How many times have you gone to a learning / HR conference or conclave and listened to speakers wax eloquence on any / all of the following topics ?
- Relevance of L&D
- L&D needs a seat at the table
- L&D’s Alignment to business
- How do we measure L&D / Kirkpatrick /
- L&D’s return on investment
- How do we work with Learning Styles
These topics have stayed on the discussion table for many many years now.
No, I have nothing against the topics per se. ( Only perhaps with this “learning styles’ stuff which is fundamentally very wobbly ) That they are debated with passion and commitment Ad nauseam leads us to ask many questions. As a profession, the question that begs a convincing answer is this : “Have we moved the needle or are just flooring the accelerator and while holding on to the brakes!”
If there is still ‘DEBATE’ about the ‘relevance of L&D’ or for that matter “L&D needs a seat at the table”, it is but obvious that we still have a long distance to go in getting to be relevant in an organisation’s scheme of things?
Now, here is a simple question that a manager asked me many years back. “If you are making a difference to me, would you need to even have to talk about your work to me?” Ofcourse not, I thought, back then. That question needs no answer, to date!
The pace of change in the world can be mildly described as frantic and fundamental concepts and new approaches to work have emerged. L&D as a function that ‘provide’s knowledge and skills to the organisation is as dated as the dinosaur.
The coming of the Internet has forever changed the way knowledge is accessed! Knowledge is literally in the hands of employees. Peering at them through mobile devices and monitors. And an array of the best of teachers and learners are ever present on the web, to teach their craft. On you tube. On twitter. Numerous blogs and a spectrum of other sources.
The quintessential L&D professional : the ‘point-solution-provider’ who seeks to deliver programs, counts mandays and measures how satisfied learners were with the program so delivered, is dead wood! Or maybe worse than dead wood.
It is time ( long overdue infact) for L&D to relook at our roles. And do something about it. If ‘enabling the organisation to perform better / become more ready for the future’ (and their variants) are what presumably are reasons for L&D’s existence, isnt it basic expectation that we are more aware of the various ways in which that can be done. Especially in the modern technology enabled context. ( Delivering vacuous programs certainly isn’t one of them).
It is a no-brainer that the right answers are always a product of the correct questions! There are a different set of questions, in my opinion that we must be debating in conferences now. Here are the top 5.
1. With knowledge freely available, can L&D enable the organisation to leverage knowledge, at the place of work, by the employee, his peers and his immediate manager? How can we facilitate this access and leverage of knowledge better?
2. Can employee’s experience from such leverage become new learning for the organisation at large? In essence how does learning get embedded firmly in the context of work? What role can L&D play in enabling line managers to learn, coach, teach on the job?
3. How do we move from ‘point-solution-provider’ to enabler of continuous non-intrusive learning and create a choice palette for employees to seamlessly learn ( with the accent resting on ‘choice’ for the employee)? In essence how do we redefine the way work gets done? How do we help recast jobs and job content with ample avenues for learning?
4. Conversations within an organisation are the soul of an organisation. Can L&D enable such conversations? These can become the bedrock for collaborative approaches to work and learning. The consequent relationships that conversations foster are but a corollary benefit!
5. How do we transfer the onus of learning and development back on to every single employee and his manager? How do help the organisation to place a premium on continuous renewal and growth? How do we hold the mirror constantly for the organisation and for ourselves?
How do we make ourselves redundant, in doing what we are doing now?
We would need to evolve granular answers to these. And perhaps unearth more such questions and seek answers. I make no claim to have it all sorted out! But are we even thinking about these ? Could we atleast, move on ? And atleast ask new questions like these in the conferences we attend ?