Article: Recent trends in L&D: The function is moving agile

Learning & Development

Recent trends in L&D: The function is moving agile

Organisations today are moving away from 'training' to 'capacity building'. They are recognizing that the one jacket fits all approach does not work and they need to tailor the learning programs according to needs of the individuals.
Recent trends in L&D: The function is moving agile

The world is witnessing enormous changes in the business economy and the way we connect.  The changes may not be much of a shock to most as Thomas Friedman warned us exhaustively in his book “The World Is Flat” close to a decade ago. The changes I am trying to portray have got little to do with the macro business environment. I’m talking about the transformation in how we learn, as adults, as employees, even as a community. Learning is under a huge transformation stage as we enter a new “culture of sharing.”

The word ‘Training” is getting extinct. They say it is the animal that can be trained. Human beings are not trained. We strive to build the capacity of the human beings. Hence, most of the organisations have renamed their Training & Development department as “Capacity Building Department”. Training is often one directional, one dimensional, a ‘one size fits all’, controlling process that levies inert, outdated information on people.

In order to focus on and achieve improved performance, we must quit thinking about ‘training’ employees and start developing employees; and that’s what the article talks about – The recent trends in L&D.

It is essential for organisations to become ‘learn-able” or “learning organisations”. Accelerated change, speed, and a reinvented entrepreneurial system require the workforce to remain competitive and marketable. These changes have a significant impact on the organisation’s ability to gain and sustain a well-trained workforce with leading-edge technical skills and managerial abilities. The L&D departments, with the common mission of building competencies for the workforce and sustaining them, we tend to skip catching the cultural transformation shifts. Usually, we are left in the dark and out of the loop.  We get wedged in our veteran style of learning with despotic management and bureaucracy-driven tendencies for a “lectern to learner” teaching style.  In fact at times to minimise the fear of opposition to accepting a change, we spurn the idea to find novel and astute ways to teach and learn.  This new transformation into a culture of sharing or culture of “New social learning,” as Bingham and Conner describe in their book, ‘The New Social Learning’, might be just the ticket.

Technology supported learning – Disruption in the old paradigm 

With these trends in place, we are observing an intense rise in our collective thinking, and capacity to grow; we are observing a more hybrid IQ. Technology plays a vital role to bring the paradigm shift in the learning methodologies adopted by organisations today. A training magazine reports the training expenditures being more than $70 billion a year which is a rise of around 15% from 2015. L&T Infotech, for instance, is moving into a gamified version of the classroom training modules. Also, we are promoting the e-learning sessions and MOOCs to a greater extent to break the monotony of classroom training and go agile in our methodologies. It is reported that more than 35 million workers have enrolled in MOOCs through Coursera and edX worldwide in that past year. Wearable technologies like Google glass, Apple iWatch etc. are also adding to the gamification as well as standalone learning experience. Interestingly, Nike is hiring Software Engineers to work on an array of consumer-facing products, including wearable devices and gaming systems. Harvard is looking for Engineers and Apparel Designers to work on wearable robotic systems through mobile devices in a clinical setting.

Web-based Solutions to address the training needs

Microsharing is the class of social software tools that enables people to update one another with short bursts of text, links, and multimedia through stand-alone applications. For example; using Twitter as a feedback receiving tool not only helps the process to be available at ease but also sets a connect with the millennials; and why millennials even people in their 40s are able to set a connect to this idea. Look into tools like Rypple, en.dorse me and – they are few of the new feedback tools that provide real-time performance feedback. My favourite micro-sharing platform currently is the Tweetdeck.  It is a platform that allows Twitter users to look at multiple streams of information at one time.

To improve the feedback accuracy there is an evolving concept of ‘Facial motion reader’. It reads all the possible expressions on the face, like being happy, sad, scared, disgusted, surprised, angry, neutral, and contempt. This gives the trainer a real-time feedback of the learners.

Investment in the training team is critical

Although organisations depend on freelancers and vendor partners for their in-house training as they are available and accessible it is critical that every company should have a centralised team that can look into the training requirements, alternatives and the new aspect of catering a requirement. Not only that, the organisation should budget in developing the calibre and skills of the team members so as to match the changes in the world outside.

What is next?

We at L&T Infotech is working towards getting into the league of ‘Great place to work’. During a research regarding how to go forward, I found that learning and career opportunities are the biggest drivers of employees’ willingness to recommend their company as a great place to work for people under age 40. 84% of business leaders cite that the need for improved organisational learning is the top priority these days.

The issue here is the problem is not going to get resolved by adopting a new technology revamping the content or replacing the learning platforms. We need to rather go into more fundamental levels- rethink the corporate L&D and shift the focus to design thinking and employee experience.

Today employees need more individualistic learning plans. We need to tailor make the programs according to the kind of learner an employee is viz. surface learners, strategic learners, deep learners etc. L&D professionals should mould their approach more as architects than implementers. Have you noticed your LinkedIn connections changing their title to “EX Professionals”? That stands for Employee Experience (EX) which is creating a buzz around the industry these days.

In an online course I did on ‘Adult Learning Principles’ from The Stanford University, it was taught that at a stretch you can hold the attention of an adult for 60 seconds – 4 mins. 60 seconds is common – comes from general etiquette anything beyond that depends upon the matter and the way you speak/present. Deloitte reported that workers complain of getting interrupted up to every 5 mins by workplace applications and tools. The byte sized videos they made lasted for 5-10 mins and was of no use as they could not hold the attention of the employees for long in their learning interventions. So the first thing you need to consider which converting your L&D function in design thinking aspect is to keep these statistics in mind and hit the exact concern the employees need to clarify rather than beating around the bush.

The second and very relevant point is to convert the managers into mentors. Organisations need to understand that the role of a manager is much more than the literal meaning of the word. Today managers spend their maximum time in meeting KPIs and bottom line priorities set for their team by the executive level. They’re told to find extra time to spend on coaching their employees. Having a team with a high learning agility greatly increases managers’ ability to reach key objectives, but they won’t spend time on it if their performance is being assessed solely on financial indicators. Make it easier for your managers to become great mentors by re-designing the process to address their needs and concerns. Employees certainly need to achieve their KPIs for getting their salaries credited every month, however, if this continues we will ultimately get ‘biological robots’; yes robots who can breathe. This is not the goal of any organisation. Is it? So we need to develop our workforce. Fortune lies at the bottom of the pyramid and the one who is in close connect to the bottom of the pyramid is the manager. So managers need to change their roles as mentors.

Facilitating peer learning is the next best option for the organisations today. 55% of Google’s L&D is administered through an ecosystem of over 2000 peer learners. Getting peers to devised learning solutions may not be feasible but encouraging peer coaching is. It is estimated that 70% of learning occurs on the job through interacting with others (70-20-10 Principle). Cross-functional learning will leverage to this fact. ‘Learnnovators’ may be a term to use for such peer groups!


Learning never stops. The day we stop learning we are dead. The day we stop learning the new ways of learning is also when we can’t figure ourselves out in the corporate map. These developments show a broader perspective of how organisations are rethinking their practices to move into an agile methodology of learning practices. Organisations need to re-visit their fundamentals and new approaches to meet the requirement of this nimble workforce.

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Topics: Learning & Development, Leadership, Performance Management, Strategic HR

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