The L&D function is dead, long live L&D!
This phrase has a particular significance to the way learning & development (L&D) CoE is evolving around the world. It is the death of L&D as we know it and it’s the birth of a unique era where skill development, high tech leadership learning and learning on-the- go, will reign supreme!
I am writing in regards to the news which is about the acquisition of EdCast- a learning experience platform, by Cornerstone, a Learning Management System. Why this is big news is because corporate learning is getting integrated into one big solution, so that L&D organisations and employees can ‘connect the dots’ of personal and professional development. Upskilling employees has become the single biggest challenge for organisations. The World Economic Forum’s report predicts that by 2025, half of all employees around the world will need reskilling and that number doesn’t include all the people who are currently not in employment. Am also reading about how Byju’s, a tutoring app (valued at $21.42 Billion) has become a game changer in education for children. So, clearly from the corporate world to the world of schools and tuition, things have changed so much in the sphere of education.
What does this mean for the enterprise learning space where the workforce of tomorrow is learning? How are things going to transform? What must the L&D CoE do to adapt itself to these changes? What about the leaders? Answers to these and other questions are here. But first it’s time for a story.
It’s the leap year of 2028. It’s also the second year of work for Maya, a graduate from one of the premier colleges. Her degree is in accounting, literature, and mass communications- making her a fine candidate for a sales role in this Fintech company. Today is a very ‘normal’ day, just a bunch of client meetings. Right now, she’s heading off to her third client meeting of the day. She has her jacket on, make-up in place and then goes to grab her VR headset. Before that, her AI Assistant gives her a complete profile of the client she is meeting and asks her if she’d like a print-out. She asks her chatbot, Sarah, about the personal details of the client. On her calendar, she has slotted a half hour prep time. She is going to take 2 short courses on ‘Loan Processing’ and ‘Cryptocurrency’- something her client is heavily investing into. It helps that the courses are from MIT. And are both available for no charge.
Embedded in this story is a potential scenario of the future of work. Also hidden in it, is the way employees will consume learning and development initiatives.
Like entertainment, learning too has become personal. A family no longer congregates to see that one movie one Saturday night. Today, each family member is watching a different movie at a different time. The tastes are unique, the experience is personal! Similarly, learners look for a personalised learning system that adjusts the pedagogy, curriculum, and learning environment for them to meet their learning needs and preferences. The goal is to have a learning system that can dynamically adapt itself based on a learner’s characteristics and needs to provide personalised learning. Big data and analytics can do this today, by adapting to the individual’s learning preferences. This will hugely increase learner motivation and engagement in learning activities thereby making learning effective. For this to happen, organisations need to step back, think purposefully about what and how they want to re-skill and begin (even if they don’t perfect) the process of transforming their learning management systems.
The search for purpose
Interestingly, the future of work is about the search for purpose. No, purpose doesn’t refer to some ‘lofty, save-the-world’ kind of views. It’s about finding meaning in the work that one does. In the same vein, the focus of learning will be on helping people find their purpose. Sometimes this purpose will come from gaining mastery, sometimes it will come from looking deeper into the impact of the work one is doing and sometimes it comes from feeling valued for the contribution. Learning in the next few years will transform into building learning experiences that ‘move you’. It will be about helping you gain deeper self-awareness and truly working to your strengths.
Encounters in the metaverse
Soon the metaverse will be upon us. From learning leadership skills to building effective sales strategies, employee learning will not happen in the physical classroom, but in the metaverse. Imagine a course in negotiation skills, which takes you to this fictitious client’s office and places you in the middle of a conversation where a big price is being negotiated. Imagine now that, soon after this encounter in the metaverse, you switch to the real world, where you speak to a CEO of the fictitious company to get real time feedback on how you performed. And then a few days later, you get graded on how you are doing in negotiations. This is the future of learning. From metaverse to physical to the ‘real world’- there is a seamless learning trajectory creating immersive learning experiences.
The transient workforce
Finally, the biggest challenge and opportunity for corporate learning will be the shifty workforce of ‘here today, gone tomorrow’. How much does one invest in training for such a workforce? And what role will ethics, culture and values play? Will the L&D function continue to do onboarding programs when the tenure of the employee is 3 months or less? That’s a big challenge. But the opportunity lies in doing the onboarding program so well and providing a seamless story for the employee, such that they actually stay with the organisation much longer and happier!
Like someone said- ‘The bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity’. Clearly, the L&D function is sitting on the cusp of a huge transformation wave. The best thing to do is to ride the wave or better still ‘create’ your own waves in the ocean. Like W. Chan Kim, Renée Mauborgne, authors of Blue Ocean strategy write, “Create. Don't Compete.”