In a conversation, we were discussing how L&D fares. Badly, of course, but we were looking at why. One of the problems is that L&D folks don’t have credibility. Another was that they don’t measure. I didn’t raise it in the conversation, but it’s come up before that they’re also not being strategic. That came up in another conversation. Overall, there are two steps for L&D to really make an impact on.
Now, I joke that L&D isn’t doing well what it’s supposed to be doing, and isn’t doing enough. My first complaint is that we’re not doing a good job. In the second conversation, up-skilling came up as an important trend. My take is that it’s all well and good to want to do it, but if you really want persistent new skill development, you have to do it right! That is, shooting for retention and transfer. Which will be, by the way, the topic of my presentation at DevLearn this year, I’ve just found out. Also the topic of the Missing LXD workshop (coming in Asia Pacific times this July/Aug), in linking that learning science grounding to engagement as well.
I’ve argued that the most important thing L&D can do is start measuring, because it will point out what works (and doesn’t). That’s a barrier that came up in the first conversation; how do we move people forward in their measurements. We were talking about little steps; if they’re doing learner surveys (c.f. Thalheimer), let’s encourage them to move to survey some time after. If they’re doing that, let’s also have them ask supervisors. Etc.
So, this is a necessary step. It’s not enough, of course. You might throw courses at things where they don’t make sense, e.g. where performance support would work better. Measurement should tell you that, in that a course isn’t working, but it won’t necessarily point you directly to performance support. Still, measurement is a step along the way. There’s another step, however.
The second thing I argue we should do is start looking at going beyond courses. Not just performance support, but here I’m talking about informal and social learning, e.g. innovation. There are both principled and practical reasons for this. The principled reason is that innovation is learning; you don’t know the answer when you start. Thus, knowing how learning works provides a good basis for assisting here. The practical reason is it gives a way for L&D to contribute to the most important part of organizational success. Instead of being an appendage that can be cut when times are tough, L&D can be facilitating the survival and thrival strategies that will keep the organization agile.
Of course, we’re running a workshop on this as well. I’m not touting it because it’s on offer, I’m behind it because it’s something I’ve organized specifically because it’s so important! We’ll cover the gamut, from individual learning skills, to team, and organizational success. We’ll also cover strategy. Importantly, we have some of the best people in the world to assist! I’ve managed to convince Harold Jarche, Emma Weber, Kat Koppett, and Mark Britz (each of which alone would be worth the price of entry!), on top of myself and Matt Richter. Because it’s the Learning Development Accelerator, it will be evidence-based. It’ll also be interactive, and practically focused.
Look, there are lots of things you can do. There are some things you should do. There are two steps for L&D to do, and you have the opportunity to get on top of each. You can do it any way you want, of course, but please, please start making these moves!