MLevel

The Future Role of Learning & Development

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I’ve just returned from the ASU GSV Summit this week in San Diego, CA. The summit is THE event for Education Technology companies, practitioners, and investors. This year 3500 people from all over the world converged in lovely San Diego to discuss (and envision) the next major transformational innovations in EdTech. Michael Moe, Deborah Quazzo and the whole ASU GSV team put on an amazing event.

I had the privilege of participating in a panel discussion titled “Workforce Development That Works.” The panel was hosted by Nathan Blaine, Executive Director at Corporate Executive Board, and included David Blake, CEO of Degreed, Stephen Bailey, CEO of ExecOnline, Sang Yoon, Head of Learning Strategy & Curriculum at Google, and myself as panelists.

It was a fascinating discussion covering a wide range of topics around the future of corporate learning and skills development. One particularly interesting discussion point touched on the future role of the Learning & Development (L&D) organization within corporations.

At the broadest level, there seems to be a bifurcation in the types of learning employees are engaging in today. On one hand, there are the overall professional skills employees need to master their field. These are skills that transcend any specific employer such as programming skills, design skills, and even certain aspects of leadership skills. In the past, many organizations wanted to teach their employees these skills themselves so that they could put their flavor and message around the content. The assumption being that there is the “My Company” way of doing something that differs from other companies.

It’s becoming more and more evident that this is an unnecessary and ineffective way to utilize L&D resources. With the growing availability of excellent training from companies like Lynda (a LinkedIn Company) and PluralSight, to name just a couple, it no longer makes sense for companies to invest in internal programs to teach these skills. Instead, companies should consider enabling and empowering employees to leverage these outside resources to grow their skills. They should do this by embedding this into their workforce development processes and creating mechanisms to fund this learning for the employee.

All that said, there is still a lot of information and learning that is legitimately unique to a given company. Examples here include training on the company’s specific products and services, internal policies and procedures, new hire orientation, etc. This is the perfect focus of a company’s L&D organization. By concentrating on the areas that truly require customized learning, it allows the L&D team to focus on higher quality, higher engagement, and more effectiveness in that learning… qualities that are generally lacking in this type of training right now.

I believe that the L&D function plays a critical role within an organization, however, it hasn’t been setup for success as most L&D teams and budgets have not kept pace with the increased demand for training within an organization. Companies should leverage the great breadth of quality off-the-shelf training that is now readily and cost-effectively available, while letting their L&D teams focus on creating high-grade training that covers the areas that are truly unique to their company. Employees win with a higher overall quality of training and employers win by having more skilled employees.

 

 

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