As we head into 2020, no matter what business or sector you work in, there are two words that will be at the forefront of senior leadership thinking; performance and productivity. The question of how to improve is no longer an option if your organization wants to survive.
For that a fresh approach to organizational learning must be a key part of the solution; not an old paradigm where staff attends an occasional face-to-face course but one in which learning that takes place at the heart of a business, on a daily basis.
In 2020, learning must get closer to the organization, in several profound ways.
Firstly, there must be a primary focus on key organizational needs. While there may be a broader learning offer, the core L&D effort in high-performing organizations must be supporting the achievement of key KPIs, and that requires greater clarity for the learning team about business drivers. There is a groundswell in learning circles about the importance of moving from traditional learning needs analyses (LNA’s), which are often slow and based on inadequate insight, to performance consulting conversations. Learning professionals must be at the heart of the business undertaking forensic diagnostics about the real needs to be supported.
A trend that will continue to gain momentum this year is the delivery of development 'in the flow' of work. In 2020, employees must be empowered to learn as they work and work as they learn
In 2020, we must encourage the development of a wider ecosystem that underpins a successful learning organization. The responsibility for learning is not solely with the L&D or HR team; they must be the advocates and facilitators of a wider development engine.
For that, senior leaders must be encouraged to be champions of the learning process. It’s no longer adequate to simply have a senior sponsor for learning programs; we need leaders who engage and promote learning as a core part of their role and are known learners themselves. Managers are also vital; to define the needs, facilitate the time and space for learning implementation and monitor outcomes and improvement. In 2020, learning should be an agenda item at every team and 1-2-1 meeting.
But learners, of course, are the most important people in the process. As we head into 2020, we must involve them more intimately in learning design. As key stakeholders, their views on what learning support is needed, how it should best be provided and when it should be accessible are core to effective learning and development. In the past few years we have seen the rise of learner-generated content which is so effective in supporting performance; is it any wonder that engagement increases when learners have a part to play in learning design and delivery? This trend must increase.
Another emerging trend to be pursued in 2020 is the need for learning solutions to be rapidly created and deployed.
No longer do we have the luxury of the L&D team taking weeks or months to develop a solution; performance support must be highly responsive. L&D teams must develop more agile, iterative design processes where improvement is ongoing. Many of us will need to set perfectionist tendencies aside for learning solutions that are “good enough” to create learning impact whilst not being perfect!
A trend that will continue to gain momentum in the coming year is the delivery of development ‘in the flow’ of work. In 2020, employees must be empowered to learn as they work and work as they learn. It’s becoming a well-coined phrase but learning that is genuinely close to the organization is about “resources, not courses”. That means the development of performance support aids, videos, podcasts and blogs will have an increasingly vital part to play in a continual performance improvement process.
In 2020, conversations are key in the move to embed learning in the workplace. Communities of practice are not a new concept, but we must be encouraging vibrant learning communities where time and technology support meaningful interactions and the sharing of ideas and practice. It’s time to invest in establishing a vibrant coaching culture where managers and peers can offer mutual support.
So, as we head into the year, what of learning technologies?
Often the focus has been on having the right organizational platform but so often a platform approach fails to provide a convenient, learner-centered interface. Across the globe, the smartphone is transforming personal lives and the rise of artificial intelligence enables increasingly personalized solutions and content. Both should be a focus for L&D. However, the use of the mobile phone is often seen as a distraction in the workplace; which undermines its value. As digital and social technologies have the potential to revolutionize workplace learning those responsible for IT solutions need a greater “can do” approach to supporting learning through devices and systems that are in common use outside work.
So, as we head into 2020, we must address the disconnect that exists in many organizations between frontline business activity and learning.
L&D teams must develop more agile, iterative design processes where improvement is ongoing. Many of us will need to set perfectionist tendencies aside for learning solutions that are 'good enough' to create learning impact whilst not being perfect!
Learning will increasingly move into the flow of work and for that, we must develop learning ecosystems where all staff play their part in engaging and supporting learning.
L&D teams will need to move to consultative conversations to diagnose the key needs that must be met to drive performance. Learning solutions will need to be deployed through agile methods to provide rapid support. And, for learning in the flow of work we must lever workplace-based learning methods such as learner-generated content, communities of practice, coaching cultures, agilely produced resources, and smart devices.
What will be a key L&D mantra and goal for me during 2020?
Let’s get learning into the flow of work, placing it at the heart of the organization!