As a profession, L&D is undergoing extraordinary change. L&D professionals must determine how best to manage these seismic transformations both personally and professionally. A recent gathering of over 40 L&D professionals in locations across New Zealand was the ideal setting for reflection, brainstorming and sharing of how individual organisations are shaping their responses and strategies to manage the impact of technology and other agents of change in the industry.
These discussions produced the L&D Innovation Research Report 2019 New Zealand which details the various themes and issues raised and offers real insight into the current state of L&D in New Zealand today. The report will inform the agenda for the inaugural L&D Innovation & Tech Fest conference, an incorporation of the Learning Development Innovation & Tech Fest with the HR Innovation & Tech Fest, to take place in July 2019.
Overall the report highlights a fundamental change in the role of L&D, and that going forward all learning and development strategies and tactics will endeavour to improve performance, create a learning culture and stimulate innovation. However, L&D must also acknowledge that they are now under immense pressure to demonstrate and deliver value to the business. It is also time for the profession to step on board the digital movement and while acknowledging that while technology in learning is not a silver bullet, it behoves all L&D teams to know and understand, to become fluent in the language of digital and tech.
Six distinct themes emerged as being the most critical concerns over the course of the conversations.
1. Forging a learning culture with innovation at its core
Employee engagement with L&D efforts continue to face challenges, including how to overcome the mentality of “what’s in it for me?” How do you create a learning plan that facilitates digital transformation and also allows for innovation? Some organisations are looking to resolve this with a defined culture change strategy. Others address the growth of personalisation in training. As always, leadership support is critical. Is it a token gesture or does the team have a seat at the table? Quite a few also recognise the rise of Agile with the accompanying increase in demand for training employees in these new methodologies. However, again there are obstacles. The biggest hurdle is time, with 56% indicating that time was their biggest challenge in driving L&D innovation internally.
2. Applying data to achieve business outcomes and demonstrating value
Currently, organisations have access to immense amounts of data, but this presents many problems. Who has the skills to interpret this mountain of data strategically and how can organisations ensure the data provides the outcomes and insight required? For example, how can L&D find the relevant metrics to demonstrate the consequence of losing top talent? To make a difference L&D needs capabilities like live access dashboards to ensure they collect the correct data. Otherwise, any information that is gathered may not be accurate and the actions taken based on that research might produce results. There is also a concern about the skillsets required, a concern that will only increase as big data further unlocks vast amounts of customer, operational and employee insights.
3. Developing the skills and competencies to be modern L&D leaders
In a nutshell, L&D need to build their skills so they can manage and prepare the workforce of the future. It falls to L&D to deliver a modern learning experience that meets employee expectations, and this, for the most part, will mean providing personalised learning.
4. De-mystifying technology to deliver business objectives
Despite the fantastic capabilities and functionality of technology, it is crucial that L&D do not lose sight of the fact that it is not a panacea. There are considerable differences in what technology offers and to choose wisely an organisation should involve all parties - HR, L&D and IT – when evaluating a product option. One of the major areas to consider is that the product aligns with the desired business outcomes. It is also critical to incorporate a user-led design approach when selecting and implementing a new learning system. Often many organisations have multiple systems co-existing, some not integrated and so any decisions must look at how they facilitate and assist with integration.
5. Successfully implementing technology and its adoption with UX
The bottom line is that no matter how amazing the technology is if users are not engaged then learning and skill acquisition with not occur. It’s up to L&D to design better ways to sell the adoption internally. Ultimately user experience (UX) is the key to engagement.
6. The future – staying at the cutting edge of L&D technology
L&D is a profession that must always keep one eye on the future as we must constantly look for ways to update, improve and occasionally even overhaul L&D systems.
The reality is that L&D is in danger of being less relevant for some transforming organisations as technology rapidly evolves at exponential rates. Failing to partner with the organisation as a trusted advisor reduces the role of L&D to a supplier. Digital transformation means enterprises are undergoing massive change, including the redefining job roles, demand for new skills and capabilities, and the provision of new learning journeys. L&D needs to get ahead of this curve, and become involved before, rather than after the fact and merely providing delivery. I’ve seen both great and poor examples of this. L&D must look beyond leadership and democratise learning throughout the entire organisation, becoming critical business partners, if they are to remain sustainable with resources and funding. If L&D fail to do this, parts of the enterprise will do it themselves, setting a dangerous precedent.
Kath Greenhough is a Sales Director for Skillsoft in New Zealand.