Letting go, and clinging on – the future of L&D

I’ve been thinking about some emerging themes of today’s CIPD L&D Show – “emerging” in the sense that I’ve stumbled across them in the maelstrom of exhibition stands, Topic Tasters, workshops, Arenas, reports and case studies that is Kensington Olympia today.

I’d be interested to know if people agree – whether here, or not.

I’d put the themes into a narrative that goes something like:

  • L&D is realising it needs to “let go” – to rely less on control, and more on coaching.
  • L&D is realising that it had never gripped some of the workforce in any case, but to “let go” of the others, it’s going to have to persuade them gently to accept new models (including leaders)
  • L&D is realising that having let go, new roles await – particularly around curation and performance support.

To put it in parenting terms – your teenagers demand more freedoms and less control, but they also cling to certain reassuring elements of the “parental offer”.. they’re not entirely consistent. “Stop telling me what to do, and have you washed my jeans yet?”

More specifically on the drivers of “letting go”:

  • there’s a new workforce out there, comfortable with digital and “just in time” learning
  • sometimes literally there’s a new workforce: eg Booking.com doubling in size every year.  How do you keep pace with that?
  • digital opportunities mean that the old-fashioned offer looks irrelevant (old-fashioned in this sense could well include e-learning, LMSs etc if they feel restrictive and don’t integrate with the learners’ day-to-day world)
  • so L&D is moving away from a desire to control, from courses to resources to experiences (cf Nick Shackleton-Jones)
  • L&D is moving towards a desire to coach, to curate, to provide opportunities for social learning, and to provide some meaning and structure (as Stuart Haden pointed out re the Choice Paradox: sometimes too much choice is no choice at all)

More specifically on the challenges of “helping people to let go”:

  • people say they haven’t got the time to develop.  They’re too busy and confused.  They’re not ready for the new world, but too busy for the old world.
  • people say: just tell me what to do.
  • people say: ok, ok..but when’s the course?
  • leaders say: give my people training.
  • people need help to adjust to new technology and approaches.

More specifically on new roles:

  • much interest in the opportunities to guide and coach individuals, teams and businesses; to curate resources for them; to be the tour guide, not the architect and builder
  • a hesitant move towards performance support/performance consultancy (Towards Maturity report that only half report moving in this direction)
  • interest in new ways to promote, evaluate and accredit informal learning.

I wonder if learners (including me – including all of us) are experiencing some sort of collective Stockholm Syndrome.  We want to escape traditional methods – well we say we do – but we cling to them as well.

What do you think?




2 thoughts on “Letting go, and clinging on – the future of L&D

Add yours

  1. Thanks Jonathan – lots of food for thought. I agree with your points and like your teenager analogy. I would also add that its not just individuals (be they leaders or anyone else) that feel hesitant of letting go of the ‘old ways’ – I see organisations unsure of where to go next. Senior leaders who are not so ‘into’ new ideas sticking to old concepts around transactional L&D. Courses are being designed and bought daily, targets of people that must attend XYZ training is still driven from the top. LMSs aren’t designed to support collaborative and social learning – the ‘vanilla’ LMS is an admin portal for managing e-learning programmes.

    L&D staff need to work harder on influencing, using language that makes sense for non L&Ders and evaluation (yes that old chestnut!) Organisations and the people in them, need to see the positive results of exciting, useful, effective, social, meaningful learning (can we still use the term blended?) before we let go of the past and jump wholeheartedly into the future.

    Easy peasey!

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