ascertain needs before trying to find solutions
    (c) closely integrate learning processes with work processes – L&D facilitators need to get out of L&D departments and get much closer to the work environment – and provide supports that facilitate learning as part of working
    (d) take a constantly fluid approach with maximum responsiveness to individual needs and context

    Another point is that the whole business of ‘evaluation of learning’ is often about evaluation of learning products. If we really focus the learning process on the desired change, in the first place, we will have less need to dig for evidence of whether the change occurred.

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