Is workplace learning and development (L&D) dying? Does it deserve to continue to exist? What should L&D become to survive? These are some of the questions people have recently been asking. My friend and colleague, Tom Spiglanin, just blogged about a significant change in the workplace learning space. Tom knows his stuff and I encourage you to read his post, “It’s Happening” first before reading this. But also, Tom (and me too) is open to discussion so please share your opinions.
What I appreciate about Tom’s post is that it brings to light the need for L&D to keep up with the times. Regretfully, I meet too many L&D practitioners who have an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ attitude or are seeking a ‘quick fix’. If you fall into this category then soon say ‘bye-bye’ to your job and L&D role.
Colleagues from the Internet Time Alliance asked, “What would happen if there were no L&D department?” or as I want you to ask yourself, “What if my role becomes irrelevant?” Don’t scoff at these questions, it’s very much a reality, not a possibility. Our position is that L&D won’t die but will evolve significantly. Essentially, death to L&D, as we currently know it and in my professional experience, is as close to being ‘irrelevant’ as you can get.
At no other time in modern human history has there been so many generations in the workplace at one time.
There are a variety of reasons why I firmly commit to the L&D (r)evolution hypothesis. Those who know me, read my books (recently, The Trainer’s Balanced Scorecard: A Complete Resource for Linking Learning to Organizational Strategy), or participate in my workshops (Learning DevCamp, ‘Gaining Buy-in for Your E and M-Learning Projects‘), know that I’m an L&D hard ass…I like to refer to it as L&D ‘tough love’ and always look at L&D from a business perspective, not from one of learning. This means that I interact with many business leaders, and trust me, they’re desperately seeking more from their L&D people. But not in the traditional context. They need L&D to be innovative and become a leading performance indicator partner.
Another reason that I believe an L&D (r)evolution is afoot has to do with generational progression. What’s that you say? At no other time in modern human history has there been so many generations in the workplace at one time. Think about it, there are the traditionalists (the 75+ crowd), the boomers (the 55+ crowd), the Xer’s (the 40+ crowd) and the boomers’ children, commonly referred to as millennials, (the 25+ crowd). Count’em. That’s four generations. Typically, there are only three. But wait…there’s more! Gen X generation’s children, gen Z or the Facebook gen, are popping-in. Both the millennials and gen Z employee population will soon exceed the combined employee population of older generations.
What does this generational progression mean for L&D? Well, you may notice that millennials and generation Z are mobile ones. They were raised with, and using, the Web. Gen Z is even more mobile than millennials as they typically rely on using tablets and smartphones. Worse, they have the shortest attention span compared to any other previous generation. Recently an interesting Forbes article, ‘Generation Z: 10 Stats From SXSW You Need To Know’ highlights many pertinent Gen Z facts but more importantly for L&D are bullets 2, 3, and 4.
Think that YouTube is not a learning mechanism? Then ask yourself about the last time you watched an online video to help you fix something in your house.
There must be some type of (r)evolution considering the options available to deploying L&D solutions. More than just the growing younger generations entering the workforce, technology is another significant reason to rethink learning delivery. No longer is technology something you have to learn. Technology is now ubiquitous and integrates seamlessly into everyday life. While many L&D believe e-learning and even m-learning as forward thinking, think again. Think about technology such as gamification, virtual reality (VR), and YouTube to name a few. Think YouTube is not a learning mechanism? Then ask yourself about the last time you watched an online video to help you fix something in your house? And then how desperately did you search for the shortest video? I made my point. This technology (r)evolution is accelerating forcing L&D to rethink its place and how it moves forward.
Finally, ‘the learning curve is the earning curve’ resonates with millennials and older generations alike. In the Bersin by Deloitte report, “The Future of Corporate Learning – Ten Disruptive Trends“, people are increasingly seeking additional knowledge or education. In the last four years, 35 Million people enrolled in massive open online courses (MOOCs), with 2015 enrollments doubling 2014 (Bersin et al.).
It’s safe to assume that L&D’s is an endangered species and we say, so be it! If L&D can’t evolve with the new needs then let it die.
It’s safe to assume that L&D’s is an endangered species and I say, so be it! If L&D can’t evolve with the new needs then let it die. But from its ashes expect a stronger, more innovative, more adaptable, and a more relevant L&D to rise. Be part of the solution and not part of the legacy by aligning with your business leader’s needs, adapting your learning solutions to meet generational expectations, and seamlessly integrating technology to facilitate the learning process. Simply doing just one of these things will make you an indispensable part of the L&D revolution and for your organization as well.
What do you think? Do you agree? Did I miss something that will revive or possibly kill L&D? Please share your thoughts, experiences and opinions below. And, please take the pole.