Evolving Role of the L&D Practitioner

How is the learning landscape of the workforce changing?

There are five trends reshaping the learning landscape today. Let’s take a closer look at them.

1. Learning Needs are way too dynamic

Change is the only thing, which is constant today. New business models are emerging in the marketplace. Old organizational structures are giving way to new ones. Rules of doing business are getting redefined. New products and new technologies are transforming human lives. Customer tastes and preferences are evolving. These dynamics are exerting pressure on organizations to build and renew their people capabilities on a continuous basis. Consequently, there is a pressure on the L&D function to meet these ever evolving capability-building needs of their organizations.

2. Employees are becoming 'self-learners'

We saw learning needs have become dynamic. In view of the dynamic learning needs, organizations today do not have the leeway to go through the lead time of designing, developing, delivering and evaluating learning solutions. So now employees are taking the mantle of upskilling and reskilling themselves. Thus, learning is slowly becoming a self-organized system where learners drive their own learning agendas. Advancement in learning technologies is accelerating this shift. A self-organizing learning system is characterized by self-paced learning, social and informal learning and collaborative learning.

3. Business leaders are not sure how to leverage L&D
Business leaders today understand that ‘continuous learning’ is critical for the survival of their business. But at the same time, they are not sure how their L&D leaders can help them achieve this objective. They are clueless on how to leverage their L&D function and the army of specialists manning this function. CEOs are not sure what the future structure of their L&D organization should be. In most organizations, L&D leaders don’t have a seat at the table in the boardroom. In most companies today, the CLO reports into the CHRO and not the CEO. This is the irony of our times.

4. For the L&D practitioner here is a problem of plenty

Innovation and creativity (often fueled by technology) have brought in a plethora of methods, approaches and tools in the learning space. Today, training is delivered through e-learning, mobile learning, videos, webinars, gamification and various other platforms. In addition to various tools and platforms, there are also various delivery methods that have evolved in the recent years. Storytelling, training through music, training through theatre, training through movies, training through clay modeling are the new trends in training delivery. And there are more to come. Interestingly, today it is not the problem of scarcity but a problem of plenty (of options) for the L&D practitioner. Is this a good problem to have?

5. Analytics will shape learning

In the near future, big data is going to have far reaching ramifications on L&D. Today, data is more readily and rapidly available. It is accessible and searchable and there are tools to help organizations get the most out of the data they gather. Imagine being able to correlate business performance results with your learning interventions. Today, we can take advantage of ‘Big Data’ to drive vibrant, responsive, relevant learning interventions that engage employees and lead to better organizational performance.

How is the role of L&D Practitioner evolving?

The aforesaid trends have brought the L&D practice to inflection point. Do these trends ring the alarm bell for the L&D professional? Yes, they do! The L&D professionals’ role in its current shape and form is going to disappear soon. The L&D practitioners must foresee the future trends and adapt to the changes happening all around.
Now let’s see how their role is going to evolve in the near future. Here are five major shifts we will see in their role:-

1. Strategy enablers to strategy accelerators

In the good old days, ‘training’ was not a specialized function. The HR manager used to wear the training hat on a needs basis. With the advent of the knowledge age, training became a specialized function. However, for years, L&D remained a support function and stayed aloof from the business. Later on, L&D found its connection with business and its status was elevated from a support function to that of an enabling function. The next big shift for L&D is going to be from ‘enablers’ to ‘accelerators’. To enable strategy deployment, organizations need ‘capability’. To accelerate strategy deployment, organizations need ‘future capability’. For their survival, organizations must accelerate. L&D leaders today have the resources, tools and analytics to drive this shift.

2. Learning providers to anchors of continuous development

In the past, L&D teams were primarily learning providers. However, today a large part of L&D has been commoditized. Major chunks of learning processes are either being outsourced or automated today. This is creating bandwidth for the smart L&D practitioners to do more meaningful and impactful work than just providing learning solutions. They can now focus on becoming anchors of continuous development by stitching together learning interventions into 'learning journeys'.

3. Teaching 'skills' to building effective ‘learning habits’

Old skills are becoming obsolete and new skills are emerging at an incredibly fast pace. L&D practitioners cannot keep up with this pace if they attempt to teach these skills. Earlier we agreed that employees are going to become self-learners. Therefore, L&D practitioners would be of great value if they can help inculcate effective learning habits among the workforce in their respective organizations. A self-organizing learning system will be stifled, if the workforce lacks learning habits.

4. Content creators to content curators

This is another interesting shift L&D leaders need to make. They should become content curators rather than content creators. Today content is accessible any time at any place through Google, YouTube, Slideshare, Coursera, edX, Brainshark and many other platforms. What is the point in reinventing the wheel when content is already there? Instead, there is a need for L&D practitioners to curate these readily available content and direct employees towards relevant content. Employees will surely value this a lot because they are already under heaps of content in the digital world and screaming for help.

5. Delivering training to facilitating interactions

L&D practitioners themselves cannot cater to all the learning needs in their organizations. But what they can do, is build an eco-system and create context where employees can discover who to collaborate with in order to develop capabilities. This eco-system would include all relevant people, processes and tools to drive collaborative learning in the organization. Social, informal and community based learning would become key elements of this eco-system. L&D leaders would take on the responsibility of facilitating interactions among employees and ensure that these interactions become intrinsic to the way their organization functions.
Therefore, it is clear that the aforesaid shifts are critical for the L&D practitioners’ survival. They will have to evolve or perish. The million-dollar question is: “Are they ready for this transformation?” Also, “What skills and competencies do they need to transform themselves, so as to survive these disruptive industry trends?” Well, that is the topic of my next blog. Watch this space for more.


Add new comment

Please enter the text you see in the image below: