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Is legacy L&D infrastructure aligned with the habits of today's learners?

Is legacy L&D infrastructure aligned with the habits of today's learners?

We find ourselves amongst interesting times. No doubt you’ve either heard or read some of the countless pieces of content dealing with digital transformation or the new world of work. Not only are organisations having to deal with a more ‘on-demand’ customer, but are also dealing with new expectations from a diverse generational workforce. Then of course there is technology itself. But with all of these transformational pressures forcing senior management to reassess their business strategies, leadership styles, team structures, and talent acquisition, where does this leave Learning and Development? 

Before I begin to try to answer that question I thought I would give you a real example of where we are as learners right now. 

During a recent period of research for a new initiative, I interviewed a number of experienced managers within our own organisation. During the interviews I asked them to think about some of the concerns they might have when dealing with a specific area of their job. I then asked them where their first port of call would be if they didn’t know how to overcome that concern. The overwhelming majority said they’d simply Google it.

So what does this mean? 

Does this mean our people have no idea what they’re doing? Of course not. The new learner is the same individual as the ‘on-demand customer’ that businesses are dealing with at the coal face. They want instant answers to their questions, to be able to ‘DO’ what they want to do, at the moment of need. 

More than ever, ‘just in time’ learning should bear more weight than ‘just in case’ learning, and technology has given us the perfect platform to be able to deliver this web based resource-first approach. 

Here we arrive at my earlier question. Learning professionals have for so long been dependent on launching ‘programmes’ or ‘courses’ that are no longer aligned with how we seek and digest information. This often lends to a lack of engagement, or even questions surrounding the effectiveness of the programme. I’m sure I don’t speak just for myself when I say many are guilty of this in the past, or even to this day. 

So what do we need to do? 

L&D needs to disrupt its own way of thinking, and adapt its skillset to become a more agile and connected function within the business. Focus more on what its employees ‘want to do’, and provide them with the relevant resources, in the moment, to help them do it better. 

Take this as an example. You want to cook a lasagne. Let’s imagine for a moment you have not done this before. You have all the ingredients, but are not sure how to get started. What would you do? Would you book yourself onto a cooking class there and then? Would you log onto a cooking Learning Management System (LMS) and go through an e-learning course? No. If you’re like the majority of all warm-blooded human beings out there, you’d simply search “How do I cook lasagne?” online, and most likely watch a short video or follow a simple ‘how to’ recipe.

  • What was the need? To cook a lasagne. 
  • What was the action? Web search. 
  • What was the resource? Short video or one page guide. 

We as L&D professionals need to embrace this fundamental shift in learning and take stock of our current learning solutions. Do they represent this type of behaviour? We have the potential to become an integral part of a business’ continued growth and transformation. We MUST allow ourselves to effectively improve performance every single day through resource-first initiatives, and not just a few weeks down the line when another course is due to be run.

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